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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The sequence with Bobby Thompson shooting people in cars driving on a freeway from the top of an oil storage tank was loosely inspired by the Highway 101 sniper attack where on April 25, 1965, a 16-year-old alienated youth, named Michael Andrew Clark, shot at motorists from a hilltop along Highway 101 just south of Orcutt, California, killing three and injuring 10 others before committing suicide. Prior to the shooting spree, Clark left behind a note vowing to make his parents "die a thousand times in court" for his actions, and he was right; a lawsuit was brought against Clark's parents by two of the victim's families for mistreating and not raising their son well, and negligence for allowing Clark access to the hunting rifle used for the shooting spree. See more »
Admission price sign in drive-in ticket office changes: In at least one shot, adult price is $1.25; in others, $1.50 - both for same movie on same night. See more »
A true hidden gem, and a fitting exit for the legendary Boris Karloff
Ageing horror actor Byron Orlock (Boris Karloff) has just finished what will be his final film. The campy nature of the horror films he stars in, and the decline in moral society leads him to believe that horror films are no longer scary, especially when compared with what is happening in the real world. Young director Sammy Michaels (Peter Bogdanovich) has just written a great script especially for Orlock, and tries to persuade him to re-think his retirement plans on the build-up to Orlock's final public appearance at a drive-in for his new movie The Terror. Meanwhile, suburban husband and gun-obsessive Bobby Thompson (Tim O'Kelly) is planning a massacre using his sniper rifle, starting with his wife and family.
As usual when it comes to Roger Corman productions, the story behind the film is just as interesting (often more so) as the film itself. Karloff apparently owed Corman a couple of days work, so he was handed to Corman protégé Peter Bogdanovich, and told him to make whatever film he liked - as long as it was cheap, quick, included footage of his film The Terror (1963), and drew on the recent Charles Whitman killings. So, with the help of screenwriter Samuel Fuller, Bogdanovich crafted an intelligent, shocking, and extremely interesting film that what way ahead of its time.
Targets is many things. On one hand it is a warm love-letter to the legendary actors of old. In one scene, Michaels enters Orlock's hotel room, them both being drunk, and watch the end of Howard Hawks' The Criminal Code (1931), which starred a younger Boris Karloff. They briefly discuss the genius of Hawks and Michaels comments on what a fine screen presence Orlock (really Karloff) was, and still is. It is also a first-rate thriller. Tim O'Kelly is very effective as the clean-cut, all-American boy, who is becoming increasingly shaken about the person he finds himself becoming. In real-life, Whitman was found to have an aggressive brain tumour that was believed to be the cause of the sudden killing spree. The violence, though not gratuitous or exploitative, is shocking and nasty. The murder scenes are shot with a slow and detailed precision that are scary given the real-life occurrences.
Most interestingly, the film is a commentary on the generation gap, in both society and in cinema. Michaels states that "all the great films have already been made." Of course, this is not true - America was about to enter its true golden age, when the likes of Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Dennis Hopper, Francis Ford Coppola, Michael Cimino, and Bogdanovich himself shook Hollywood to its core. But Michaels is reflecting Orlock's fear of the new. Orlock is retiring because "it's a young person's world," and he feels he no longer has his place. The film builds up to the inevitable meeting of Orlock and Thompson - the old vs. the new, if you will.
Targets is quite hard to sum up. It is genuinely a hidden gem, and a true original that should be seen by anyone interested in cinema. Karloff would sadly pass away a year after this film was released, and he gives what is possibly his finest career performance. He has no scary make-up or sets to drown him out. He is simply an old man, walking stick and all. Although he made a couple more films after this, Targets seems his true and fitting exit from cinema. This is close to an 'A'-movie that I've seen a B-movie get, and again proves that Roger Corman was a true cinema genius.
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