May 31, 2017

Targets




Out of all the filmmakers associated with the so-called ‘American New Wave’ movement that lasted from the mid-to-late 1960s to early 1980s, Peter Bogdanovich (Paper Moon, Saint Jack)—a somewhat fallen auteur that is probably best know nowadays for his recurring guest role on HBO's The Sopranos—was certainly the most aesthetically conservative, banal, and least thematically subversive.  Indeed, when his largely fellow kosher counterculture compatriots like Bob Rafelson, Monte Hellman, Robert Towne, and Henry Jaglom were playing iconoclast and attempting to destroy the mores of mainstream white Christian American while simultaneously remodeling the Hollywood studio system to create a more European orientated auteurist cinema, Bogdanovich was still jerking off to the films of Howard Hawks and attempting to be a sort of modernist John Ford that did not direct westerns (incidentally and somewhat ironically, Ford was apparently instrumental in destroying Bog's chance to direct an unrealized John Wayne western entitled The Streets of Laredo, which the filmmaker believed would have been his masterpiece). The son of a Serbian Orthodox Christian painter and Austrian-born Jewess, Bogdanovich started out as a dorky cinephile that acted as a film critic at Esquire and film programmer at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, on top of spending much of his free time stalking his cinematic heroes, including Orson Welles, who he would eventually develop a close and cinephiliacally fruitful relationship with. Influenced by the film critics turned auteur filmmakers associated with Cahiers du Cinéma like Godard and Rohmer, Bogdanovich was naturally destined to make shamelessly cinephiliac films. Considering his largely ancient cinematic heroes, it was only natural that I would never develop any special fondness for Bogdanovich’s undeniably uneven oeuvre. In fact, I cannot think of a single Bogdanovich flick that I really like, though I do have a certain unexpected respect for his somewhat preternatural debut feature Targets (1968) starring Golden Age Hollywood horror legend Boris Karloff in a superficially semi-autobiographical role as a washed-up horror star that has become completely disillusioned with his trade who finds himself fighting a Charles Whitman-esque spree-killer in a climatic showdown that is fittingly set at a drive-in theater. A piece of self-reflexive quasi-meta-cinema where Bogdanovich even plays a virtual unintended self-parody of himself as a young screenwriter with a hard-on for old man Karloff, the film is a Roger Corman-produced mess where goofy old school horror meets visceral real-life true crime horror. In short, unlike most of Bogdanovich’s films, Targets is a somewhat idiosyncratic flick with a slight bit of good old testicular fortitude that pays anti-tribute to one of America's most unconventional mass murderers. 



 Undoubtedly, gay novelist and theater critic Ethan Mordden probably paid the film its greatest compliment while adequately summing up its overall importance in the context of cinema history when he wrote in his New Hollywood history book Medium Cool: The Movies of the 1960s (1990), “There is the feeling that the entire movie is a public-service commercial (for the control of firearms), which Bogdanovich can then turn about by calling TARGETS apolitical, a film for film’s sake. That it is: a B that redefines the B’s power, a film reassessing the nature of certain film categories—‘exploitation,’ real-life,’ ‘horror.’ TARGETS is the real terror, THE TERROR just a movie. But then so is TARGETS.” Like any film produced by insincerely charming McHebrew schlockmeister Roger Corman, the film is largely the consequence half-baked planning and a miserly budget, but eager novice Bogdanovich was determined to direct his first movie and was willing to accept table scraps to do so. Shot on a shockingly meager budget of around $130,000, the film had its genesis in the fact that star Corman was looking to capitalize off that the fact that Karloff owed him two days' work and he decided his new young protege Bogdanovich, who previously worked with him as an assistant director on the outlaw biker flick The Wild Angels (1966), had the cost-cutting skills and technical competency to make him a quick cheapie that would make him a profit. In a sleazy attempt to give star Karloff more screen time, Corman also demanded that Bogdanovich use excerpts from his mostly lame and tame Napoleonic-era gothic horror flick The Terror (1963) starring (and partly co-ghost-directed by) Jack Nicholson. A perennially shameless penny-pincher, Corman ultimately funded a film that is, at least partially, a ruthless attack against the sort of mindnumbingly mindless and soullessly manufactured B horror flicks that he regularly defecated out. Somewhat of a Frankenstein monster of movie that is made of various pieces of scrap cinematic parts, Targets is in many ways the ultimate anti-Corman flick as a cinematic work that both mocks and was superficially modeled after the archetypal celluloid turd. 



