Retro: our movie & TV vault... a fresh look
at neglected classics and cult favourites
It's a case of out with the old and in comes the new, as Boris Karloff makes one of his final screen
appearances, while Peter Bogdanvich scores with his directorial debut. Here, life and art fuse almost
perfectly in this drama based on a true story. Karloff plays a retiring actor, the star of many a
period horror movie - a character whose career parallels Karloff's own. He's tired of it all and
ready to quit the film business but is pressured into one final public appearance, re-opening a
drive-in theatre (where his new shocker is being shown), by his last director - played by Bogdanivich
Karloff's brooding, melancholic presence brings an enormously sombre (if not sober) atmosphere to proceedings, and in many ways this is arguably the great man's best performance because he's not really acting. At the drive-in, a lunatic gunman (Tim O'Kelly) takes up a sniper's position behind the huge screen (this was several years before Two-Minute Warning) and starts firing wildly into the parked cars. It's in the ensuing panic that the film's most bravura moment occurs, as Karloff reacts angrily to the violence around him and single-handedly disarms the killer, who promptly collapses into a whimpering heap and cowers beneath Karloff's glare, magnified on the outdoor screen.
"Is that what I was afraid of?" Karloff wonders. Although Targets does have faults, not the least of which is its sometimes painfully obvious low-budget (most noticeable in the cheap sets of the killer's home), it makes up for these failings with some very effective scenes of suspense and sheer terror, a marvellously well-observed showing by the star, and assured work from Bogdanovich who also wrote, produced and edited the film.