1968’s TARGETS ($10) offered an aging Boris Karloff his last great film role. Sure, the elderly thespian continued to take acting assignments after this one, but TARGETS was indeed the final time that the actor could truly shine. Coming from the Roger Corman School of low budget guerilla filmmaking, director/writer Peter Bogdanovich fashioned TARGETS based upon access to footage from the movie THE TERROR and the fact that Karloff owed two days work to Corman. With a final coat of polish supplied by an uncredited Samuel Fuller, the screenplay for TARGETS interweaves two separate stories that converge at the movie’s climax.
As TARGETS opens, we are introduced to aging horror movie icon Byron Orlok (Boris Karloff), who will make a final personal appearance at a drive-in theater before retiring from the screen. Then the film begins to inter-cut the story of a seemingly normal "All American Boy" type, who goes off the deep end- killing his wife and mother, before taking his small arsenal on the road and turning sniper. Peter Bogdanovich’s assured direction makes both stories work exceedingly well, in addition to bringing off the location/sniper sequences with horrifying stark realism- quite an accomplishment considering that he had to shoot every frame without a permit and in complete guerilla fashion.
Of course, the real heart of the movie are the sequences involving a melancholy Byron Orlok, who wishes to gracefully exit the screen because he feels like an antique, and that his kind of fright films are completely overshadowed by the real horrors of the modern world. Although essentially portraying himself, Karloff brings a warmth and richness to the role of Byron Orlok, which allows his fans to glimpse a portion of the real man, instead of one of his horrifying cinematic creations. In addition to the warmth that Karloff conveys with his performance, he also exudes a strength that makes him a totally captivating presence during the film’s climatic final moments. Supporting Karloff in TARGETS is Tim O'Kelly, Arthur Peterson, Monte Landis, Nancy Hsueh and Peter Bogdanovich.
Paramount Home Entertainment has made TARGETS available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. TARGETS was nicely photographed by Laszlo Kovacs and the transfer brings out the best in his work (which had to hide the fact that much of the film was shot on the same redressed and repainted sets). The image is generally sharp and offers up a good level of detail. Sequences shot under controlled lighting tend to be the most vibrant, while those that utilize natural lighting seem a bit more subdued. Colors are stable, appearing free from noise and smearing. Blacks are pure and whites are pretty crisp. Contrast is good, as is shadow detail- although some sequences do appear somewhat limited. The film elements used for the transfer have some blemishes, but that aren’t bad for a low budget movie from 1968. Digital compression artifacts are never a cause for concern.
TARGETS comes with a rather solid Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack. Considering the fact that TARGETS does not have a musical score, fidelity issues are not really a concern on this particular track. The sound is clean and crisp, with most traces of background hiss and surface noise eliminated in the mastering stage. As we learn from the disc’s supplemental content, portions of the film were shot silent, with sound effects being added in postproduction. These sequences were so well done at the time that I doubt anyone would have known, if director Bogdanovich hadn’t pointed them out. Dialogue is well rendered, with Karloff’s voice always maintaining his distinctive sense of character. No other language tracks have been included on the DVD, although English subtitles are provided.
The basic interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some nice supplemental content. Director Peter Bogdanovich offers up a new ten minute on camera introduction to TARGETS, in which he discusses how the project came into being. Additionally, Bogdanovich is back for a full running audio commentary, which allows him to elaborate on things briefly discussed in the introduction, including his admiration for Karloff and the pleasure of having the opportunity to work with this legend. Bogdanovich’s talk proves to be rich and enjoyable, making it something that his fans and those of Karloff will want to listen to.
While not his final screen appearance, TARGETS allowed Karloff the opportunity to deliver one last great performance. Paramount has done a great job with the DVD, offering a fine presentation and solid supplements- not to mention the bargain price. All things considered, this is a must have DVD for both Karloff and Bogdanovich fans. Highly recommended.
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