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Director: Peter Bogdanovich, Boris Karloff, Tim O'Kelly, Nancy Hsueh

Cast: Peter Bogdanovich, Boris Karloff, Tim O'Kelly, Nancy Hsueh


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Together with Orson Welles' Citizen Kane and John Singleton's Boyz 'n the Hood, director Peter Bogdanovich's Targets is among the most impressive first features ever made. When Bogdanovich's cinematic mentor Roger Corman suggested that Bogdanovich might want to make his directorial debut, he offered to "donate" 20 minutes worth of footage of the


Together with Orson Welles' Citizen Kane and John Singleton's Boyz 'n the Hood, director Peter Bogdanovich's Targets is among the most impressive first features ever made. When Bogdanovich's cinematic mentor Roger Corman suggested that Bogdanovich might want to make his directorial debut, he offered to "donate" 20 minutes worth of footage of the Corman-directed The Terror and the services of Boris Karloff, who owed Corman two days' worth of work (at a cost of $22,000). Karloff became so caught up in the 29-year-old Bogdanovich's enthusiasm that he agreed to work an additional two days at a bare-minimum salary. The script, by Bogdanovich and his then-wife, Polly Platt, was inspired by the 1966 shooting spree of Texas Tower sniper Charles Whitman. Karloff, as Byron Orlock, more or less plays himself: an aging horror star, consigned to low-budget drive-in fare. Unlike the workaholic Karloff, Orlock wants to retire from films, noting that his movies seem inconsequential in light of the real-life horrors occurring every day. As Bogdanovich, playing young-and-hungry director Sammy Michaels, desperately tries to convince Orlock to star in just one more picture, the film's attentions shift to Vietnam veteran Bobby Thompson (Tim O'Kelly). An otherwise amiable, normal-looking lad, Bobby seems to harbor an inordinate fascination with guns, particularly high-powered rifles. One bright and sunny morning, Bobby suddenly and unexpectedly shoots and kills his wife, his mother, and an unlucky delivery boy. He leaves behind a note confessing to these crimes, noting that, while he fully expects to be captured, many more will die before the day is over. From this point onward, the film switches from Bobby's day-long bloodbath (from the vantage point of an oil storage tank, calmly picking off passing freeway motorists) to Orlock's grumbling preparations to make a personal appearance at a local drive-in movie. Inevitably, Bobby also shows up at the drive-in, hiding himself behind the huge screen and shooting down the patrons as they sit complacently in their cars, watching the latest Byron Orlock film (actually The Terror, in which Karloff also starred). Once the reality of the situation sets in, panic ensues, leading to the ultimate confrontation between the escaping Bobby and the bewildered Orlock. ("Is this what I was afraid of?" Orlock ruefully exclaims as Bobby cowers at his feet.) The tension never lets up throughout Targets' jam-packed 90 minutes. The film was virtually thrown away by its distributor, Paramount Pictures, which was uncertain about packaging a film about a sniper in the wake of the King and Kennedy assassinations. Only when it was reissued to college campuses and film societies did Targets begin building up its much-deserved reputation. Though Targets was not, technically, Boris Karloff's last film, it serves as a worthy valedictory for this cinematic giant.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble
The 1968 directorial debut of well-known cineaste Peter Bogdanovich remains one of his very best movies, and to some viewers it might seem more powerful today than it did 30-some years ago. Targets, written by Bogdanovich and then-wife Polly Platt, tells two stories that converge in the film’s startling climax. In one plot thread, aging horror-movie star Byron Orlok (Boris Karloff, more or less playing himself) announces to the producers of his latest picture that he’s ready to retire, given that his screen work no longer shocks audiences, who see images of violence and murder every night on their TV sets. Orlok despairs for our society, and his concerns seem justified when we’re introduced to Bobby Thompson (Tim O’Kelly), an apparently normal young man whose wholesome appearance and demeanor masks a deep-rooted disturbance. Bobby snaps, killing his wife and mother before going on a shooting spree that culminates in an assault on the patrons of a drive-in theater -- where Orlok's film is being screened. Bogdanovich meant Targets as an allegory for contemporary America, at that time enduring what seemed like waves of senseless violence, highlighted by Charles Whitman's 1966 murder spree in Texas. Karloff, terminally ill but owing producer Roger Corman another picture, delivers what is unquestionably his finest latter-day performance; though he subsequently appeared in several more films, Targets would have made a more suitable coda to his long and distinguished career. O’Kelly exudes Middle American normalcy, so much so that viewers will find his sudden psychotic explosion even more terrifying. Bogdanovich (who also plays a small role) uses dialogue sparingly and relies on imagery to carry his narrative. He depicts American life during the Vietnam era with honesty and simplicity, and while there’s an anti-gun message at the movie’s core, Targets never resorts to the overt preachiness or intellectual dishonesty of, say, an Oliver Stone movie. In an era where 24-hour cable networks thrive on sensational stories, Bogdanovich’s modest little movie seems more relevant than ever.
