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Title: Targets  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Peter Bogdanovich, Verna Fields, Frank Marshall (producer), Boris Karloff filmography, Polly Platt
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Original movie poster
Directed by Peter Bogdanovich
Produced by Roger Corman
Written by Polly Platt and
Peter Bogdanovich (story)
Peter Bogdanovich (screenplay)
Samuel Fuller (screenplay, uncredited)
Starring Boris Karloff
Tim O'Kelly
Peter Bogdanovich
Music by Ronald Stein (from The Terror)
Cinematography László Kovács
Edited by Peter Bogdanovich
Saticoy Productions
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • August 15, 1968 (1968-08-15) (U.S.)
Running time
90 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $130,000 (estimated)[1]

Targets is a 1968 American thriller, written and directed by Peter Bogdanovich and filmed in color by László Kovács.[2]


  • Plot 1
  • Production 2
  • Cast 3
  • Reception 4
  • In popular culture 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


The story concerns a quiet, clean-cut young insurance agent and Vietnam War veteran named Bobby Thompson (Tim O'Kelly) who murders his young wife, his mother and a grocery delivery boy at home, then goes on an afternoon shooting rampage from atop a San Fernando Valley oil storage tank. Several motorists and passengers are wounded or killed on the nearby freeway. When the police respond and start to close in on him, he flees and takes refuge in a Reseda drive-in theater where aging horror film icon Byron Orlok (Boris Karloff) is about to make a final in-person promotional appearance before retiring from show business. Thompson, perched on the framing inside the screen tower, resumes his killing spree after sunset, randomly shooting theater patrons as they sit in their cars watching the film. In a climactic confrontation, the elderly Orlok slaps the murderer into submission. As the police take him away Thompson remarks with apparent satisfaction that he "hardly ever missed".


The character and actions of the killer are patterned after Charles Whitman, the University of Texas sniper. The character of actor Byron Orlok, named after Max Schreck's vampire Count Orlok in 1922's Nosferatu, is patterned after Boris Karloff himself, who in fact plays the part in his last appearance in a major American film (although Bogdanovich states that, unlike Orlok, Karloff was not embittered with the movie business and did not wish to retire).

In the film's finale at a drive-in theater, Orlok – the old-fashioned, traditional screen monster who always obeyed the rules – confronts the new, realistic, nihilistic late-1960s "monster" in the shape of a clean-cut, unassuming multiple murderer.

Bogdanovich got the chance to make Targets because Boris Karloff owed studio head Roger Corman two days' work. Corman told Bogdanovich he could make any film he liked provided he used Karloff and stayed under budget. In addition, Bogdanovich had to use clips from Corman's Napoleonic-era thriller The Terror in the movie. The clips from The Terror feature Jack Nicholson and Boris Karloff. Bogdanovich has said that Samuel Fuller provided generous help on the screenplay and refused to accept either a fee or a screen credit, so Bogdanovich named his own character Sammy Michaels (Fuller's middle name was Michael) in tribute. Fuller advised Bogdanovich to save as much money in the film's budget as possible for the film to have an action-packed conclusion.[3]



American International Pictures offered to release but Bogdanovich wanted to try and see if the film could get a deal with a major studio. It was seen by Robert Evans of Paramount who bought it for $150,000, giving Corman an instant profit on the movie before it was even released.[4]

Although the film was written and production photography completed in late 1967, it was released after the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy in early 1968 and thus had some topical relevance to then-current events. Nevertheless it was not very successful at the box office.

However, Bogdanovich, who appears in the film as a young writer-director, credits it with getting him noticed by the studios, which in turn led to his directing three very successful studio films (The Last Picture Show, What's Up, Doc, and Paper Moon) in the early 1970s.

The movie is currently included as one of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. Targets currently holds an 88% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 25 reviews.

In popular culture

See also


  1. ^ Roger Corman & Jim Jerome, How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never lost a Dime, Muller, 1990 p 143
  2. ^ Stephen Jacobs, Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster, Tomohawk Press 2011 p 487-492
  3. ^ Background and production information in accordance with the extensive audio commentary by Bogdanovich available on the MGM DVD release of the film.
  4. ^ Andrew Yule, Picture Shows: The Life and Films of Peter Bogdanovich, Limelight, 1992 p 32

External links

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