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Saturday April 13, 2013 - MOVIE - Thriller "TARGETS" (1967) Starring Boris Karloff. Suggested by Barb Heiss, Altoona, PA.

From Barb Heiss who selected this feature:

Why I picked TARGETS.

I watched TARGETS a couple of months ago when it was on one of the cable channels and when I turned it on the scene in the hotel room was on.  I’ve watched TARGETS many times over the years, but this was the first time I was drawn into that scene.  So I guess I’m starting toward the end of the movie and will work my way backward.

I enjoyed the scene because it didn’t show Boris as a monster, or criminal, or mad scientist.  It showed Boris as Byron Orlock.  An aging actor, and to use Byron’s word, an “anachronism.”  This was the second time Karloff played a character with that feeling.  Earlier in the Route 66 episode  called Lizard's Leg and Owlet's Wing he didn’t think the monsters he, Chaney, and Lorre had played would scare anyone any more.   He was wrong then , but in the context of this movie, a little right.  The sixties were turbulent and a similar sniper incident had happened.

The byplay between Karloff and Bogdanovich is interesting. Bogdanovich’s Sam Michaels is uncertain about his future and Karloff’s Orlock uncertain about whether to retire or not.  Both had too much to drink and  that helped them talk more openly about their insecurities.  Two things I picked up in the hotel scene are Boris’s bowleggedness (I honestly never noticed it before seeing the film initially), and one of the scenes in THE CRIMINAL CODE was eerily similar to the scene in FRANKENSTEIN  where the Frankenstein Monster enters  Elizabeth’s room on her wedding day.

The next morning when Sam wakes up first he is startled by Orlock. And that is followed by Orlock being startled by himself in the mirror.  We can all related to looking a little scary first thing in the morning, but imagine waking up and having Karloff appear in front of you.

One more thing about the hotel room scenes.  How great was it that Orlock relates the story to the deejay about Death meeting up with his victim?  The first time I heard this O'Henry story was from Carpathian formerly of the Patient Creatures at the Monster Bash.   This movie was filmed right around the time Karloff did the Christmas favorite HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS and I just smiled listening to that wonderful voice.  While listening to the audio commentary, Bogdanovich says he got the idea for Boris to tell the story while listening to the narration of HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS.

Now onto the rest of the movie.  The sniper storyline was taken from the headlines about Charles Whitman, a sniper in Texas.  While watching the movie I wondered why Bobby treated the bodies of his wife and mother differently.  I thought it probably was to symbolize something.  Why did he cover up his wife and not his mother?  Well it ends up the murders of the wife and mother was taken right from what Whitman had done.  So much for symbolism, at least on Bogdanovich’s part.

I also wondered if it meant something that Bobby pays for the gun and shells at the beginning, but charges more shells later to his father.  I’m probably  trying to read too much into a lot of the scenes.

The last scenes of the movie brought out so many memories.  When Bobby first gets there they show the playground set in front of the screen.  I remembered playing on a similar set at the Altoona Drive In.  Showing the speakers and the refreshment stand, I could smell the popcorn and hotdogs.  So, at the beginning you get the feeling of nostalgia along with a feeling of suspense, waiting for the shooting to begin.  And when it starts, it doesn’t let up.  But it’s not a bloodbath.  This was way before effects people started using gallons of fake blood.   You see Bobby take aim, hear him take a deep breath, see the shot , and finally someone getting hit.  The first victim gets hit in a telephone booth and slowly falls down.  And by the way, did you know it was Mike Farrell in that phone booth?  I saw his name in the credits. At first no one knows what’s going on and it takes awhile for others to catch on.  You see scenes of people in cars reacting to their loved ones getting shot. 

Of course, you know the two stories have to converge and Karloff’s Orlock takes charge and walks up to the sniper and smacks him.  This reminds me of the story Orlock told earlier.  No matter what decisions Bobby and Orlock make during the story, it was destiny that their stories collide. Old “anachronist” horror meets “modern” horror.

-Barb Heiss, Altoona, PA

After watching TARGETS for about the tenth time, I continued to see little things that I had never noticed before. Bogdanovich really did take a lot of thought to build this film. A film about itself and the psychology of a disturbed killer.

Of course, from Karloff's acting perspective, I think everyone agrees this was the great swan song (forget the four Mexican films that came later). He really gave a performance that was stunning and delivered the biographical nature of the part wonderfully.

