August 18, 1968 [Targets]

Targets imagines Charles Whitman as a Karloff fan, the tower down there in Austin no longer enough--the pickings at the drive-in are so much easier, with a bitter old monster to add to the "fun"--and I've reminded myself of the Misfit in Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," who murders the family in the woods, even the baby, and admits, "It's no real pleasure in life." We're about a year and a half from the end of the '60s, and good riddance: We too have had no real pleasure--unless you count Hemingway and his shotgun, Sam Cooke beaten to death, Linda Darnell burned up--and oh yeah, JFK and Malcolm X, and this year's losses, young men helping us figure things out, and taken care of right quick. What's one more old actor and a bunch of bystanders?

And Karloff seems tired--although I hope he is not as bitter as his character--because he doesn't have to be: We should take care of that chore for him, all of us out here in the real world where duck-and-cover is the standard response, at home and abroad. LBJ tried hard to be part of the solution, but he's leaving us with the problem, and the world's getting smaller every day--but not like they sing at Disneyland; no, it's close quarters down here in the hold, every leak in plain sight, seeping into our shoes. And we're worried, all right--like the kid in Targets, who calms down on the outside just enough to let it boil over, home from the war and too good at what he does. The fact that Karloff summons the strength to slap around the new monster, staring it down with his patented dismissal, like Fu Manchu on his throne--this is the movie's gift: one last scowl from an old hand and down goes the fiend, blubbering like a baby. I guess there is some pleasure, after all.


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