Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Targets

Targets [title on Finnish tv] / Skott på levande mål / Levande mål [title on print]. US © 1967 Saticoy Productions [30 Dec 1967], released 1968. [EX: Roger Corman, n.c.]. P+D+ED: Peter Bogdanovich. Ass. P: Daniel Selznick. SC: Peter Bogdanovich - from a story by Polly Platt, Peter Bogdanovich. DP: Laszlo Kovacs - color by Pathé. PD: Polly Platt. S: Sam Kopetzky. S ED: Verna Fields. Cast: Boris Karloff (Byron Orlok), Tim O'Kelly (Bobby Thompson), Nancy Hsueh (Jenny), James Brown (Robert Thompson, Sr.), Sandy Baron (Kip Larkin), Arthur Peterson (Ed Loughlin), Mary Jackson (Charlotte Thompson), Tanya Morgan (Ilene Thompson), Monty Landis (Marshall Smith), Peter Bogdanovich (Sammy Michaels), Paul Condylis (Drive-in manager). - Footage from The Terror (Roger Corman, 1963) with Boris Karloff, Jack Nicholson, Sandra Knight, and Dick Miller. Footage from The Criminal Code (Howard Hawks, 1931) with Boris Karloff. 91 min. A SFI print [ok, opening The Terror footage faded red, the rest a bit faded without colour distortion, towards the end there was a reflection from the projection booth visible on the screen in the night scenes] with Swedish subtitles by Torsten Manns viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Horror Star Parade), 23 March 2010.

This film was never released in Finland, but I believe I saw it in 1970 during an American film week, or maybe there were impressive clips of it on Finnish tv at the time in a programme discussing the film week and the New Hollywood. Anyway, I haven't seen the film since, and it was much better than I expected.

The film is topical also in Finland since the Jokela and Kauhajoki school killings. In Targets, a normal white young man, happily married, with a loving father and mother, first kills everybody at home (the father happens not to be present at the moment) and then starts to kill random victims on a freeway and in a drive-in cinema. He has an impressive collection of firearms, and he has been avidly doing target practice together with his father.

There is a foreword in the film that there is no effective gun control law in the United States.

There is another story in the film, that of Boris Karloff, here called Byron Orlok, a horror film star who has decided to retire. The scenes at the preview, at Karloff's hotel room, and at the drive-in-cinema are full of affectionate and satirical observations. The storylines merge at the end as Karloff stops the killer who has been shooting at the audience through a hole in the screen.

One of the ideas of the film is that violent urges are real and it can be healthy to process them through the medium of the cinema. As everyone familiar with the horror film scene knows, artists working in that field tend to be gentle and tender personalities, such as Boris Karloff (1887-1969) reportedly was, and as he is portrayed here. The performance is one his career best.

An assured and thoughtful debut film from Peter Bogdanovich.

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