Critics Consensus

A startling directorial debut by Peter Bogdanovich mixes an homage to Boris Karloff horror films with a timely sniper story to create a thriller with modern baggage and old school shock and awe.



Total Count: 25


Audience Score

User Ratings: 3,323
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Targets Photos

Movie Info

Together with Orson Welles' Citizen Kane and John Singleton's Boyz 'n the Hood, director Peter Bogdanovich's Targets is among the most impressive first features ever made. When Bogdanovich's cinematic mentor Roger Corman suggested that Bogdanovich might want to make his directorial debut, he offered to "donate" 20 minutes worth of footage of the Corman-directed The Terror and the services of Boris Karloff, who owed Corman two days' worth of work (at a cost of $22,000). Karloff became so caught up in the 29-year-old Bogdanovich's enthusiasm that he agreed to work an additional two days at a bare-minimum salary. The script, by Bogdanovich and his then-wife, Polly Platt, was inspired by the 1966 shooting spree of Texas Tower sniper Charles Whitman. Karloff, as Byron Orlock, more or less plays himself: an aging horror star, consigned to low-budget drive-in fare. Unlike the workaholic Karloff, Orlock wants to retire from films, noting that his movies seem inconsequential in light of the real-life horrors occurring every day. As Bogdanovich, playing young-and-hungry director Sammy Michaels, desperately tries to convince Orlock to star in just one more picture, the film's attentions shift to Vietnam veteran Bobby Thompson (Tim O'Kelly). An otherwise amiable, normal-looking lad, Bobby seems to harbor an inordinate fascination with guns, particularly high-powered rifles. One bright and sunny morning, Bobby suddenly and unexpectedly shoots and kills his wife, his mother, and an unlucky delivery boy. He leaves behind a note confessing to these crimes, noting that, while he fully expects to be captured, many more will die before the day is over. From this point onward, the film switches from Bobby's day-long bloodbath (from the vantage point of an oil storage tank, calmly picking off passing freeway motorists) to Orlock's grumbling preparations to make a personal appearance at a local drive-in movie. Inevitably, Bobby also shows up at the drive-in, hiding himself behind the huge screen and shooting down the patrons as they sit complacently in their cars, watching the latest Byron Orlock film (actually The Terror, in which Karloff also starred). Once the reality of the situation sets in, panic ensues, leading to the ultimate confrontation between the escaping Bobby and the bewildered Orlock. ("Is this what I was afraid of?" Orlock ruefully exclaims as Bobby cowers at his feet.) The tension never lets up throughout Targets' jam-packed 90 minutes. The film was virtually thrown away by its distributor, Paramount Pictures, which was uncertain about packaging a film about a sniper in the wake of the King and Kennedy assassinations. Only when it was reissued to college campuses and film societies did Targets begin building up its much-deserved reputation. Though Targets was not, technically, Boris Karloff's last film, it serves as a worthy valedictory for this cinematic giant. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Boris Karloff
as Byron Orlok
Tim O'Kelly
as Bobby Thompson
James Brown (II)
as Robert Thompson, Sr.
Sandy Baron
as Kip Larkin
Arthur Peterson
as Ed Loughlin
Mary Jackson
as Charlotte Thompson
Tanya Morgan
as Ilene Thompson
Monte Landis
as Marshall Smith
Monty Landis
as Marshall Smith
Peter Bogdanovich
as Sammy Michaels
Paul Condylis
as Drive-In Manager
Stafford Morgan
as Gunshop Salesman
Mark Dennis
as 2nd Gunshop Salesman
Dan Ades
as Chauffeur
Warren White
as Grocery Boy
Geraldine Baron
as Larkin's Girl
Gary Kent
as Gas Tank Worker
Ellie Wood Walker
as Woman on Freeway
Frank Marshall
as Ticket Boy
Byron Betz
as Projectionist
Mike Farrell
as Man in Phone Booth
Jay Daniel
as Snack Bar Attendant
James Morris
as Man with Pistol
Elaine Partnow
as Woman at Drive-in
Pete Belcher
as Man at Drive-in
James Bowie
as Man at Drive-in
Anita Poree
as Woman at Drive-in
Robert Cleaves
as Man at Drive-in
Douglas Scott Kay
as Woman at Drive-in
Raymond Roy
as Man at Drive-in
Diana Ashley
as Woman at Drive-in
Kirk Scott
as Man at Drive-in
Susan Douglas Rubes
as Woman at Drive-in
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Critic Reviews for Targets

All Critics (25) | Top Critics (6)

Audience Reviews for Targets

  • Apr 02, 2011
    A intelligent, slow burner that has a brilliant ending. You can follow it from the start and keep guessing as to what will happen as the characters stories intertwine with each other. Brilliant performances and a great watch.
    Sophie B Super Reviewer
  • Dec 28, 2010
    Why am I just hearing about this movie?! I recorded this movie off the movie channel just because I liked the description.When I started to watch it, I really expected Targets to suck but I was I wrong.Targets was a great movie.I noticed my favorite Boris Karloff roles are when he's not playing a monster or something similar
    Brody M Super Reviewer
  • Aug 01, 2009
    Has some great scenes but, all in all, isn't all that captivating.
    vieras e Super Reviewer
  • Oct 11, 2008
    this stunning low budget thriller features the last great role of boris karloff's career, sending himself up by playing an aging horror star who is talked into one last personal appearance before retirement. movie horror meets real-life horror when a sniper shows up. loosely based on the whitman texas tower case; peter bogdanovich's first film, shot in less than 3 weeks, produced by roger corman and released in 1968 shortly after the mlk and rfk assassinations
    Stella D Super Reviewer

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