In late 1967, B-movie mogul Roger Corman approached budding filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich with a proposal to make a film. The catch? The cast must include Boris Karloff, who owed Corman two days of work and the film must include footage of Corman’s earlier collaboration with Karloff, The Terror.
Based on a story by Polly Platt (the then wife of Peter Bogdanovich), she was inspired by the real story of Charles Whitman. On August 1, 1966, Whitman killed members of his family and then used a sniper rifle to randomly kill people at the University of Texas in 1966. Bogdanovich’s script concerns Boris Karloff as Byron Orlok an aging horror movie star not unlike himself. Orlok has just completed a film with young director Sammy Michaels (Bogdanovich). Scenes from The Terror are passed off as the new movie. Tired of playing in films full of fake monsters, when there are real monsters committing atrocities every day, Orlok is contemplating retirement. But first, he has agreed to attend the premiere of his new film at the local drive-in and address his fans.
At the same time, in the same California City, ex-serviceman Bobby Thompson (Tim O’Kelly) a clean-cut, mild mannered, polite young man lives in a typical suburban household with his wife (Tanya Morgan) and doting parents (James Brown and Mary Jackson). Nonetheless, Bobby is at the end of his rope. “Funny ideas” are plaguing him, but he has no idea what to do about them. Bobby would like to talk to his wife, but she’s late for work. His father isn’t the type to express his feelings and Bobby’s mom is concerned he’s not getting enough sleep. One morning, after his father leaves for work, Bobby shoots his wife, his mother and a delivery boy who happens to be at the kitchen door. After leaving home, Bobby stops at a local gun store and loads up on ammo. From there, Bobby’s shooting spree begins. First, he picks off freeway motorists from the top of a water tower. After alluding police in a car chase, he makes his way to the drive-in where Byron Orlok is set to appear.
Tim O’Kelly is effectively disturbing. Lurking inside an apparently “All American “male is someone who nonchalantly murders innocent people as with no remorse. All the while, snacking on Babe Ruth bars and sipping soda. It’s a shame O’Kelly didn’t have much of a career after this. He exudes a disturbed machismo that I would have liked to see more of. As for Boris Karloff, Targets is the perfect sendoff for a long career. The creator of nightmares for many, Byron Orlok allows him to show an unexpected vulnerability.
Criterion has transfer Targets to Blu-ray. Cited as being from a “New 2K digital restoration, supervised by director Peter Bogdanovich,” the result is a wonderfully sharp image. The blueish tint of the previous DVD release is gone, replaced by appropriate golden/yellow hues. Textures are noticeably sharper throughout. Depth is appropriate and contrast is pleasing. Given Targets minimal budget, this is likely the best possible result.
As for audio, the included linear PCM mono track offers a clean listening experience. Gun fire sounds realistic throughout. Scenes from The Terror add to the overall ambiance of the proceedings. Dialogue is clean, clear and concise throughout.
English SDH subtitles are available.
The following extras are included:
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Peter Bogdanovich: First available on the 2003 DVD release, Bogdanovich provides the kind of knowledgeable commentary you would expect from him, covering every facet of the film.
- New Interview with Filmmaker Richard Linklater (HD, 26:45) In awe of Peter Bogdonavich’s film knowledge, Linklater discusses how prepared Peter was to make his first film.
- Introduction to the film from 2003 by Bogdanovich (HD, 13:41) Bogdanovich discusses his vast knowledge of the Charles Whitman shooting spree.
- Excerpts from a 1983 interview with production designer Polly Platt (HD, 30:09) Platt offers her thoughts on the story behind Targets. Filmed at the American Film Institute in 1983.
- Trailer (HD, 1:54)
- Essay by critic Adam Nayman and excerpts from an interview with Bogdanovich from Eric Sherman and Martin Rubin’s 1969 book The Director’s Event: Interviews with Five American Filmmakers.