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Targets (1968)

An elderly horror film star, while making a personal appearance at a drive-in theatre, confronts a psychotic Vietnam War veteran who has turned into a mass-murdering sniper.



(screenplay), (story) | 1 more credit »

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Tim O'Kelly ...
Bobby Thompson
Byron Orlok
Ed Loughlin
Monte Landis ...
Marshall Smith (as Monty Landis)
Nancy Hsueh ...
Sammy Michaels
Daniel Ades ...
Salesman - 1st Gunshop
Robert Thompson Sr.
Mary Jackson ...
Charlotte Thompson
Tanya Morgan ...
Ilene Thompson
Timothy Burns ...
Waiter (as Tim Burns)
Warren White ...
Grocery Boy
Mark Dennis ...
Salesman - 2nd Gunshop
Kip Larkin


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 <gjcouzens@btinternet.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


"I just killed my wife and my mother. I know they'll get me. But before that, many more will die..." See more »




R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

15 August 1968 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Before I Die  »

Box Office


$130,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Roger Corman told Peter Bogdanovich he could make any film he wanted to, with two conditions: he had to use stock footage from The Terror (1963), and he had to hire Boris Karloff for two days (Karloff was under contract and owed Corman those two days). Karloff was so impressed with the script that he refused pay for any shooting time over his contracted two days. He worked for a total of five days on the movie. See more »


Bobby's check to gun shop is dated late July, but when Orlok picks up newspaper story about supermarket massacre several days later, date on paper is in March. See more »


Sammy Michaels: All the good movies have been made.
See more »


Featured in No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo & Vilmos (2008) See more »

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User Reviews

Peter Bogdanovich's debut is his greatest film!
27 November 2009 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

This small in budget, huge in talent picture had the terrible timing of being completed before, but released after Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy Sr. were assassinated. The toll those two events had in 1968 almost guaranteed "Targets" would never be seen by audiences that could watch Tim O'Kelly and keep his character in mind as a Charles Whitman figure rather than a politically motivated gunman. Bogdanovich's first directing turn also marked the swan song of Boris Karloff. The two of them together were a dynamite pairing and it's a shame we didn't get more from this movie loving duo.

Clips from Roger Corman's "The Terror" (with Karloff and a really young Jack Nicholson) are strategically inserted, as Boris plays an actor who's synonymous with big screen terror. And as his career is winding down, the changes frightening him in society are not costumes, on the lot sets and ghoulish cosmetics, but real human monsters who destroy any remaining sense of safety in the world with high powered rifles and other firearms. His Byron Orlok is an old man who knows his time is short and makes the most of each day he continues to live. Bogdanovich's Sammy is in awe of the legend, while most of the industry hustlers Byron has to deal with are only interested in the hype and money.

Enter Tim O'Kelly and his family. The parents are salt of the earth types and Tim's wife is his rock. Then why does this clean cut young man in his twenties during the era of the love generation look and feel so out of step with modern life? We'll never really know. Those mass murderers in the making only reveal certain key clues when it's too late to stop their plans.

Sam Fuller provided help, whipping the script into shape, as the director acknowledges in his commentary. It's better that those wanting to see this smaller, quiet film not know all of it's plot. Calling a story with much gunfire "quiet" is peculiar, but the sound editing of Verna Fields is the unsung hero of "Targets", where the bursts of lethal noise alternate with a serene soundtrack stripped down to not too much era music (Bogdanovich had a handful of obscure 60's tunes to sparingly use) and, thankfully, none of the din cluttering most 21st century movies, letting us hear the full tones of each person's voice sans cranked up score and effects.

"Targets" is a terrific and overlooked time capsule from an era before school shootings were an almost weekly event in the news and when there seemed to be a solution for ending violence in our future. It's an almost quaint trip back inside a cautious sense of optimism we'll not share again.

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