18 October 2008
Boris Karloff and Sandy Baron Together For the First Time!
Name a movie that features Boris Karloff, Peter Bogdanovich and Sandy Baron.
What's that you say? No such film exists.
Okay wiseguy, run to your local video store and rent Targets (1968).
Karloff stars with Tim O'Kelly (yes, the Tim O'Kelly). This was Bogdanovich's directorial debut and he also co-wrote the screenplay and appears as a director. And by the way his acting in Targets is terrible. If he had anything to do with casting himself than it was the mistake of his career.
So Bogdanovich plays a director. Who did the then aging former horror film star Karloff play? Why an aging former horror film star, of course. Talk about typecasting.
Sandy Baron played a hip, long-haired disc jockey. For those of us who well remember Baron's appearances on Seinfeld or in Woody Allen's Broadway Danny Rose, seeing him in Targets is a real hoot.
What about this O'Kelly chap, you ask? He is of course the film's clean cut young mass murderer.
Hold it a second here. We've got a movie with a has been actor, a director, a DJ and a mass murderer?
Here's the kicker: it's actually quite good.
The young Master Bogdanovich, then not yet 30 years old, wanted to make a film loosely based on the notorious Charlie Whitman who a few years prior had nested in a tower on the University of Texas campus with a sniper's rifle and killed over a dozen people while injuring several score more. The legendary B Picture producer Roger Corman promised to back him if...He included Karloff in the film and used footage from a five year old Corman filled called The Terror (1963). Bogdanovich saw a gift horse that he was unwilling to look in the mouth. But he had to turn his Whitmanesque story into one that included Karloff and some old horror film footage.
Okay. No guess what now famous actor appeared in the footage used from The Terror?
Whoever said Jack Nicoholosn move to the head of the class.
Ain't Hollywood grand?
So despite this bizarre sounding story and the director's own bad acting this is a good movie? I think so, yeah.
Needless to say the story of Karloff's character and that of the mass murderer converge at the end in a satisfying resolution. Better still is the inner cutting Bogdanovich did between the two stories.
Targets is no masterpiece but at 90 minutes it's well paced, intriguing and Karloff is marvelous, despite his ill health at the time of filming.
I believe I can also safely say that it is the only film ever to include Bogdanovich, Karloff, Baron, footage of Nicholson and James Brown -- no, not the James Brown..but still.
By the way, Targets, a story featuring a sniper, was released shortly after the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. It tanked at the box office. Evidently timing is everything.