You have Karloff's character Byron Orlock (substitute "Boris Karloff" easily), concerned on the projects he's now offered and how society has changed, Bogdanovich's "Sammy" trying to make a movie that really says something to lift him out of cheap drive-in features and the broken person, played perfectly by Tim O'Kelly, as someone who never can do "what he wants" as a smothered person in an authoritative relationship with his father. Instead of standing up and getting out of situations, his flaw is to get out of the situations with violence because he's not strong enough to face it and get through it properly (if not peaceably). Sad and horrible.

The film works from beginning to end and is profound.

On other reminds many of us of the sad demise of most drive-ins. A fun, wonderful way of watching films...with a whole feeling that is like no other. I also laugh at the parodies of Arkoff and Nicholson at the beginning. Those were the guys that ran AIP films. Amazing the let those characters it wasn't very flattering, especially for the Arkoff character.

While viewing this with Bob Pellegrino, Bob brought up "Tim O'Kelly." The actor that plays the sniper. I looked him up all over the Internet. He seems to have disappeared after 1973. He happened to be the first "Danno" on HAWAII 5-0 back in 1969, but was replaced. There seems to be no information on him at all. Does anyone know what happened to him. He pass away, or like Arch Hall, Jr., just start a new life in a different industry?

Notes regarding Boris: It was a great swan song, his acting is top flight, he gets to go out as being the man who finally is the hero by finally stopping the shootist and did anyone else notice....his last line is not a goodbye, but "Hello." It's spoken to Bogdanovich as he gets his bearings.

-Ron Adams, Ligonier, PA


What a powerful movie! It's so interesting on so many levels. It's sort
of a "meta-movie", a movie about movies. The film that Karloff (Orlok)
doesn't want to make could well be the film we're watching, where an aging
horror actor is given the chance to move beyond the stereotypes. It's
also a chilling social commentary that is still relevant today.

I have wondered in the past about why the young man becomes a murderer because
there's really no obvious reason for his rampage. As I watched it this
time I felt this added to the tension, here's what appears to be an
ordinary guy who snaps. I think there are some clues, although I don't
know if the writer/director intended for them to be read that way. He's a
young man living at his parent's home with his wife. She works, although
we don't really see him go to work, a job is implied, but perhaps he's
really not going to work. Was he in the military? a reasonable guess
given the time frame of the movie, but no overt clues there. There's
mention of a brother who apparently lives somewhere else with his wife and
child, perhaps there's some kind of jealousy at play? The father appears
strict, the young man always calls him "Sir" and in the scene when they're
all going to be he's heard to call his wife rather sternly twice to come
to bed, which seems odd since she's just paused to talk to her son.

An interesting note is that when we see him come home for the first time, he
walks in as the TV is announcing the movie for the night which is "Anatomy
of a Murder". There are many brilliantly played scenes that are simply
horrifying to watch. At the drive-in when he spots children playing on
some playground equipment I get chills, even having seen the movie
numerous times it's way beyond creepy.

The film also works as a wonderful
tribute to Boris Karloff, although I wish they would have used another
name besides Byron Orlok, that just seems like someone trying to be too
clever. The silly name aside, Boris gets to deliver some of his most
impassioned and interesting lines. This is clearly his finest film from
the latter part of his career, and I think can rightly stand in the top
films from anywhere in his long cinematic run.

-Kevin Slick, Louisville, CO

One of Boris Karloffs last films (released a year before he died), TARGETS is still as timely as ever, even 45 years after it was made with its message that real life is more scary than the films that are supposed to be so frightening. Indeed, I would rather watch a creepy classic than to read about yet ANOTHER mass shooting that sadly has seemed to escalate in the last few years.

Karloff has one of his plum roles as Byron Orlok, a veteran horror actor (talk about typecasting) who becomes a HERO at the end of the film when he disarms the boyish yet deadly accurate gunman. Tim O'Kelly is quite good as Bobby, the all American kid who obviously has feelings of inadequacy : he and his pretty wife live with his loving yet strict parents and the impression I got is that he's unemployed and losing his grip on reality.

Well worth watching just for seeing "The King" is one of his best roles and not really counting the four Mexican films he made (I know of no one who has seen them), going out still at the top of his game and in a class production. ****

- Steve Schimming
Sanbornton NH

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