All Movie Guide - Mark Deming
Targets was not Boris Karloff's last film (he would limp through five forgettable horror films before his death, four of them shot in Mexico within a month), but it was a perfect grace note for the actor who starred in several of the most enduring horror classics of the 1930s. As Byron Orlok, a thinly disguised version of himself, Karloff plays a man who feels that in the late 1960's the real horror is to be found not in a movie theater but on the streets of any American city. Orlok is convinced that his time has come and gone, and he wants nothing more than to get out of the movie business. While this resignation contrasts with Karloff's own career, in which he kept working with grim determination right up until his death, he was fortunate that Roger Corman entrusted the project to Peter Bogdanovich, an enthusiastic film historian making his (credited) debut as a director. Bogdanovich gives the story's sniper subplot a cool, semi-documentary feel that makes the terror of the onslaught all the more powerful for never being played as melodrama. In Targets, stage blood spills in gothic mansions ruled by sinister madmen on movie screens, but real blood is shed in the homes, highways, and drive-in movie theaters of Los Angeles. With this film, Bogdanovich and Karloff bridged the gap between classic and contemporary horror, and the result gave them, respectively, the first and final screen triumphs of their careers. Bogdanovich would go on to make a string of major movies in the early 1970s, all of them in some way nostalgia pieces, including The Last Picture Show (1971), What's Up, Doc? (1972), and Paper Moon (1973).
All Movie Guide - Nathan Southern
For his debut feature, Peter Bogdanovich wrote and directed this shattering, visceral thriller that meditates on the nature of violence in contemporary society, as well as the chasm between real-life horrors and shlocky movie scares that cannot possibly compete with them. To drive home this differential, Bogdanovich and co-writer Polly Platt set up twin intertwined narrative threads with contrasting tones - one (starring the late Boris Karloff as a washed-up screen actor) that has a lightly comedic vibe, and another (starring Tim O'Kelly as the Charles Whitman-like Bobby Thompson) with an almost completely flat affect that anticipated John McNaughton's Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer by 20 years. Portraying a psychopath sans any feelings beyond the instinctive - a young man missing vital parts - O'Kelly makes an indelible impression; the scenes of suburban pseudo-interaction between the Bobby character, his wife, and his parents have a chilling deadness to them. A depressing void lies unspoken, just beneath the surface, forcing us to look head-on at the spiritual and moral bankruptcy of a society that continues to produce animals like Thompson. One can think of few sequences in contemporary film quite as nauseating as the one where Thompson scales a water tower beside the interstate, and begins picking off unsuspecting, innocent drivers with his scope rifle; we're paralyzed by the ease with which he acts and the lack of any external reprisal against him, and we can feel the full crushing weight of despair and hopelessness. Like Lindsay Anderson's If..., the Bogdanovich movie is as much a product of its time as any picture made during the '60s, given the extent to which assassinations and hate crimes became commonplace at the end of that decade. But in light of 21st Century tragedies such as the Aurora and Sandy Hook massacres, Targets also seems eerily prescient and in desperate need of broader exposure, particularly among those who sit on the fence regarding the gun control issue in the U.S. Some critics have stated that - like Francis Coppola with his Rain People - Bogdanovich rarely created a film this remarkable in his subsequent work; that's arguably true. Throughout, the clarity of the central vision of Middle American hell gives the picture a palpable, unshakable emotional impact. As a footnote, however: more sensitive viewers should be forewarned that the movie - despite its brilliant craftsmanship - is extremely unpleasant and even physically sickening to sit through, and cannot be easily shaken off.

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Paramount (Pmt)
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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Boris Karloff Byron Orlok
Tim O'Kelly Bobby Thompson
Nancy Hsueh Jenny
James Brown Robert Thompson, Sr.
Sandy Baron Kip Larkin
Arthur Peterson Ed Loughlin
Tanya Morgan Ilene Thompson
Mary Jackson Mrs. Thompson
Monte Landis Marshall Smith
Stafford Morgan Gunsmith
Mark Dennis Gunsmith
Paul Condylis Drive-In Manager
Peter Bogdanovich Sammy
Daniel Ades Chauffeur
Geraldine Baron Larkin's Girl
Robert Cleaves Actor
Jay Daniel Snack Bar Attendant
Susan Douglas Actor
Mike Farrell Man in Phone Booth
Gary Kent Gas Tank Worker
Frank Marshall Ticket Boy
James Morris Man with Pistol
Randy Quaid Actor
Kirk Scott Actor
Elaine Partnow Actor
James Bowie Actor
Diana Ashley Actor

Technical Credits
Peter Bogdanovich Director,Editor,Producer,Screenwriter
Roger Corman Producer
Scott Hamilton Makeup
Laszlo Kovacs Cinematographer
Polly Platt Costumes/Costume Designer,Production Designer

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