TARGETS

(1968)
With Boris Karloff, Peter Bogdanovich, Tim O'Kelly, Nancy Hsueh, Arthur Peterson, Monty Landis
Directed by Peter Bogdanovich
Reviewed by JB

boris and peter     Essentially playing himself, Boris Karloff portrays Byron Orlock, an aging horror movie star who is tired of the cheap movies he has been playing in and decides to retire.  Meanwhile, a young man (Tim O'Kelly) snaps for reasons unknown and becomes a serial sniper, killing people at random with his long-range rifle.  As both stories play out, it becomes obvious that these men's lives will intersect at a drive-in theater where Orlock plans to make his final live appearance before giving up the movie business.  But, although predictable, TARGETS remains a highlight in the careers of both Karloff and director Peter Bogdanovich.

     Karloff's footage is limited, but what is there amounts to one of his finest performances, full of warmth and humor and not a hint of camp or self-parody. TARGETS is Karloff's movie, and he proves it in a scene that has nothing to do with the plot but everything to do with Bogdanovich's love not only for movies but also for Karloff himself.  At a small get-together, Karloff is asked to tell a scary story. As he does so, the camera dollies in slowly and for two minutes Karloff makes us forget about the rest of the film while he tells the short horror tale "An Appointment in Sumara".  Inserted on a whim by Bogdanovich, who admired Karloff's narration in Chuck Jones's How the Grinch Stole Christmas, it is the best scene in the film. 

          This may not have been Bogdanovich's first film - he apparently directed the Mamie Van Doren sci-fi cheesefest JOURNEY TO THE PLANET OF PREHISTORIC WOMEN around the same time - but TARGETS was the first noteworthy film of a new and talented director whose love for movie history would become obvious with later hits such as THE LAST PICTURE SHOW and WHAT'S UP, DOC?.  Bogdanovich also takes the part of Sammy, the director who wants Orlock to make one last film.  He is excellent in the part, and it is readily apparent that loves acting along side the legendary King of Horror. 

     Unfortunately, TARGETS received only limited because of the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.  Thus, like THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE before it, TARGETS became a "lost classic" until recent years.  The serial killer footage takes up most of the film, and although its thematic connection with the Karloff story isn't as strong as Bogdanovich probably believed it to be, it is still brilliant in its coldness and its refusal to offer any reasons for the young man's behavior. But it is Karloff that will make you want to come back to this film again and again.  - JB

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