Targets (1968): Bogdanovich’s Low-Budget, Exploitation Debut, Starring Boris Karloff

Peter Bogdanovich made his directing debut with Targets, a low budget crime thriller, starring Boris Karloff.


Cult actor Boris Karloff, in his last straight dramatic role, plays a semi-autobiographical character.

Karloff plays Byron Orlok, an aging, embittered horror movie actor, who abruptly announces his retirement. Orlok considers himself outdated because he believes that people are no longer frightened by old-fashioned horror. But after persuasion from young director Sammy Michaels (Bogdanovich), Orlok agrees to make a final in-person appearance at a Reseda drive-in theater.

Meanwhile, Bobby Thompson (Tim O’Kelly) a seemingly young, clean-cut insurance agent and Vietnam vet who lives in the San Fernando Valley with his wife and his parents, turns out to be a deeply disturbed and obsessive gun collector. One morning, after his father leaves for work, Thompson murders his wife, mother, and delivery boy at his home. That afternoon, Thompson continues the killing spree, shooting people in passing cars from atop an oil storage tank.

When the police start chasing him, Thompson flees, taking refuge in the same drive-in theater where Orlok is to appear that evening.  Thompson kills the theater’s projectionist and perches himself on the framing inside the screen tower. While the Orlok film is shown, Thompson begins shooting at the patrons in and around the parking lot.

In the climax, Orlok confronts Thompson, who is disoriented by Orlok’s simultaneous appearance before him and on the large screen behind him, allowing the actor to disarm Thompson using his walking cane. The defeated Thompson retreats, and a shaken Orlok remarks, “Is that what I was afraid of?” When police arrive to arrest Thompson, he claims with satisfaction that he “hardly ever missed.”


Directed by Peter Bogdanovich
Produced by Roger Corman
Peter Bogdanovich
Screenplay by Peter Bogdanovich; Samuel Fuller (uncredited), story by Polly Platt, Peter Bogdanovich
Music by Ronald Stein (from The Terror)
Cinematography: László Kovács
Edited by Bogdanovich
Production company: Saticoy Productions
Distributed by Paramount
Release date: August 15, 1968
Running time: 90 minutes