 According to Peter Biskind in his magnum opus of New Hollywood gossip Easy Riders, Raging Bulls (1998), Corman gave Bogdanovich the following instructions in regard to directing Targets, “You know how Hitchcock shoots, don’t you? Plans every shot, totally prepared. You know how Hawks shoots, don’t you? Doesn’t plan anything. Rewrites on the set. Well, on this picture, I want you to be Hitchcock.” Of course, the film lacks the almost mathematical precision of a Hitch flick, but that is actually a good thing since the flick owes most of its potency to its almost sometimes cinema-vérité-like vibe and relative lack of cold technical precision, especially in comparison to Bogdanovich's later films. Not surprisingly to anyone that has seen the film, Targets also had help from maverick auteur Samuel Fuller (Naked Kiss, Shock Corridor), who apparently did an uncredited revamping of the screenplay (which was co-written by the director's then-wife Polly Platt) and guided his protégé Bogdanovich when it came to the film’s meager budget (in short, most of the film's budget was saved for its extra long and climatic ending). Indeed, not unlike a Fuller flick, the film features a storyline that was ripped straight from a newspaper headline, namely the psychotic shooting spree of loony lone wolf mass murderer Charles ‘Texas Tower Sniper’ Whitman. An all-American-looking blond beast with a large muscular build and nearly genius IQ that went completely berserk on August 1, 1966 and murdered his wife and mother in their home and then headed to University of Texas at Austin where he killed 14 more people before being killed by some cops, Whitman was not exactly your stereotypical homicidal sniper (it is suspected that he might have when crazy because he had a pecan-sized brain tumor that may have pressed against his amygdale, which is a part of the brain that deals with anxiety and fight-or-flight responses). 



 Rather boldly, if not grotesquely and quite stereotypically, Bogdanovich’s partly blames the Whitman-esque character’s murderous meltdown on the soullessness and phoniness of white middle-class life. Indeed, Bogdanovich even goes so far as to blame some of the victims, especially the killer’s wife and mother, for his aberrant actions, as these family members, who are hardly sympathetic, are depicted as emotionally neglectful buffoons that refuse to acknowledge that he is clearly unhinged. Like a stereotypical member of the Hebraic tribe, Bogdanovich less than subtly reveals his kosher contempt for WASPs and white suburbia (despite the fact that he is a real big fan of Aryan women as his dubious one-sided relationships with Cybill Shepherd and Dorothy Stratten demonstrate). Clearly ahead of his time as far as cultural Marxist bullshit is concerned, the film also includes mostly non-Europid heroes, including a China girl and Bogdanovich himself portraying a stereotypically whiny and neurotic screenwriter that is desperate to squeeze out the last bit of raw acting talent from Karloff’s character in a rather crude and tasteless example of art intimating life and vice versa. Somewhat paradoxically, the film also manages to give Karloff some dignity while at the same time making him seem like a sad old joke. Indeed, somehow I assume that Karloff ultimately regretted having to owe Corman two days of work as Targets reveals that he probably would have done a fairly decent job playing the dainty tea-sipping cousin of one of the titular old farts of Grumpy Old Men (1993) in what is arguably the most unintentionally humorous yet somewhat horrifying roles of his very long career. 

A sort of Sunset Boulevard (1950) for the film dork generation as directed by arguably the biggest film dork of his generation, Targets is in many ways the ultimate drive-in flick in that, aside from being virtually two films in one, it climaxes at a packed drive-in, thus contemporary viewers are unfortunately deprived of the full cinematic experience. Indeed, I don’t many things beat the cinematic thrill of watching a film about a sniper killing petrified audience members at a drive-in while at a drive-in with real-life petrified audience members. For better or worse, Targets is basically a glorified exploitation flick that takes the Ed Wood approach of both exploiting the past fame of a washed-up horror star and recycling cheap footage from a subpar horror movie that no one ever wants to see again. Of course, Bogdanovich learned all of the tricks of the trades in the exploitation world, or as he stated in regard to working under Corman as an assistant director on The Wild Angels, “I went from getting the laundry to directing the picture in three weeks. Altogether, I worked 22 weeks – preproduction, shooting, second unit, cutting, dubbing – I haven’t learned as much since.” Needless to say, Bogdanovich worked for one of the worst yet worshiped some of the best like Welles and Fuller, thereupon resulting in a film that totally transcends Corman kitsch but could have never been made in the Hollywood studio system. 



