As Boris Karloff’s fans love to point out, at the end of his career, the great horror star made Targets for Peter Bogdanovich, a powerful collision of the horrors of the old world and the new fears – in this case a sniper – of the modern world. It’s a powerful film, and Karloff’s presence is telling – he’s playing a horror star who is out of time in this era of revolution and random violence, and it sits as a fitting epitaph for the actor, who died in 1968, the year that the film was released.
Rather inconveniently for cinema history, Karloff managed to cling onto life long enough after Targets to make four trashy horror movies in Mexico, none of which have anything to say. These entertainingly ludicrous films have long been a thorn in the side of Karloff aficionados, as they rather spoil the romantic view of his final year.
What Karloff fans would make of another 1968 appearance is hard to guess, but I’m not sure anyone would boast that Karloff’s final work was advertising a lighter on TV. Yet for all we know, that might be the case – the precise production date of the ad, outside the year, is unknown.
In this commercial, Karloff ‘tortures’ his Ronson Comet lighter – not the most clamorous of consumer products, it must be said – to prove that it is a sturdier device than its rivals. In a world of disposable lighters and where smoking is increasingly a societal taboo, simply seeing a TV commercial for a fancy lighter (and in truth, it doesn’t look that fancy) is novel, and to see Karloff – still in fine voice – selling the item is even more novel.
It’s probably not what he wanted to be remembered for though.