Modernism III

film 3 of 4


Film Review by May 8, 2015

Here’s another one we watched in our horror film class. It plays very well! In fact, the jadedly self-assured modern undergraduate tends to be surprised by how powerful, how disconcerting Targets still is. You guys should try it out.

I don’t think the film’s argument about wholesome old horror somehow besting modern psychoses quite stands up. And the drive-in sequence that carries that argument goes on too long. On the other hand, Targets really effectively inscribes and describes the obvious decline of late wholesome horror (AIP, Corman, etc.). It is also effective in suggesting the actual social, moral merits of genre films, even in their decline . Maybe the argument works after all, especially if you link the best classical horror movies with the canon of folk and fairy literature. There are metaphors imbedded in those stories, courage and consolation to be taken out of them

Targets is a productively, even gracefully self-reflexive text. It is clearly the movie that its main character, that Orloc/Karloff is refusing to appear in. And the homage is more than just homage: this film is positively in love with its star, who is worthy of all its devotion. It’s a lovely performance. It’s a film-culture text as well. Writer-director Peter Bogdanovich is also, essentially, playing his own self-regardingly cinema-sated self. His character suggests both the pleasure and substance of cinephilia, at the same time that it show how scholarly devotion can come into conflict with commercial aspiration.

Targets criticizes and appreciates Roger Corman-like movies, but in the end it may be most effective as a Fritz Lang tribute. More than that, it actually takes on and proves itself up to the task of exploring and communicating Lang’s dark vision. The clean-cut psychopath! The fateful, clipped exactitude of his preparations, and of his dreadful spree! It’s at this point that the jaded undergraduate starts to feel really, really disconcerted …