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USA 1968
Directed by
Peter Bogdanovich
92 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars


Actor and film writer Peter Bogdanovich’s directorial debut was inspired by the 1966 real life shooting spree of the “Texas Tower Sniper”, Charles Whitman, is a nifty little film that neat draws a parallel between violence on screen and violence in the real world at the same time as it satirizes middle-class suburbia and America’s gun culture and has fun with some old-style horror movies.  

The director's mentor, Roger Corman, lent him Boris Karloff who owed Corman a couple of days work and allowed Bogdanovich to use footage a 1963 production, The Terror, a kind of Corman school project on which Francis Ford Coppola, Monte Hellman and Jack Nicholson (the latter also appears in one of the clips) amongst others were co-directors.

Bogdanovich takes this raw material and crafts a screenplay which he wrote with his then-wife Polly Platt (Sam Fuller was also an uncredited contributor) about a gun-happy Vietnam vet, Bobby Thompson (Tim O'Kelly), suffering from what is now called post-traumatic stress syndrome who goes on a rampage, eventually ending up at a drive-in movie theatre where aging horror film legend Byron Orlok (Karloff), is scheduled to making a guest appearance.  Thrown into the mix is a self-reflexive sub-plot about a screenwriter (played by Bogdanovich) who after having cranked-out B-grade material has finally written something substantial and needs Orlok to play the lead in order to get funding.  

Although it comes across a little too much as a clever exercise, Bogdanovich largely brings it off, with the climactic finale being particularly impressive.

FYI:  Bogdanovich also shows a clip from Howard Hawks' 1930  film The Criminal Code, the first film in which Karloff had a major part.




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