Friday, December 05, 2008

Target: Corman

I guess TARGET: HARRY isn't technically a "lost" film, but it may be the least-seen film ever directed by Roger Corman. His brother Gene Corman produced it in Monaco and Turkey in 1969, and it was reportedly intended as a TV-movie for ABC. What I had always heard is that ABC rejected it, and TARGET: HARRY sat on a dusty shelf for a decade before finally surfacing in movie houses in the late 1970s. That myth, I'm happy to bust.

It may be difficult to read, but the ad mat posted above is from the Southern Illinoisan newspaper, dated Friday, January 9, 1970. The title, HOW TO MAKE IT, and the tagline—"A Thousand and One Ways with Pussycats or Tigers As Long As They Have Two Legs"—are ridiculous and have nothing to do with the film. However, the cast, including Vic Morrow, Suzanne Pleshette and Cesar Romero, definitely identify HOW TO MAKE IT as Corman's TARGET: HARRY. It played at the Campus Theater on Old Route 13 in Carbondale, Illinois with a Swedish sex picture called FANNY HILL.

According to the Internet Movie Database, ABC Pictures International distributed it, but not until 1979. According to the Motion Picture Association of America's ratings database, HOW TO MAKE IT, received a GP rating in 1970, when it was released by International Film Organization. The only time I've seen the film, it was titled TARGET: HARRY, and featured awkward nude inserts. That's the ABC Pictures version that got an R rating from the MPAA in 1979.

Being as Roger Corman removed his name from HARRY, using "Henry Neill" as his directing credit, it may be safe to assume that HARRY under either name is not very good. I think it's worth the trouble for Corman completists, however, even though Bob Barbash's script doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and there's a lot of running, jumping and location-hopping to accompany a thin plot.

Morrow is Harry Black, a freelance pilot based in Monte Carlo who is hired to take Jason Carlyle (Stanley Holloway) to Istanbul.  Carlyle, who's carrying a set of stolen counterfeit plates, is murdered there, and suspicion falls upon Harry, whom thieves Rashi (Victor Buono) and Diane (Pleshette) suspect of stealing the plates for his own financial gain. 

Corman paces the 82-minute feature okay and usually manages to find a pretty place to put his camera, but TARGET: HARRY is basically an international riff on THE MALTESE FALCON and not one that adds anything to the characters or story.  Romero and Michael Ansara add some class, and Charlotte Rampling is lovely in an early role.  Even Corman himself provides a wordless cameo. 

I suspect, though, that TARGET: HARRY—or HOW TO MAKE IT—is one of those movies that's a lot more fun to read about and discover than to actually watch.


TALKING MOVIEzzz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marty McKee said...

Good point. Because it was early 1970, I assumed it was the Swedish film, but the Meyer film could still have been playing drive-ins then.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the 'lost' history of Corman's 'lost' opus.

Corman is a legend, of course and as the producer of so many Vincent Price 'classics' he gets a pass on this one even if he, himself, decided to do it with an alias.

Another filmmaker --often under rated --is Russ Meyer. I spent an entire afternoon once with Meyer and Edie Williams. They had just completed 'Blacksnake', another film that is more interesting to read about than see.

Never enjoying the 'success' of either Meyer or Corman was the legendary Ed Wood. I will always admire Ed Wood, however. While millions 'talk' movies, Ed, at least, actually made them.

Depp, I think, did Ed credit and portrayed him respectfully.

Thanks for your interesting blog. Keep up the good work.