 In a scenario that might scare away more cultivated viewers from ever wanting to other seek out any other misbegotten celluloid Corman crud, Targets begins with the less than climatic conclusion of The Terror that involves Karloff being drowned by a beauteous ghost. After the movie concludes, it is revealed that quasi-protagonist, Karloff more or less portraying himself under the somewhat ludicrous Murnau-esque name ‘Byron Orlok,’ is in a screening room and he is greatly pained to see his ludicrously lackluster performance in shallow hack work that is clearly not worthy of his famous name. When Byron’s considerably kosher producer Marshall Smith (Monte Landis) brings up a new movie that he wants him to star in, Byron quickly replies, “I’m not making any more films, Marshall. I’m retiring.” Aside from Marshall, Byron immediately disappoints young screenwriter Sammy Michaels (Bogdanovich in an obvious semi-autobiographical role), who has just written a script that he proudly proclaims was modeled after the geriatric Brit’s real-life personality. While Sammy and his Chinese secretary Jenny (Nancy Hsueh) make an impassioned plea for him to seriously reconsider retiring, Byron stands firm and replies, “Sammy, you’re a sweet boy, but you can’t possibly understand what it feels like to be me. I’m an antique, out of date” and “I’m an anachronism. Sammy, look around you. The world belongs to the young. Make way for them.” Of course, what Byron fails to realize is that semite Sammy is an overly sentimental cinephile that lives in the past and worships the films of yesteryear.  Indeed, Sammy would probably give old man Bryon a sloppy blowjob if he asked him to, but the wash-up horror icon is not impressed by groveling or superficial praise.

Aside from being a living and breathing anachronism that could not even scare a neurotic toddler, Byron is disillusioned with horror movies simply because they seem like a goofy joke compared to real-life violence and murder, or as he states to Sammy after showing him a newspaper with a headline that reads, “YOUTH KILLS SIX IN SUPERMARKET” in regard to the impotency of his trade: “No one’s afraid of a painted monster.” Indeed, Byron seems most appalled by the fact that film critics have recently described his work as “high camp,” as if he is Vincent Price or something (incidentally, Sammy considers asking Mr. Price to star in his new film when Byron declines).  Luckily (or unluckily depending on who you are), Byron eventually gets the opportunity to encounter a real-life homicidal maniac by happenstance and confront his fears in regard to real-life human horrors. Although resembling the typical all-American clean-cut white boy, generically handsome Vietnam War veteran Bobby Thompson (Tim O'Kelly) is, mentally speaking, on the brink of blowing a gasket and gunning down as many people as possible before he is caught, including the two women that he loves most. In a rather improbable foreshadowing scene at the beginning of the film, Bobby even unwittingly catches Byron is the crosshairs of a rifle while he is hanging out at a gun store that he and his avid sport shooter father regularly patronize. As demonstrated by his oftentimes socially retarded behavior and seeming incapacity to relate to other people, Bobby seems to fall somewhere on the autism spectrum, though that seems to be the least of his problems as he has recently contracted an impulse to kill and even considers shooting his own father in the back one day while they are target practicing. 



 In a strange fucked up way that seems to demonstrate both the director’s lack of emotional intelligence and somewhat busted moral compass, deranged gun-freak Bobby—a psychological cripple that is embroiled in an intense civil war with his conscience—sometimes seems like the most sympathetic character in the film, as if his mind and body has been taken over by some evil entity like the NASA space commander Lt. Col. Marcus Aurelius Belt in the badly botched first season The X-Files episode ‘Space.’ Indeed, while Byron merely seems like a stereotypical grumpy old fart that longs for eternity in a cold dark coffin, Sammy boy is an outstandingly obnoxious social climber that seems like he would pimp out of his own mother to further his career. Surely, the only time Bryon/Karloff is not completely insufferable is when he pays tribute to Hollywood maverick Hollywood Howard Hawks by stating in regard his Pre-Code prison flick The Criminal Code (1931), “Thanks to him, it was my first really important part.” Undoubtedly, it is a rather dejected experience to see a rather weak and defeated old Bryon/Karloff stare at his much younger and stronger self while watching the Hawk flick on TV as Sammy/Bogdanovich lurks in the background. While Karloff was never much of an actor, he certainly radiated a sort of menacingly visceral stoicism during his younger years, hence his famous and iconic role as Frankenstein’s monster in Frankenstein (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and Son of Frankenstein (1939). Thankfully, Bryon demonstrates he still has some of his fierce Modern Prometheus menace when he smacks the shit out of the sniper at the end of the film.  Of course, Byron probably has other reasons for smacking the shit out of the sniper aside from his demented murder spree, as the elderly horror icon probably resents the fact that the relatively young killer is throwing away his life and, in turn, his youth.



