Tuesday 17 September 2019

Targets (1968)

Peter Bogdanovich is one of those characters that keep popping up in the extra material to old movies in my collection as one of those director-movie nerds together with Martin Scorsese, but I actually know very little about his own production. “Targets” may be the first movie I have seen knowing that he did it.

It is an odd movie, so it probably fits him. Odd, not entirely good, but certainly interesting, with themes that has not become less relevant over time.

“Targets” actually consists of two movies that only merge in the end and I am not entirely certain if they actually merge.

Story one centers on Byron Orlok, played by Boris Karloff, who essentially plays himself. He is an old horror movie icon who can feel that his career is winding down and has decided to stop making any more movies. He even turns down an appearance in a drive-in cinema to promote his latest movie, but is eventually talked into showing up after all, not lest because of his assistant Jenny (Nancy Hsueh) and a young director Sammy (Peter Bogdanovich himself).

Story two features a young man, Bobby (Tim O’Kelly) who is obsessed with guns. To all appearances he is a nice and respectable boy, yet one day he goes on a killing spree. He kills his wife, mother and delivery boy and then moves on to shoot random people at the highway from atop a silo. When the police finally takes an interest in him he escapes to a drive-in cinema where he continues to snipe random people.

This is where the two stories meet, because this is the very movie Orlok is visiting. In the chaos there, Jenny gets shot and Orlok walks up to Bobby and knock the gun out of his hands. That is the connection.

Story two is the easy story. A mass murderer out of nowhere. Well, not exactly nowhere, the kid has got a ton of guns, but hey, this is America, obsessing about guns is not at all connected to start shooting left and right… I will let that stand a moment… The thing about this part of the story is that it is filmed with so much detachments that it seems like an almost casual thing to do to go shoot people. He gets a snack and has a cozy time doing it.

Story one on the other hand is more difficult to see the point of. We spend a lot of time with Orlok, but it seems that his only purpose is to tell that reality has become more horrific than his movies and so there is no more reason for him to continue making movies. I guess that is a fair point, but it also feels… too simple. Or maybe not. Today this sort of pointless killing is old news, but maybe in 68 this was not so, and in that context, this is a prophetic movie?

I am not so sure, though. I am left with the feeling that this movie is a half-baked idea of something that could have been good. Still, I was interested enough to rush through the movie and it is well enough made.

The name Orlok is a little Easter egg for movie buffs. Try look up the movie “Nosferatu”.



  1. My reaction almost exactly. Bogdanovich let his movie geekery get in the way of the story. He would get better.

    1. Yeah. It is not that this is bad, not at all, just that the ideas have not entirely matured. I feel the two stories needed to combine better than they did.

    2. I have to respectfully disagree with you on this one as I liked it much more. I highly recommend Bogdanavich's commentary on it if you are able to find it. He was working for Roger Corman and had a very minuscule budget. He also had the footage from the Karloff film The Terror, which he cleverly worked into the film. I think necessity was the mother of invention here as Bogdanavich came up with the drive-in sequence which is still horrifying. And since I'm an old Karloff fan, it's great to see the later Karloff in something that isn't campy. I think the two stories mesh wonderfully. I think that's the whole point. And the part where he says something to the effect of why would people be afraid of an old bogeyman when there is so much real horror in the world really strikes home.

    3. I am with you most of the way, up until they mesh together, which I think they do poorly. The one knot is that real horror has exceeded movie horror, which is a good point. What I question is if it is enough. I love the two stories and I love how real an detached they feel, this is very modern filmmaking. They just feel too separate for me.