[box cover]

Targets

Some folks like to fetishize a director's first film, often considering it emblematic of the career that follows, but in Peter Bogdanovich's case it's inappropriate. Targets (1968) bears few similarities to any of his other pictures — except that it's shot like a TV movie, a criticism that could be leveled at his later work for television. This dissimilarity is because Bogdanovich's first film was a lark; he was working for Roger Corman and was told he could make his first film if he could somehow use the two days of work Boris Karloff owed Corman and shoot 20 minutes of footage from it, then shoot another 40 minutes, and then add 20 minutes of footage from Corman's patched-together effort The Terror. Unsure of how to incorporate the older footage, Bogdanovich's idea was to have Karloff play an actor who hated the movie he was just in (reasonable enough, as The Terror is a mess of a movie made in four days with five directors) and wants to retire. The idea then was to crosscut between horror actor Byron Orlock (Karloff), a character that is obviously based on Karloff himself, with real horror — gun-nut Bobby Thompson (Tim O'Kelly), who snaps and goes on a killing spree (modeled on Charles Whitman), and then have the two intersect at a drive-in where Orlock makes an appearance and Bobby his last stand. As a "first film," one can make the usual apologies for the lack of budget or the dynamic set-ups — Targets shows that Bogdanovich was movie-smart and knew how to tell a story. It's a reasonably made, works even with its gimmicky premise, and is a tight little thriller with something to say about movies and real life. Bogdanovich also appears as director Sammy Michaels, who's interested both in Orlock making his next film and in Orlock's personal assistant Jenny (Nancy Hsueh). Targets is totally unlike anything Bogdanovich has made since, and fans of the material will find that the supplements on the DVD explain why. In both the commentary and the introduction, Bogdanovich mentions that the script (from a story conceived by himself and Polly Platt) was reworked from head to toe by friend Sam Fuller; Bogdanovich even paid homage to this by using Fuller's first and middle name to name the director character. Since Fuller knew it would draw attention away from the young auteur, he refused credit. In the commentary, every good sequence and idea seems to have been born from ideas of other directors — Bogdanovich makes sure to point out where he got his ideas from. One could argue that he's being modest, but he also admits that he hates both horror films and drive-ins, which could make some Targets fans upset. Paramount presents the film in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) and in 2.0 mono. Keep-case.
—DSH



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