 Bobby might be a bat-shit crazy bastard with more than a couple screws loose, but he at least has enough of a conscience and foresight to know that he is about to explode and he even attempts to seek help from his wife the night before his killing spree, but unfortunately she is a stereotypical dumb and vapid blonde shiksa that is too narcissistic to notice her hubby is about to get a tad bit homicidal. Indeed, when Bobby attempts to confide in her and meekly states, “I want to talk to you, Ilene. I don’t know what’s happening to me. Oh, I get funny ideas,” his self-absorbed wife does not bother to take seriously what he has to say and instead instantly changes the subject and asks him what he thinks of her work outfit (notably, her outfit is out little consequence as she works as a telephone operator!). That night when Ilene gets home from work, she finds Bobby lurking in the shadows of their bedroom and demanding that she not turn on the light, thus hinting that he has malevolent intentions and seeks to dehumanize her before he can go through with the unsavory act of uxoricide. The next morning, Bobby shoots his wife in the gut when she attempts to give him an early morning kiss and then proceeds to gun down both his mother and a hapless delivery boy who just happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Right before wasting his wifey, Bobby types the following words on his typewriter, “To Whom It May Concern: It is now 11:40 A.M. My wife is still asleep, but when she wakes up I am going to kill her. Then I am going to kill my mother. I know they will get me, but there will be more killing before I die.” Aside from typing up the pointless note for the police, Bobby further reveals his morbid anal retentiveness by placing the corpses on beds and covering them with sheets. Of course, after killing his wife and mother, Bobby drives to town with a full arsenal in his trunk so that he can proceed to kill as many innocent people as possible. Somewhat humorously, before he starts shooting random strangers, Bobby heads to his favorite gun shop and buys 300 .30-06 Springfield cartridges and a box of four buck for a 12 gauge, which he has charged to his father’s account, thereupon making his father an unwitting accessory to mass murder. 




 To his minor credit, Bobby seems to be fairly confidant in his shooting talents, as he initially opts to snipe at people in cars on a busy highway while lying atop an oil storage tank in another unintentionally tastelessly tragicomedic scene that underscores the auteur's aesthetic autism. Indeed, at one point, Bobby not only manages to kill an unsuspecting motorist during rush hour, but he also successfully takes out a female passenger after she frantically flees from the car in a scenario that is somewhat comparable to the intentionally humorous sniper scene in Luis Buñuel's late period surrealist classic Le Fantôme de la liberté (1974) aka The Phantom of Liberty. Undoubtedly, Bobby’s choice of targets and method for taking out said targets has a certain ritualistic quality about it that really highlights the character’s peculiar pathology-ridden mind. Needless to say, when he is forced to kill a worker that climbs up the oil tank and subsequently sees police cars, Bobby immediately hightails it out of the area in his convertible. To evade capture after the police spot him, Bobby wisely decides to seek sanctuary at a nearby drive-in theater where he calmly purchases a ticket and then bides his time until the parking lot fills up with hundreds of potential victims. On top of having a nice place to hide, Bobby has discovered the perfect place to kills tons of people, especially considering the venue is expected to be unusually packed with patrons due to a promotional appearance from horror icon Byron. Needless to say, Bobby does not expect to be taken out by a barely mobile British old horror fart. Indeed, while Corman's kitsch gothic The Terror plays at the theater, Bobby begins blowing away unwitting audience members while they sit in their parked cars. At first, not many people notice the random deaths due to the darkness and noise from the movie, but it does not take long before full panic sets in and people are desperately attempting to flee the drive-in in their cars. 



