Targets: Boris Karloff in Tweed
Boris Karloff as Byron Orlok, aging horror actor
Los Angeles, Summer 1967
Release Date: August 15, 1968
Director: Peter Bogdanovich
Production and Costume Design: Polly Platt
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
“Everybody’s dead… I feel like a dinosaur,” former horror icon Byron Orlok describes himself in a candid moment with Sammy Michaels (Peter Bogdanovich), an ambitious director and screenwriter played by Targets‘ own director and co-writer himself. Bogdanovich had written Orlok as a thinly disguised version of Boris Karloff, the elder statesman of horror cinema who was pushing 80 at the time of the film’s production. An embittered Byron shares with Sammy that his old-fashioned cinematic monsters—i.e. Frankenstein’s monster—are hardly the stuff to scare contemporary audiences as the local news horrifying enough with tales of senseless murder and random violence.
Set over the last two days of July 1967, Targets juxtaposes Orlok’s retirement with one of the perpetrators of that headline-grabbing violence: the seemingly banal Bobby Thompson (Tim O’Kelly). We meet Bobby as he’s adding to his growing collection of firearms, storing much of it in the trunk of his white Mustang. In a disturbed episode borrowing from contemporary accounts of real-life killers University of Texas tower shooter Charles Whitman and Highway 101 sniper Michael Clark, Bobby guns down his wife, his mother, and anyone getting in his way as he makes his way to the top of an oil tank and fires at freeway motorists at random, only the start of a day of mayhem.
The previous evening, Orlok watches “himself” in Howard Hawks’ 1931 crime drama The Criminal Code, ruminating on how his old-fashioned lurching monsters would have little impact against a public that has been overly saturated by stories of deranged violence at the hands of killers like Bobby. That said, Orlok proves he still has a few genuine scares left in him, startling a hungover Sammy—as well as himself—the next morning.
What’d He Wear?
Before he’s dressed for the drive-in event in his three-piece dinner suit, Byron Orlok spends his summer day in Los Angeles dressed appropriately for, well, a fall day anywhere else. “I guess I feel the cold a little more than I did,” Byron declares to a drunk Sammy later that night, perhaps explaining why he wears tweed, flannel, and knitwear in southern California in late July.
For his business appointment and subsequent cocktail, Orlok wears a brown barleycorn tweed jacket woven using brown and black wool to create a coolly muted dark brown appearance. The roll of the thinly welted notch lapels suggests a three-button front. The single-vented jacket has a welted breast pocket and straight side pockets, either jetted or worn with the flaps tucked into the pockets themselves.
Orlok’s mini-checked shirt is a smart choice with his dressed-down sports coat, though it appears to be a short-sleeved shirt which likely provides at least some seasonal comfort under his tweed jacket in the L.A. heat. The cotton shirt is checked in blue and yellow tattersall against a white ground with a button-down collar and front placket.
The dark gray woolen tie, appropriately slim for the era, provides textural coordination with the coarse wools in the rest of Orlok’s outfit while the gray color tonally coordinates with his jacket’s cooler shade of brown tweed.
Coarse flannel trousers are an understandably popular pairing with tweed jackets and are often a smart-looking one, providing that the color or shade of the trousers contrast enough with the jacket. As with the tie, Orlok’s dark gray flannel trousers work with his cooler brown tweed jacket while providing enough of a color contrast to work.
Held up with suspenders as glimpsed below while he and Jenny are being chauffeured through the city, Orlok’s trousers have a square-ended extended waist tab with a hidden hook closure, elegant double forward-facing pleats, side pockets, and turn-ups (cuffs) on the bottoms.
Back in his hotel room, Orlok hangs up the jacket and changes into a cardigan over his tie… like Mr. Rogers but with more vodka and Scotch. He haphazardly buttons just two of the six buttons positioned up the ribbed edge of his sweater, likely made from a soft tan wool like cashmere or merino. The cardigan has set-in sleeves and patch pockets on the lower right and left sides.
Orlok wears black leather cap-toe oxford shoes with black socks. On his left leg, he appears to wear a brace with metal extensions as the actor was famously bow-legged throughout his lifetime following a childhood bout of rickets. The condition was exacerbated by chronic back pain brought about while filming Frankenstein in 1931.
Subtly strapped to his left wrist on a dark leather strap, Orlok wears a plain gold dress watch with a round dial. The actor’s only other accessory is a pair of brown gradient-framed eyeglasses he’s wearing for the screening at the start of the film. These glasses are dark brown plastic over the arms and brow, fading to a colorless translucent frame around and under each lens.
What to Imbibe
Following his decision to retire, Orlok asks Jenny to join him for a drink to celebrate his freedom. Once they arrive at their prearranged meeting, he hoists his Martini and toasts “to the future!”
Served in a coupe with a lemon garnish, Orlok’s cocktail mimics the direction that James Bond gives when ordering his inaugural Vesper in a “deep champagne goblet” in the 1953 novel Casino Royale, though Orlok’s martini is garnished with a rather inelegant wedge of lemon rather than the twisted peel traditionally used for martinis.
Once Orlok returns to his hotel room, we get an even stronger sense of how the actor prefers his martinis, reaching into his personal liquor stock for the Smirnoff and Tribuno extra dry vermouth he needs to a continue imbibing his vodka martinis long into the night.
At some point, Orlok shifts from vodka to scotch, working his way through most of a bottle of Haig & Haig Five Star blended whisky with the help of Sammy Michaels. Haig may be best known for its dimpled, three-sided bottling—ordered by name in Breaking Bad—though other varieties include the rectangular-bottled Haig Club introduced in 2014 and the more venerable Haig Gold Label.
The Five Star variety was particularly common through the middle of the 20th century, though most surviving bottles I’ve seen have traditional labels rather than the collectable decanters with the variety printed directly on the glass bottle as featured in Targets.
How to Get the Look
Happy Hallo-tweed! Though Targets is set in the summer, Boris Karloff’s woolen tie with a tattersall shirt, flannel trousers, and tweed jacket (swapped out for a cardigan) illustrate a mastery of coordinating coarse textures for a fall-friendly sartorial aesthetic that transcends time more effectively than the monsters he played in the pre-Code era.
- Dark brown barleycorn tweed single-breasted 3-button sport jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight hip pockets, and single vent
- Tan soft wool cardigan sweater with 6-button front and hip-placed patch pockets
- Brown-and-yellow-on-white tattersall checked cotton short-sleeved shirt with button-down collar and front placket
- Dark gray wool tie
- Dark gray flannel double forward-pleated trousers with extended waist tab, side pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Brown suspenders with beige hooks
- Black calf leather cap-toe oxford shoes
- Black socks
- Brown gradient-frame eyeglasses
- Gold dress watch with round, light-colored dial on dark leather strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie. I’ve read it summed up best in this Tweet by @decervelage: “Pre-Halloween and pre-Texas Chainsaw, Targets is a meditation on the allure and deficiencies of classic horror films (personified by Boris Karloff in a wonderfully self-aware performance) in an age of human atrocity.”
I have no more obligations, and it’s quite relaxing.