Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1968. Saticoy Productions. Story by Polly Platt, Peter Bogdanovich, Screenplay by Peter Bogdanovich. Cinematography by Laszlo Kovacs. Produced by Peter Bogdanovich. Production Design by Polly Platt. Costume Design by Polly Platt. Film Editing by Peter Bogdanovich.
Boris Karloff plays a fictional version of himself, a horror movie star who has just wrapped work on his latest project (footage is used from 1963’s The Terror, co-starring Jack Nicholson). His producer wants him to get right to work on his next film but Karloff is ready to retire and doesn’t have any fear of what repercussions this could mean for him, he’s done with horror films in light of the real monsters out there in the world causing violence. Across town, a Vietnam vet lives a picture-perfect life with his parents and wife that turns out to be the calm surface of something much darker happening beneath. Possessing an arsenal of guns hidden in his car, the man uses them to murder his family before going on a shooting spree, killing people on the highway from atop a tower, then ending up at a drive-in movie theatre at which Karloff is scheduled to appear to promote his film. While its message isn’t exactly difficult to parse, movie mayhem versus real life violence, this is a vividly shot and tightly edited drama whose two story prongs at first seem incongruous but end up joining together smoothly by the conclusion. Marking the directorial debut of Peter Bogdanovich, who appears on screen as well, it is also one of the last great roles that Karloff played before his death in 1969; aged 82, seriously ill and barely showing either, Karloff has a rebellious streak of humour to him in the role that makes his every line of dialogue cherishable, in one scene delivering a monologue in a single take with the expert grace that comes from his many years in front of a camera.