 As a distinguished celebrity guest, Byron calmly sits in a limo at the front of the screen with his oriental secretary Jenny and it is only when he notices the killings that he seems to be even remotely alive. In fact, Bobby’s killing spree really gets Byron's blood flowing, as if it is the one thing he needs in his life to have a sort of spiritual reawakening. As an old school (pseudo)Victorian gentleman, Byron naturally goes into full-fledged fearless hero mode when Bobby makes the mistake of shooting Jenny, who thankfully only receives a minor flesh wound. Indeed, like the most inordinately eloquent of screen monsters or even slasher killers, Byron stoically treads towards Bobby like an aristocratic Übermensch on a mission. Notably, Bobby becomes rather petrified when he notices that Byron is walking in his direction just as a projected image of the actor walking in a similar determined fashion from The Terror is projected on the movie screen, thus inspiring the unhinged sniper to shoot in both directions as if he is afraid that he is about to be obliterated by a big scary movie monster in what is a truly unreal and even vaguely surreal scenario where a movie monster transforms into a real-life hero. When Byron reaches the seemingly autistic sniper, he uses his trusty cane to knock a Luger out of Bobby's hand and then proceeds to repeatedly bitch slap him until he collapses and curls up into a fetal position like an abused child. Bitch-slapping the sniper ultimately seems to have a therapeutic effect on Byron, as it seems to release some pent up rage and deep-seated resentment. When Byron finally calms down and notices that big bad Bobby has been psychologically obliterated and is lying on the ground in a fetal position like an abuse child (which, in a strange way, Bobby seems to be), he thinks out loud by stating, “Is that what I was afraid of?,” thus revealing that the horror icon seems to have some unwarranted guilt and moral qualms about being involved in creating hokey horror in a world full of real monsters and predators. Indeed, by confronting Bobby, Byron seems to have finally absolved himself of guilt and latent fear in regard to real-life human monsters and their growing prominence in the Western world. 




 Not one to easily dismiss his own work, Peter Bogdanovich revealed in an interview with Noel Murray at the now defunct film site The Dissolve that he is quite proud of Targets and considers it an important film in his overall oeuvre, or as he seemingly insincerely stated with the martial gusto of a dozen Indian eunuchs, “If it wasn’t for TARGETS, there wouldn’t be a LAST PICTURE SHOW. And TARGETS, unfortunately, from a social point of view, is not outdated, because we still have this terrible gun problem in the United States. I wish it was outdated, but it isn’t. You can still buy guns very easily, and we’ve seen in the last few years a lot of mass killings, like we showed in TARGETS. Unfortunately, it’s still a very common occurrence in the United States. I think it’s terrible.” Lame superficial anti-gun sentiments aside, Bogdanovich is also right when he describes the film as being still socially relevant, as deranged Batmanphile and failed neuroscience student James Holmes—a less than charming chap who, unlike Charles Whitman, has a less than handsome face that screams abject mental derangement—committed an infamous mass shooting on July 20, 2012 at a Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado that concluded with 12 people dying and over 70 suffering injuries. For better or worse, Targets is undoubtedly the most socially conscious film that Bogdanovich ever made, which is somewhat depressing when you think about it since it is a cheap exploitation film that was specially crafted to play at the sort of drive-in theaters that specialized in such superficially sleazy and salacious schlock films.

Undoubtedly, the film also seems all the more powerful when one considers that Bogdanovich’s Dutch-Canadian Playboy Playmate girlfriend Dorothy Stratten was brutally murdered with a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun in a murder-suicide committed by her estranged Jewish pimp husband Paul Snider. Of course, being the typical Hebraic Hollywood leftist, Bogdanovich blames guns instead of his sociopathic kinsman Snider for Stratten's grisly demise, or as he somewhat absurdly stated while making reference to Targets, “Well, the story’s impossible to tell without showing the gun culture. Of course, the gun culture was very much on my mind. It was terrible then, it’s terrible now. I had a personal encounter with that tragedy when [my girlfriend] Dorothy Stratten was murdered by a gun that the killer, who was an alien, wasn’t supposed to be allowed to have. His visa had expired, and he still was able to purchase a shotgun with the ease of, as you say, going to the market and buying butter. And he killed her with it. I’ve experienced personal tragedy as a result of the gun culture in this country, which is disgraceful, frankly.” Of course, according to Bogdanovich’s logic, one only needs to be a morally virtuous elderly old horror star with a cane to take out a bloodthirsty mass murderer.  Additionally, I doubt being able to purchase a firearm would have stopped Snider for killing Stratten.  After all, Snider not only killed Stratten, but he also raped her before shooting her and then demonstrated he had necrophiliac tendencies by sexually defiling her corpse.  Notably, auteur Bob Fosse would immortalize Stratten's tragic life and gruesome death with his somewhat underrated flick Star 80 (1983) starring Mariel Hemingway and Eric Roberts.  While I certainly consider Fosse to be the superior filmmaker, I kind of wish that Bogdanovich had directed the film.



