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Targets is a 1968 horror thriller (produced by Roger Corman, directed by Peter Bogdanovich) that focuses on two men in Los Angeles. One is Byron Orlock (Boris Karloff), an aging and beloved horror film actor who has announced his decision to retire from film-making, feeling that Real Life is churning out more and far worse horrors than anything he can hope to put on screen. The other is young Vietnam vet Bobby Thompson (Tim O'Kelly) who unknowingly sets out to prove Orlock's point when he finally snaps under the soulless banality of his existence, gathers up an arsenal, and goes on a shooting spree. Inevitably, the paths of the two men cross...
A worthy coda for Karloff's career, and a symbolic passing of the torch from one generation of filmmakers to the next.
Targets contains examples of:
- Affably Evil: After killing his wife and mother, Thompson, while buying numerous rounds (that wouldn't be a big deal back in the 1960s, or in Texas today), casually carries on a conversation with the gun store owner.
- Bedmate Reveal: Orlock and Sammy get drunk and end up falling asleep in Sammy's bedroom. Sammy has a bad dream and startles himself awake:
Orlock: (suffering from Hangover Sensitivity) Why did you yell?!
Sammy: I was having a nightmare and I woke up next to Byron Orlock!
Orlock: (sourly) Very funny.
- Cool Old Guy: Both Boris Karloff and the character he's playing, Byron Orlock. Karloff was a nice guy in Real Life (and he even worked on this film for free when it ran over the two days he owed Corman), and Orlock is pretty much the same.
- Crapsack World: One of Orlock's reasons for retiring is that the real world is becoming more horrifying than the scary movies he made. Considering how Thompson's shooting spree was based on the real-life Whitman shootings, he's depressingly correct.
- Drive-In Theater: Where the climax of the film takes place.
- End of an Age: Orlock's retirement signals an end to the Monster and Mad Scientist era of horror films... with Thompson's shooting spree signaling the beginning of the next wave of horror based on human evils like serial killers.
- Executive Meddling: A positive example, in that the film wouldn't have been made in the first place, except Karloff owed the ever-frugal Corman two days of filming; as already noted, Karloff was so impressed with the resulting script, he volunteered the needed extra shooting time for free.
- Good Colors, Evil Colors: All of Orlock's scenes are shot in mellow autumnal shades, while Thompson's are cold sterile blues.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: The screenwriter Sammy Michaels is played by Bogdanovich himself.
- I Am Not Spock: Orlock is Karloff with the serial numbers lightly sanded off. Almost counts as an As Himself trope.
- Except that in Real Life Karloff wasn't about to retire, and seemed happy to make this film.
- Let Me Tell You a Story: Orlock gives a lovely recitation of the story "An Appointment in Samarra".
- Mad Hatter: Like his real-life inspiration Whitman, Thompson types up a note calmly detailing what he is about to do.
- Malevolent Architecture: The decor of Thompson's suburban home could drive anyone crazy.
- Mean Character, Nice Actor: Orlok, obviously. He's built up a career playing monsters and maniacs, but off-camera he's clearly very kind and classy (again, just like Karloff himself). Thompson is the exact opposite; while he maintains the facade of a cheerful, normal, All-American youth, he really seems to be a Complete Monster on the inside.
- Meaningful Name: Byron Orlock. The last name is borrowed from Count Orlock of Nosferatu, the first name from Lord Byron.
- Mirror Scare: At one point Orlock is startled by his own reflection, a bit suggested by Karloff himself.
- During the final shooting spree, Thompson is unable to determine which Orlock to shoot at - the one onscreen at the drive-in theater or the one coming right at him.
- Nothing Is Scarier: The film has no music soundtrack, except for a tune heard on a car radio.
- Shout-Out: Karloff's earlier films are referenced in this film as being part of Orlock's career; using the footage was part of the deal with Corman.
- The screenwriter's name Sammy Michaels was named for Samuel Fuller, who helped write the film's screenplay.
- The Sixties
- Stealth Insult:
- Vietnam War: Thompson is an early veteran of the war.