The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1977)

The Town That Dreaded Sundown Starring: Ben Johnson, Andrew Prine, Charles B. Pierce and Dawn Wells

Directed by Charles B. Pierce

Format: DVD-R

Tagline: “A true tale of Texarkana terror!”

“In 1946, the joy and relief over the ending of World War II, and the happiness over the prosperity that followed, was destroyed for the residents of Texarkana by a series of traumatic experiences that many still remember.

In the Spring of that year, five townspeople were brutally murdered and three brought to near death by a masked madman who eluded capture by the Texas Rangers and a host of other law enforcement agencies.  This true-to-life thriller is a dramatization of those five still unsolved murders which sent local residents into a panic and caused their town to become an armed camp after sundown.

Academy Award winner Ben Johnson stars as Capt. J.D. ‘Lone Wolf’ Morales, an ace sleuth called in by local authorities to apprehend the killer.  Comic relief in an otherwise gruesome chain of events is provided by producer/director Charles B. Pierce, who also plays the well-intentioned but bumbling police officer assisting Morales.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown is suspense-filled drama at its best – and all the more terrifying because the bizarre events it chronicles are true!”

My Story:

I picked this movie up at Monster Mania Conn last summer. It may have been Rock and Shock  actually.  Regardless of where, it was at one of those  booths where they sell movies that don’t have American distribution on DVD.  However, these booths have copies of the film that they then transfer to DVD-R because of some loophole in a law somewhere, I believe.  I’ve gotten quite a few gems from booths like these, such as Humanoids from the Deep and Ticks.  When I bought this movie, I feel like I may have actually been looking for Dark Night of the Scarecrow.  I somehow knew of both but had gotten them confused.  Anyway, after learning this movie was a “True Story,” I got even more excited.  I watched the first ten minutes of it a while ago, but never got any further.  I used to bring this DVD along on many trips, but never got to watch it. I guess it’s about time I got through the whole thing.  Exciting times, folks.

My Thoughts:

  • Post-WWII era.  That’s a good time right?
  • This sounds like the beginning of a “City Confidential” and a History Channel retrospective of the mid-40s. There’s a narrator and everything!
  • Texarkana is such an awesome town name.
  • “Only the names have been changed.” Oh shucks!
  • Well, the first murder scene was pretty intense.  I’m not even sure what totally happened the scene was so dark.  But that guy in the mask is creeping like there’s no tomorrow.
  • Why is the police office receptionist so sassy?
  • Both of those victims are still alive! Oh my.
  • The narrator’s back! Nice.
  • “We better not go down this road, we might get stuck.”  Yeah, stuck with a KNIFE!
  • Why are there so many gunshots in the rainy woods?!
  • This IS “City Confidential!”
  • Uh oh, dead people 😦 The cop almost caught the Phantom! Damn shame he didn’t.
  • “The Lone Wolf of the Texas Rangers.” Instead of a cop, a baseball player should show up to help.  Or like, a bat boy. What a twist!
  • Actually, Harvey Keitel should have shown up.
  • This guy just said “cigar” like “ci-gar.” I’m not sure if spelling it out does any justice however.
  • I feel as if the comedic relief of the police office receptionist is a little out of place.  His nickname would be Sparkplug.  What does that even mean?
  • I just saw a fancy mustache!
  • OH NO! Prom night WOULD be on the same night the killer is thought to strike next!
  • I wonder what proms now would be like with a live band.
  • The faculty just spiked their own punch glasses! Is it really THAT bad?
  • Why would the killer EVER try to hang on to a moving car.  Actually, he did pretty well getting the driver out.
  • I think the Cloverfield monster’s breathing was based off of the killer’s breathing through the hood in this movie.
  • Those gunshots sounded nothing like a gun at all.
  • He is NOT going to kill her with a trombone.The Town That Dreaded Sundown
  • This killer is super sketchy.
  • The killer seems a lot like the Zodiac killer.
  • The suspect’s car is a super gross light green color.
  • The chase in this movie should be on Wildest Police Videos. This is craziness.  They put it in slow motion!
  • The narrator just said that summer had arrived, then followed that with saying that it was May 3rd.  Um…pick one.
  • Oh the killer has a silencer! That’s why it didn’t sound like a gun before.
  • HOME INVASION WHAT?! I thought the killer was all about Lover’s Lane creeping.
  • This woman legit just got shot in the head and mouth, how is she still crawling around?
  • Just to reiterate, this killer is SO sketchy.  Just a pillowcase with some eyeholes.
  • Now she’s crawling around in a cornfield, how’d she manage that?
  • I’m really digging this slow motion stuff they keep doing.
  • Unsolved mystery?! NO!!!!!!!

The Verdict:

A nice little early slasher movie, if I can call it so, with a lot of other genre influences thrown in.  Some mystery, comedy, western and drama all add some spice to this mainly horror film.  I’m a sucker for movies based on true stories, though very few stay true to the events.  It’s a gimmick I fall for all the time.  But this was whole premise was pretty scary.  The Phantom Killer in a pillowcase that was never caught is nerve-racking.  One unfortunate thing was that a lot of the night time scenes were overly dark.  Now this sounds sort of stupid, but there were sometimes almost too many shadows.  But, for the most part, I liked the sense of not knowing exactly what was going on and being overwhelmed.  The other bothersome thing was the comedic relief.  There was only a little bit of it and most of it fit.  But when it didn’t fit properly, it bugged me to no end.  Overall however, I thought it was a pretty classy film and well done.  An intriguing story executed in very unique and entertaining ways.


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