 Now celebrated by contemporary philosemitic and Hebraic hipster filmmakers like Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach, who produced his latest film—the decidedly degenerate Woody Allen clone She’s Funny That Way (2014)—Bogdanovich has certainly come a long way since he directed Targets and demonstrated for the first and ultimately last time in his career that he might have a drop of testicular fortitude. While the would-be-auteur enjoyed great success with his first three post-Target features The Last Picture Show (1971), What's Up, Doc (1972), and Paper Moon (1973), Bogdanovich more or less destroyed his reputation as a filmmaker with three super soulless flops in a row, including the lame Henry James adaptation Daisy Miller (1974), pseudo-Lubitsch-esque musical At Long Last Love (1975), and insipid silent movie love letter Nickelodeon (1976). With his rather retarded rom-com They All Laughed (1980) starring Dorothy Stratten, Bogdanovich put the final nail in the coffin of his filmmaking career and was completely destroyed financially, as he funded the flop himself with his own money and was ultimately forced to file for bankruptcy as a result. In what ultimately proved to be a super sleazy move to help get him back on his feet after the truly cringe-worthy cinematic disaster that was They All Laughed, Bogdanovich wrote the sickly self-serving ‘memoir’ Killing of the Unicorn: Dorothy Stratten 1960-1980 (1984), which exploited the infamy of his lover’s brutal death and contained many quasi-libelous allegations against the filmmaker’s (former) friends (including, ultra-degenerate Hugh Hefner, who hilariously claimed to have suffered a stroke after reading it).  Of course, Bogdanovich demonstrated with his directorial debut that he was willing to exploit both a real-life massacre and an elderly British actor that had a hard time finding work, so Killing of the Unicorn was really no big surprise.



 Undoubtedly, the more I read about Bogdanovich, the more I despise him. The sort of stereotypical ugly semitic Woody Allen-esque ‘nice guy’ type that has spent a good portion of his life buying and groveling his way into blonde Aryaness panties, Bogdanovich basically destroyed his entire career as a result of promoting his uniquely untalented lovers Cybill Shepherd and Dorothy Stratten and attempting the impossible by trying in vain to turn these brainless beauties into respectable actresses. As noted in Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls and elsewhere, many of the people that were close with Bogdanovich credit his homely first-wife—screenwriter, producer, and production designer Polly Platt—as being the true source of his talent and early career success as a filmmaker. What is unquestionably true is that while Bogdanovich has never really made a decent film after parting ways with her aside from Saint Jack (1979), Platt would go on to work on a number of interesting and eclectic projects, including Robert Altman’s underrated Great Depression era crime-drama Thieves Like Us (1974), Louie Malle’s pederast-friendly Pretty Baby (1978), the totally trashy anti-white exploitation flick Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff (1979), and Wes Anderson’s debut feature Bottle Rocket (1996). Despite treating her like garbage and divorcing her for a dumb blonde that he treated like a fragile porcelain doll as opposed to an equal lover and companion, Bogdanovich would later pay tribute to his ex-wife Platt by stating, “She worked on important pictures and made major contributions. She was unique. There weren't many women doing that kind of work at that time, particularly not one as well versed as she was. She knew all the departments, on a workmanlike basis, as opposed to most producers who just know things in theory.” 




