Classic Intel: Targets - Online Review

'although Bogdanovich has a story which seems like it could work and offer something on a video nasty-like debate, rarely does he appear to have the focus required to see it through'

For a film depicting such an incendiary topic, made in an era when studio executives did not baulk at covering such things, it is curious just how flat Targets eventually feels. Made with all of the visual flair of a Sunday afternoon soap opera, Peter Bogdanovich's Thriller, produced three years before The Last Picture Show, delivers on so little of its apparently dark agenda that it leaves only faint glimpses of what it could have been and what it was aiming for.

The most matured glimpse is the clear and lofty aim by Bogdanovich to weigh into the video nasty argument through a clever overarching plot that pits Horror star Byron Orlok (played by, in a meta bit of casting, Boris Karloff) against mass murderer Bobby Thompson (Tim O'Kelly). Where the mild mannered Orlok wants to get away from the industry because he thinks the people out there with guns are scarier than he is, Thompson is one of those people with the guns; a coward who takes pot shots from the top of water towers at passing motorists. There is a clear message here about violence in Horror movies on film and real life violence, unpredictable bursts of harm such as that perpetrated by Thompson, who is never given a clear motive for his crimes.

The problem is that, although Bogdanovich has a story which seems like it could work and offer something on the matter, rarely does he appear to have the focus required to see it through, nor the ability to avoid some of the pitfalls of a narrative necessarily contrived, nor the inclination to make his Thriller thrilling.

Those points fall in order of importance. The focus here is incredibly shaky, Bogdanovich spending untold amounts of time on a subplot involving Orlok's impending retirement and his assistant's (Nancy Hsueh) relationship with Sammy (Bogdanovich himself), a writer who has already produced what would have been the star's next film. It is not taking it too far to say that these segments are entirely superfluous, including as it does a tonally woeful section where Nancy falls out with Orlok, before Sammy arrives and gets blind drunk with the actor, the pair waking up side-by-side in Orlok's suite.

The contrived plot is clearly, from the very beginning, going to involve a coming together of Orlok and Thompson, but the way it is handled is grubby in the extreme, from the moment Thompson glimpses the star in the opening to the finale, which cranks up the cinematic comparison points right to the level where you watch a projectionist load film for what seems like a drastic amount of time.

If the director can be pardoned for one element of Targets' failures it is with the level of thrill he chooses to espouse. There is certainly more than a hint that Bogdanovich does not want his very serious message to be diluted by something as frivolous as making his film compelling, though quite how the drunk scene fits into that mantra, you do have to wonder. The idea and the occasional good camera work (the POV shots are shocking - decades before today's realistic first person shooters) save it from complete failure.

Targets was playing on Sky.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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