Targets (1968)

TARGETS (1968)
Article 2213 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-7-2007
Posting Date: 9-3-2007
Directed by Peter Bogdanovich
Featuring Tim O’Kelly, Boris Karloff, Arthur Peterson

An over-the-hill horror actor decides to retire from acting in the belief that the horror movies he is making are irrelevant amidst the horrors of the modern age. Meanwhile, a disturbed young middle-class man snaps mentally, kills his wife and mother, and then goes out on a shooting spree.

It’s easy to hate Karloff’s last four Mexican movies for no other reason than their abysmal quality. However, there is a greater reason to hate them; were it not for them, this movie would have been his last film appearance, and given its personal relevance to Karloff and his career, I can’t think of a better farewell movie for any actor. Director Peter Bogdanovich was given free reign to make any film he wanted to by Roger Corman, provided that he used stock footage from THE TERROR and used Boris Karloff’s skills as an actor for two days. Bogdanovich crafted the inspired and self-referential script, in which a director (played by Bogdanovich himself) tries to convince a retiring horror actor (Karloff) to do one more movie with a script specially crafted for his talents. For horror fans, the movie is fascinating; the contrast with the more conventional cinematic horrors (represented here by footage from THE TERROR) and the cold modern-day horrors (the sniper on the loose) is fascinating. It’s possible to approach the movie primarily from the point of view of what it says about violence in our society, but I’ve always felt this was a bit too limiting. Though the sniping scenes are scary, it is Karloff who makes the movie memorable. My favorite scenes include a sequence where both him and the director wake up in the same bed after having drunk too much the night before (Karloff scares two people in this scene), one in which Karloff decides to take advantage of his public appearance by telling a scary story (which puts his story-telling abilities on display), and his encounter with the sniper in the final scenes of the movie and his last line ( “Is that what I was afraid of?”). It may have well been Karloff’s most complex movie performance since the Val Lewton days. The movie also features a memorable clip of Karloff from Howard Hawks’s THE CRIMINAL CODE.


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