 As for Bogdanovich, he was absolutely despised by many people in the film industry due to his supposed flaunted excesses, arrogance, delusions of grandeur, and general megalomania. In fact, when his feature At Long Last Love became a flop, many people in Hollywood were absolutely delighted and celebrated his failure, or as noted in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: “‘People loathed Peter,’ says writer David Newman. ‘His ego was just so monstrous. He was the great I Am, the Second Coming. This screening was a disaster, a cataclysm.’ The word on the street was that Platt had been the power behind the throne, and without her, he was nothing […] he didn’t need Platt to sabotage his reputation. He was so universally detested that Billy Wilder is supposed to have said that after news of the screening spread, you could hear the champagne corks popping all over town. Complained Bogdanovich, ‘It was treated as if we had committed one of the most heinous crimes ever, including child-murdering and rape.’” Of course, one of the things that makes Targets so intriguing is that it is a work of true cinematic grit that was created before Bogdanovich became famous, succumbed to egomania, and thought he could get away with simply peddling soulless Cybill Shepherd musicals. Indeed, although far from immaculate, Targets is respectable because it is, in various ways, a work of authentic abject desperation and completely bare nihilistic fury that arguably does a better job of the capturing the essence of its particular zeitgeist than Dennis Hopper's Easy Rider (1969). Aside from possibly Saint Jack, which was originally supposed to be directed by Orson Welles, Targets is surely Bogdanovich’s most underrated film.  According to Bogdanovich himself, the real reason the film fell under the radar and went fairly unnoticed at the time of its original release is that, not unlike with Richard Kelly's Donnie Darko (2001) and how the September 11 terrorist attacks doomed its fate, it debuted at a less than auspicious time in the wake of the Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy assassinations.  Undoubtedly, it is strangely fitting that the sniper in Bogdanovich is an all-American WASP that goes on a fairly indiscriminate killing spree, as the character can been seen as a symbolic of the white Christian Anglo-Saxon man reacting to the nation he built being taken away from him by negroes, Jewish intellectuals, feminists, and various other untermensch groups that waged war against him during the 1960s utilizing ressentiment-driven slave-morality tactics that have completely inverted the values and mores of the people that built this country.  Of course, as a Jew, Bogdanovich has a sort of innate commitment to said anti-Occidental slave-morality, hence his silly and seemingly disingenuous anti-gun stance.


While Targets is arguably Bogdanovich’s most audaciously ‘auteurist’ work, it still ultimately reeks of being a slightly immature fanboy jerk-off piece.  I know I am certainly not the only person that believes this as David Thomson argued in his magnum opus The New Biographical Dictionary of Film (1975) in regard to Bogdanovich's innate failure in regard to becoming the true auteur that he always dreamed of being, “As a director, Bogdanovich made four lovely picture shows, revealing marvelous accomplishment, wit, and sense of place. But, ironically, they are less an auteur's films than the extension of criticism. TARGETS—made under Roger Corman's aegis, after Bogdanovich had fueled the bikes for WILD ANGELS—is a tribute to AIP horror pictures, to Boris Karloff, and to Hawks, and also a stylistic nod in the direction of Hitchcock and Lang.” Notably, Ethan Mordden went even further than Thomson and soundly argued, “There are so many ‘movies’ going on inside Bogdanovich's TARGETS (1968) that the film is more a state-of-the-art insertion into cinema history than an act of entertainment-enlightenment. What BARBARELLA was to the era itself, TARGETS was to the development of the movies in that era; a demonstration piece.”  Indeed, in terms of sheer entertainment value, Bogdanovich’s directorial debut is decidedly uneven, but it is still worth the ride and indubitably makes for an intriguing piece of cinephile history.

Undoubtedly, Bogdanovich is the perfect example of what Ludwig Wittgenstein meant when he described his fellow Jews as lacking the capacity for true genius and being only capable of ‘reproductive thinking,’ or as the Vienna-born philosopher stated himself in a somewhat self-denigrating fashion, “Amongst Jews ‘genius’ is found only in the holy man. Even the greatest of Jewish thinkers is no more than talented. (Myself for instance.) I think there is some truth in my idea that I really only think reproductively..” Indeed, Wittgenstein might as well have been describing Bogdanovich when he wrote in regard to the lack of genius of early Romantic period German-Jewish composer Felix Mendelssohn, “Within all great art there is a WILD animal: tamed. Not with Mendelssohn, for example. All great art has man's primitive drives as its groundbass. They are not the melody (as they are with Wagner, perhaps) but they are what gives the melody its depth and power. In this sense Mendelssohn can be called a ‘reproductive’ artist.” Somewhat interestingly, the same Wittgenstein compilation Culture and Value (1970) features the following insight: “A typical American film, naive and silly, can — for all its silliness and even by means of it — be instructive. A fatuous, self-conscious English film can teach one nothing. I have often learnt a lesson from a silly American film.”  As to what can be learned from Targets, certainly a number of important lessons can be gleaned from it, though I think the most obvious one is that Boris Karloff was much more horrifying and unnerving when more or less portraying himself as a dejected, self-pitying, pessimistic and semi-crippled old man than he ever was as the darling monster of James Whale's Frankenstein (1931).



-Ty E

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