Written & Directed by Peter Bogdanovich. Starring Boris Karloff, Tim O’Kelly, Peter Bogdanovich, and Nancy Hsueh. And a bonus star, if you can spot him: Jack Nicholson, appearing in the film-within-the-film The Terror (1963), directed by Roger Corman and also starring Boris Karloff.
Targets is the confident and bold directorial debut of cinematic wunderkind Peter Bogdanovich. Frank Marshall cameos in the picture, as well as assuming second unit directorial duties. Francis Ford Coppola shot scenes for The Terror, featured extensively in this picture. The aforementioned Jack Nicholson appears on a drive-in cinema screen. All of this is incidental data.
What makes Targets so unforgettable, is its sense of inexorable conflict. There is a slow, placid, laconic pacing to the film that belies its central conceit: that film(s) can evoke real emotions in us mortals. The legends on screen may be untouchable, larger-than-life, and capable of making us forget the reality of our shared existence, and yet they’re played by human beings. Those human beings are frail, they age, they fade into obscurity, and they die. But the power of performance, as immortalized on film, is capable of transcending the grave.
All of this is to say, I’ve barely described the film. If you value the power of art and take special joy in the craft of filmmaking, then you should definitely see this. If not, you should still see it, because legends are made when fact meets fiction.