Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Boris Karloff movie TCM should have shown

Um, not those TargetsTCM has been marking the birth anniversary of horror star Boris Karloff (1887-1969) with a bunch of his movies. They're mostly his earlier movies, though, and of course they couldn't get Frankenstein as that was made at Universal. One of Karloff's later movies that I wouldn't mind getting another airing is Targets.

Karloff plays aging horror star Byron Orlok. As the movie opens, public relations people are pleading with him to make just one more public appearance for his fans, at a drive-in theater that's doing a retrospective of his work. Eventually, he agrees. Cut to young, and seemingly unrelated Bob Thompson (Tim O'Kelly), buying ammunition at a local gun store, and getting it charged to his father's account. He comes out of the gun shop at roughly the same time as Orlok is coming out of his place. Thompson has several guns in his trunk, and the implication is obvious: Thompson is going to shoot Orlok.

Well, not quite. Thompson goes back to his parents' house, where he also lives with his wife. The next morning, Bob proceeds to type up a note and, one by one, shoot his family dead. He then sets out for a local water tower, from which he randomly shoots at people in cars on the road below. What does any of this have to do wiht Orlok? Not much, except hat Thompson's shooting spree eventually takes him to the drive-in where Orlok is to appear; a chance meeting between the two, and a bunch of other people who risk getting shot.

Targets is the first film directed by Peter Bogdanovich. It's not a bad movie, but it is uneven. Other than Karloff, the rest of the actors are fairly unknown. Karloff, however, shines. He was near the end of his life and was only supposed to be under contract for a few days, but liked the script so much that he was willing to take on a bigger role requiring more filming time for no additional money. That script is fun, even if it isn't perfect. Ultimately, Targets is right up there with any of the other horror movies of the 1960s, although to be fair, Targets is more of a thriller than a horror movie.

Targets has been released to DVD, but it's apparently out-of-print. It is, however, available on Netflix.

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