Targets (1968) - Blu-ray Review

“Is that what I was so afraid of?”

What is the scariest kind of monster? Is it a knife-wielding, masked psychopath wreaking havoc in a small town? Is it an alien creature from another planet that can eat or mimic another species completely? Is it an unpredictable, reconstructed monster made by a mad scientist in his gothic laboratory? A case could be made for any of them. But in Peter Bogdanovich’s chilling and impressive debut film, Targets, he and his then-wife and collaborator (and production designer of the film), Polly Platt offer us arguably one of the scariest monsters of all: someone who looks just like us.

"captures the area, the generation, and the rawness of youth in the well-crafted French drama"

On assignment from film industry legend, Roger Corman, Boganovich was tasked with somehow piecing together a coherent story made out of scenes from 1963’s The Terror, two-days-worth of shooting with horror icon Boris Karloff, and then filling the rest of the film with approximately forty minutes of whatever other story that Bogdanovich and Platt could come up with. Yeah…it’s an easy recipe for disaster, but somehow Boagdanovich pieces together a very smart, tense, and even poignant story when the monsters of Old Hollywood and American New Wave Hollywood collide.

We start with Byron Orlok. Orlok, (Karloff - playing a somewhat unpleasant version of himself), is an aging Hollywood relic of horror past, and he knows it. His time as being the scariest thing on the silver screen is long over. He wants to be done with acting, done with appearances, done with everything that goes along with the acting life. And no script, director, or pestering up-and-coming writer like Sammy Michaels (Bogdanovich) is going to change that. But of course, that won’t stop the hungry and hustling film nerd, Sammy, from annoying Byron to read his script to try and change his mind.

Now…for the monster. With a POV shot through the scope of a rifle, we meet the baby-faced, boy-scout-looking Bobby Thompson (Tim O’Kelly). Bobby’s a promising young man. He’s a respected war veteran, he’s got a nice wife, a good job, gets on well with his parents, he’s handsome. Though perhaps his life is a bit generic, Bobby’s a model of a good American man. But Bobby’s got a problem. For whatever reason, he has disturbing urges- murderous urges. One day, he decides to take his car full of guns and acts on these urges.  An unmotivated monster.Targets (1968) - Blu-ray Review

What Bogdanovich utilizes with the rather nutty criteria and the extremely small budget is beyond clever in both the intertwining provocative stories and visuals. While paying respect to the legacy of Karloff, he contemporizes the idea of the movie monster by making said monster one that perhaps hits too close to home. Its an utterly disturbing thought that is put into the audience’s mind that anyone – your next-door neighbor, your friend, your husband, even the nicest guy on the planet – could become a murderer for no real reason at all. And with the added commentary on the proliferation and obsession of guns in American culture, it makes a very provocative and strong stance on this issue in a way that isn’t preachy but more poignant and unnerving because of us having to witness Bobby’s horrific acts from his perspective.

Standing tall as the symbol of Old Hollywood horror, Karloff, for his part, gives a wonderful performance for what would be one of his last few film roles. As statuesque as ever, his handling of the mixed emotions of being a self-realized dated film star is done with grace and a naturally powerful presence. And he even makes sure to fit in moments to poke fun at himself and his own legacy.

While watching Targets, though it is Bogdanovich’s first picture, it is evidently clear that you’re watching a movie from someone who was absolutely ready to be a director. From the eerie and impressive long takes to the creative character introductions and to making the most out of the guerilla warfare filmmaking, this is…dare I say…probably one of the best debuts of any director of all time! And thanks to the fine folks at Criterion Collection, Bogdanovich’s debut feature can now be seen with a pristine new Blu Ray release.

5/5 stars


Targets (1968) - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray Details

Home Video Distributor: Criterion
Available on Blu-ray
- May 16, 203
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: English SDH
English: LPCM Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Old Hollywood collides with New Hollywood, and screen horror with real-life horror, in the startling debut feature from Peter Bogdanovich. Produced by Roger Corman, this chillingly prescient vision of American-made carnage casts Boris Karloff as a version of himself: an aging horror-movie icon whose fate intersects with that of a seemingly ordinary young man (Tim O’Kelly) on a psychotic shooting spree around Los Angeles. Charged with provocative ideas about the relationship between mass media and mass violence, Targets is a model of maximally effective filmmaking on a minimal budget and a potent first statement from one of the defining voices of the American New Wave.


Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, this new 4K digital transfer, created from the original 35 mm camera negative is fairly good. There weren’t any noticeable tears or imperfections to be seen. Grain level looks to be a healthy amount and the color has a nice, natural look to it. László Kovács’ sleek and sharp cinematography is wonderfully displayed on this release.


The remastered monoaural soundtrack taken from the 35 mm magnetic track is clear and clean as can be. No clicks, pops, buzzing, or anything unpleasing to the ear. Everything sounds good!


With both enlightening commentary, enjoyable interviews, and a wonderful new essay, the special features for Targets give film nerd more than enough to enjoy as all of the extras dive into the story of the film, the process of making it, and they legacy the film and its participants left behind.


  • Audio commentary from 2003 featuring Bogdanovich

Special Features:

  • New interview with filmmaker Richard Linklater
  • Introduction to the film from 2003 by Bogdanovich
  • Audio excerpts from a 1983 interview with production designer Polly Platt at the American Film Institute
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Adam Nayman and excerpts from an interview with Bogdanovich from Eric Sherman and Martin Rubin’s 1969 book The Director’s Event: Interviews with Five American Film-Makers

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 4/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

4/5 stars


Film Details

Targets (1968) - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: R.
90 mins
: Peter Bogdanovich
Peter Bogdanovich; Polly Platt; Samuel Fuller
Tim O'Kelly Boris Karloff Nancy Hsueh
: Crime | Drama
TARGETS are people...and you could be one of them!
Memorable Movie Quote: "All the good movies have been made."
Theatrical Distributor:
Paramount Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
August 15, 1968
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
May 23, 2023
Synopsis: Produced by Roger Corman, this chillingly prescient vision of American-made carnage casts Boris Karloff as a version of himself: an aging horror-movie icon whose fate intersects with that of a seemingly ordinary young man (Tim O’Kelly) on a psychotic shooting spree around Los Angeles.


Targets (1968) - Blu-ray Review