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Byron Orlok is an old horror-movie star who feels that he is an anachronism. Compared to real-life violence, his films are tame. Meanwhile, Bobby Thompson goes on a killing spree... Written by
Gary Couzens <email@example.com>
Peter Bogdanovich planned to have Boris Karloff actually appear in the film for about 20 minutes with two days of filming, and have the stock footage from The Terror (1963) add another 20 minutes of screen time for Karloff. In the final movie, Karloff is actually on screen (not counting the scenes from "The Terror") for about 30 minutes and shot all his scenes in five days. See more »
(at around 1h 06 mins) When the operator starts the movie, he shuts off the 3 spots at the top of the screen. However, we see those spots being shut down three times in a row. See more »
One last major Bullseye for the great Boris Karloff
Pretty much like his semi-autobiographical character Byron Orlok, Boris Karloff should have retired in beauty and style. "Targets" would have been the ideal swan song to Karloff's long and masterful career, but unfortunately there were still a handful of other and extremely inferior horror movies added to his resume, like the abysmal "Isle of the Snake People" and "Cauldron of Blood". "Targets" is his last great film and also the final film in which he noticeably feels comfortable and motivated to act. In practically all of this other post-1965 appearances, Boris Karloff already looked more dead than alive, but here you can tell he clearly wanted to play this role. Many, many thanks to writer/director Peter Bogdanovich who under the protective supervision of Roger Corman cast Boris Karloff in a role that couldn't have been played by anyone else, except maybe Vincent Price (like Bogdanovich own supportive character even funnily mentions at one point during the film).
Byron Orlock is an aging and stubborn who's convinced there isn't any interest anymore in the grotesque Gothic villain monsters he portrays. After the test screening of his latest film, Byron suddenly announces his retirement much against the will of his producers, personal assistant and a young aspiring director who just finished writing a screenplay especially for Byron. They all urge him to reconsider his decision, and at least make it to his planned public appearance at a drive-in theater. Meanwhile, in the same city, young and confused weapon-freak Bobby Thomson is about to snap mentally. He bought a trunk full of artillery and wrote a letter warning people that many will die before they catch him. After randomly having shot people in cars from the top of an oil reservoir, Bobby flees from the police and hides out in the drive-in theater.
"Targets" is loosely based on the tragedy caused by Charles Whitman, who killed and wounded over forty people in Texas on August 1st, 1966. Perhaps the US was still too much in a state of shock to realize, so shortly after these ream events, but "Targets" makes a powerful statement regarding the alienation of youth and the largely uncontrolled weapon legislation. I encountered some criticism stating that the two stories are largely unconnected and that particularly Karloff's story is random and irrelevant. I heavily object, since Byron Orlock physically represents the old-fashioned definition of horror, creepy old madmen safely entrenched in their Gothic castles, whereas Bobby Thomson embodies the new and grueling type of horror which we sadly are confronted with on a near daily basis. "Targets" basically builds a symbolic bridge between vintage horror and modern terror, and it's truly fantastic that Boris Karloff helped building it. The sniper sequences are immensely disturbing, especially opposed to the cheesy borrowed footage of Corman's "The Terror" playing at the drive-in, and the film bathes in a genuine ominous atmosphere whenever the character of Bobby Thomson walks into the screen. The interactions between him and his wife are saddening, uncomfortable and unsettling all at the same time. Personally, I always thought "The Last Picture Show" was Bogdanovich's only true masterpiece, but that was before I laid my hands on "Targets". This film is even better.
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