Target: Harry
Kl Studio Classics // R // $29.95 // July 30, 2019
Review by Stuart Galbraith IV | posted September 3, 2019
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Target: Harry (1969) is probably the least-known movie directed by low-budget maverick Roger Corman, and with good reason. It was, apparently, filmed in 1967 as a TV-movie and television pilot for ABC. When that didn't sell, Corman and ABC's theatrical division conspired to issue it theatrically, albeit barely, with additional scenes shot by Corman associate Monte Hellman crudely inserted. Although Roger's brother Gene is billed as producer, Roger had his name taken off the film, the director credit reading "Henry Neill."

Despite exotic locales and a cast of talented, familiar actors, Target: Harry is quite bad, a warmed-over reworking of The Maltese Falcon, to the extent of featuring enormous Victor Buono channeling Sydney Greenstreet's "Fat Man" character from that classic. Even the last scene echoes the novel and John Huston's famous 1941 film.

Surly pilot-for-hire Harry Black (Vic Morrow) is commissioned by British businessman Jason Carlyle (Stanley Holloway) to fly him from Monte Carlo to Istanbul. The flight itself is routine, but soon after arriving Carlyle is murdered by an assassin. Unaware that his client won't be flying back to Monaco, Harry wanders the city, where he meets fetching, flirtatious American Diane Reed (Suzanne Pleshette), and later fat but dapperly-dressed Mosul Rashi (Buono) and his two henchmen, Milos Segora (Michael Ansara) and Kemal (Milton Reid).

All assume Harry knows the whereabouts of what they believe Carlyle was transporting, and could only have left in Harry's care: five-pound note printing plates, originals stolen from the British mint.

Unusual for a TV-intended feature from the period, Target: Harry was shot entirely on location abroad, in Monaco and Turkey, the latter apparently also doubling for a couple of scenes set in Greece. To Corman's credit, the film looks more expensive than it was, probably well under $1 million. No big marquee names in the cast, but Morrow was known throughout much of the world for the TV series Combat!, and Buono and Cesar Romero (as an investigator) were coming off the briefly-hot Batman TV show.

More intriguing is the young woman playing Carlyle's daughter, actress Charlotte Rampling, barely twenty-one, in only her third major film role, if one counts Target: Harry as a movie, that is. (She appeared in small, uncredited roles before that, first appearing in, surprisingly, A Hard Day's Night.) She doesn't have a whole lot to do, but she's certainly luminous.

One suspects the original film was intended to fill a 90-minute network slot, meaning the original cut would have had a running time of about 77 minutes. To bring it up to a (barely) respectable feature length (83 minutes, in this case), as it exists on Blu-ray, Corman had editor Monte Hellman shoot additional inserts, mainly two short scenes of explicit nudity and violence. These inserts are laughably poor: the unidentified players don't match the actors they're doubling in the slightest, and the footage has a Jess Franco-crudeness (and crassness) about it. It's nothing but filler.

The cast tries hard: Pleshette does her best Brigid O'Shaughnessy, and Buono makes a pretty good Kasper Gutman substitute, but Corman's film never once makes any of the characters or their problems or desires remotely interesting. I just didn't give a damn about any of these people. Instead, as the plot went ‘round and ‘round in circles, my mind began to wander: Oh, look - there's Roger Corman holding binoculars in one scene; Morrow's really unlikeable here, but he sure would've made a swell Mike Hammer; Buono was still in his twenties, emulating a performance by Greenstreet, in his sixties when he did Maltese Falcon; and, gee, some of that Turkish food sure looks good.

Instead, Corman mainly seems interested in squeezing as much production value out of an ordinary TV-movie budget. He succeeds to a point, with its picturesque locations and name cast. Some of the photography is very good, though most of it and the enterprise generally looks extremely rushed, as it undoubtedly was.

Video & Audio

? Although known under several different titles, Kino's Blu-ray uses the R-rated Target: Harry one, presented in 1.85:1 widescreen. The high-def images shine only intermittently, when Corman gave his DP enough time to light a set properly and time to adequately focus his camera. The DTS-HD 2.0 (mono) Master Audio is fine, and optional English subtitles are provided. Region "A" encoded.

Extra Features

Included is an audio commentary track by Howard S. Berger and Steve Mitchell. It's one of those where the commentators are obviously watching the film on a monitor and winging it with a minimum of notes and research. If you enjoy that sort of thing, or maybe just need some company…

Parting Thoughts

For Corman completists only; others will want to Skip It.

Stuart Galbraith IV is the Kyoto-based film historian currently restoring a 200-year-old Japanese farmhouse.

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