Mort du cinéma, fusillade by Postmodernism. Corman's The Terror concludes under the opening credits, and there's the elderly Boris Karloff wincing in the screening room as the lights come up. "Antique," "museum piece," "dinosaur," etc.: The weary icon hobbles into Sunset Blvd. and is readily in the crosshairs, "what an ugly town this has become!" Elsewhere, the juvenile blockhead (Tim O'Kelly) rattles in the pastels of his suburban home, gathers an arsenal, snaps calmly and murderously. The drive-in theater at dusk braids the parallel tales. "The world belongs to the young. Let them have it." The dilemma is that of a classical film historian at a modish crossroads, or, more simply, of a critic becoming a director—Peter Bogdanovich embodies the new Movie Brat specimen behind and in front of the camera. (The swift and biting technique brings up Citizen Kane, White Heat, Strangers on a Train, Psycho and Le Mépris, then shushes everyone to raptly take in a swath of The Criminal Code.) An extended take follows the blank-faced killer from living room to bedroom ("Oh, I get funny ideas") and back in a darkened set illuminated by a telly playing The Joey Bishop Show; a coolly distressing montage (corpses in beds, towels over bloody puddles) registers the family murders. The spree proceeds from highway to theater: Rifle scope like a viewfinder, zooms for bullets, the sniper's barrel aimed at the audience in a Cocteau image seconded by Fuller. Amid all this disintegration, the Old Hollywood boogeyman in a loving portrait, Karloff barely mobile yet still twinkly with a shivery anecdote. (His reading of Maugham's "Appointment in Samarra" shut ups even the local hipster.) "Is that what I was afraid of?" The upshot is the tranquil morning after a massacre, with Tavernier's Death Watch in the horizon. Cinematography by Laszlo Kovacs. With Arthur Peterson, Nancy Hsueh, Tanya Morgan, and Sandy Baron.
--- Fernando F. Croce