Sunday, January 21, 2007


Directed by Peter Bogdanovich
Written by Peter Bogdanovich (story and screenoplay), Polly Platt (story)
Starring Boris Karloff, Tim O'Kelly, Nancy Hsueh, Peter Bogdonovich, and, if you look closely, Jack Nicholson

Peter Bogdanovich flashed across the film director's sky like a meteor.  He started out as a movie critic, probably the only one in the US who went from writing reviews about films to actually shooting them.  In the late 60s, he flashed across moviegoers' consciousness with The Last Picture Shore, What Up Doc?,and Paper Moon.  Then came his notorious flop, At Long Last Love, and he was quickly forgotten.  Sure he's done some good films since then, but he was reduced to the type of filmmaker that gets some good reviews and is forgotten by the public.

Targets was his first film (not counting Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Woman, where he got hired to direct for Roger Corman and didn't use his real name).  It was also one of Boris Karloff's final films (his last US screen appearance).  As I have mentioned before, I'm a fan of Karloff, and this is certainly one of his best  and most atypical roles.

Karloff plays . . . well, himself.  Byron Orlok is an old time horror movie actor making a promotional appearance at a drive-in for his latest horror film (the film-within-the-film took footage from The Tingler, and Nicholson can be seen in the clips).  He is growing tired of being typecast, but also feels he's a dinosaur:  that his type of horror is no longer relevant.

And, it isn't.  Tim O'Kelly plays Bobby, who picks up a rifle and kills his family.  No reason is given for Bobby's rampage, though there are hints that his family life is devoid of any warmth. 

After he kills the family, Bobby makes himself a sniper's nest overlooking a busy highway and uses the cars for target practice.  And, eventually, he finds himself at the drive-in, behind the screen, shooting at the audience.

Bogdanovich wrote the screenplay, with Bobby obviously inspired by Charles "Texas Tower" Whitman.  He also played the part of Sammy Michaels, the director of the film within the film.  It was shot on a very tight budget; the only way he could afford Karloff was because Karloff owed two days of work to Corman and was willing to do a little more because he liked the script..

The film was certainly of its time and created a bit of a stir (it was first released a month after Martin Luther King was killed, and got general release a few months after Robert Kennedy was assassinated, though it was filmed a year earlier).  It still remains a chilling portrayal of a killer, and a fascinating homage to Karloff's entire career.  What's even better is that the two elements are integrated perfectly into a film well worth seeking out.

Monday, January 8, 2007

The Duck Factory (TV)

The Duck Factory Main title(1984)
Created by
Allan Burns and Herbert Klynn
Starring Jim Carrey, Teresa Ganzel, Jay Tarses, Jack Guilford, Don Messick, Julie Payne, Nancy Lane.
IMDB Entry

Yes, you read it right.  This was Jim Carrey's first TV series and, despite high quality and the name recognition, it doesn't seem to be available on DVD.

CastWhich is a shame.  The Duck Factory starred Carrey (though it was pretty much an ensemble cast) as Skip Tarkenton, a young cartoonist who had just been hired to work on the production of the Dippy Duck cartoon show.  Trouble is, Dippy's Disneylike creator, Buddy Winkler, has just died, leaving the studio to his young sexy widow Sheree (Teresa Ganzel). Morale is low; Dippy Duck is on the verge of cancellation, and the studio regulars -- writer Marty Finneman (Jay Tarses), director Brooks Carmichael (Jack Guilford), voiceman Wally Wooster (voiceman Don Messick) and others -- are hard-bitten cynics just hanging on until the entire operation closes down.  Skip, of course, believes in Dippy Duck, and Sheree makes him head of the studio.

The show was done by MTM Productions at their peak (for MTM cognoscenti, the cat quacks), but seems to have been sent out and abandoned (even though it managed to win two minor Emmys in its short run).

Carrey is not a wild man here; he is more like his role in movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where his charm (Carrey's charm is his greatest asset) gives him a delightful wide-eyed innocence.  But the entire cast is fine.  Tarses (upper right of the picture) -- a writer for The Bob Newhart Show who did a little acting -- is very funny (I wonder if he wrote some of his own lines?).  Jack Guilford (bottom center) shows his years of experience in comedy to good effect, and Messick is funny in one of his few appearances in front of a camera (if the name's unfamiliar, the roles are not:  the voice of Scooby Doo, Bandit on Jonny Quest, Ricochet Rabbit, Hamton Pig, etc. -- that's him in the lower left) as a man who has done so many comic voices that he doesn't know what his own voice sounds like.

I do want to single out Teresa Ganzel, though (lower right of the picture).  She is delightful as Mrs. Winkler, playing the not-so-dumb blonde role to perfection.  The show also did a nice job of showing the kind of "Termite Terrace" life of a cartoon studio.

But my favorite moment was in one of the later shows.  The gang shows up at the Annie cartoon awards, picking up a posthumous award for Buddy.  And among the goings on, the MC is singing cartoon theme songs.  As I watched, I identified them:  Superchicken, Tom Slick.  All Jay Ward (Rocky and Bullwinkle) productions.  And, to my delight, I discovered that the person singing them was Bill Scott (the voice of Bullwinkle, for those who don't recognize the name).

I would love to see the show again, and would think that the Carrey name would make it a project.  Let's hope so.