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The Town That Dreaded Sundown (BluRay/DVD Combo) [Blu-ray]

4.0 out of 5 stars 196 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

When two young lovers are savagely beaten and tortured on a back country road in Texarkana, local police are baffled. Three weeks later, two more people are slain in a similar setting and Deputy Norman Ramsey fears a pattern might be developing. Texas Ranger J.D. Morales (Ben Johnson, The Wild Bunch) is brought in to help. The two officers must find the Phantom Killer before he can kill again. Also starring Andrew Prine (Grizzly) and Dawn Wells (Gilligan’s Island), directed by Charles B. Pierce (The Legend Of Boggy Creek), and based on one of America’s most baffling murder cases, this horrifying suspense thriller is a shocking experience you’ll never forget.

Special Bonus Feature: Charles B. Pierce’s The Evictors (DVD ONLY)

A nice young couple move into an eerie house located in a small Louisiana town, unaware of its violent history. Soon they find themselves tormented by the previous owners. Vic Morrow (Combat!, Humanoids From The Deep), Michael Parks (Django Unchained, Argo) and Jessica Harper (Suspiria, Phantom Of The Paradise) star in this chilling horror film.


Louisiana-based filmmaker Charles B. (The Legend of Boggy Creek) Pierce's The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976) is an effective thriller that exceeds the bonds of its budget thanks to brisk pacing and some alarming murder sequences. Based on the real-life "Phantom Killer," a hooded assailant whose five murders in the Texarkana region in 1946 are still unsolved, Pierce's film divides its running time between re-creations of the attacks and their paralyzing effect on the community and an investigation led by Texas Ranger Ben Johnson (playing a fictionalized version of legendary Ranger Captain Manuel "Lone Wolf" Gonzaullas) and deputy Andrew Prine. The five murders unfold in particularly unsettling fashion, especially the assault on housewife Dawn Wells (of Gilligan's Island fame) and her subsequent frenzied flight from the killer, and find a satisfying balance between suspense and bloodshed. These moments, along with the film's Texarkana locations, some solid action set pieces (in particular, the pursuit of the killer that closes the picture), and the presence of Johnson and Prine, do much to smooth over some tonal awkwardness, most notably Pierce's turn as a hapless deputy whose comic interludes stop the picture cold, and the infamous "trombone" murder (perpetrated upon Pierce's then-wife, Cindy Butler), which flirts with the boundaries of bad taste. Though by no means a classic title, The Town That Dreaded Sundown delivers the grisly goods with energy and rough style, which has preserved its appeal among '70s-era horror devotees.

Shout Factory's Blu-ray/DVD presentation offers a surprising wealth of extras on both the film's production and the crime spree that inspired it. In tried-and-true drive-in fashion, the DVD pairs Town with Pierce's The Evictors (1979), a modest period thriller that benefits from its cast of cult favorites, including Michael Parks (Django Unchained), Jessica Harper (Suspiria), and Vic Morrow (Combat!), and impressive photography. Extras on both the Blu-ray and DVD are led by interviews with Prine and Wells, with Prine coming off best by virtue of his rakish recollections. Director of photography James Roberson also provides some insight into his experience on the picture as a twentysomething relative novice, while author Justin Beahm (Halloween: The Complete Authorized History) leads an informative commentary track with historian Jim Presley, who provides expert details on the Phantom Killer case. Genre writer Brian Albright (Regional Horror Films, 1958-1990) contributes an interesting essay on the film and its key players, as well as its impact on Texarkana (whose town fathers were less than pleased with the one-sheet's tag line claiming that the killer was still loose on their streets). Collections of well-worn promotional material, including posters and publicity stills, as well as the theatrical trailer, are also featured on the two-disc set. --Paul Gaita

Special Features

Special Bonus Feature: Charles B. Pierce’s The Evictors (DVD ONLY)

Theatrical Trailer

Product Details

  • Actors: Ben Johnson, Andrew Prine, Dawn Wells, Jimmy Clem, Jim Citty
  • Directors: Charles B. Pierce
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Anamorphic, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
  • Studio: Shout! Factory
  • DVD Release Date: May 21, 2013
  • Run Time: 86 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (196 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,291 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: VHS Tape
The Town That Dreaded Sundown is an effective little thriller worth seeking out and viewing more than once. It is the true story of a hooded killer who went on a rampage in Texarkana, Arkansas just after World War II. If you are a history or true crime fan, you will appreciate the narrarative style of telling this story. For example, the film goes into detail on how life was in Arkansas before, during and after the murders and important dates of the case are displayed to the viewer throughout the film. The movie itself gives alot more than it was given budget-wise to make. The attack scenes and the final confrontation between the protagonists and the villain, are tense and effective without the use of bloody make-up FX. Fans of horror films relating to true crime who have already seen all the movies about Charles Manson,Ed Geine, Burke and Hare, etc. will also want to consider viewing this film. The writer (Earl E. Wynn) and director (Charles B. Pierce) colaborated on other films based on true cases entitled The Evictors and The Legend of Boggy Creek; two films that come highly recommended as well. Happy Hunting!
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I am a true fan of horror movies. I love the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" series. I am a fan of "Halloween." Every Friday the 13th I rent every "Friday the 13th" movie and stay up all night watching them...always with the lights out. Despite my wide-ranging horror film experience, I can honestly say that "The Town That Dreaded Sundown" scared me more than any other film to date.
Shot in 1976, this film presents the true story of a Texarkana, Arkansas crime spree in 1946. World War II had ended bringing the military boys back home and Texarkana was enjoying peace and prosperity. From the murky depths of night, a killer mysteriously emerged to taunt and terrorize the inhabitants of the quiet town. Young couples were attacked in their cars on lovers lane in intervals of 21 days...and even a famous Texas Ranger couldn't solve the case.
The story is presented in documentary style, with a narrator weaving direction through the onslaught of terror. There is no shock value to this movie. It is presented with raw facts and the chilling realization that this crime could happen anywhere at any time. The Phantom Killer of Texarkana, always wearing a hood to cover his face, left a crude and bloody path of destruction in his wake and throughout this film you can feel the terror gripping the tiny town. This movie is a necessary selection for anyone who loves sitting in the dark and being scintillatingly terrified or for anyone who simply enjoys a true unsolved mystery.
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By D. Ullery on December 17, 2003
Format: VHS Tape
First an explanation: This movie loses one star for the lame attempts at humor inserted by director Charles B.Pierce, who should have known better. Beyond that criticism, though, this semi-documentary about a rash of brutal murders that held the small town of Texarkana , Arkansas in an icy grip of fear way back in 1946 is a top-notch suspense thriller. The killer is depicted as being as capable of "mad -dog" brutality as he was in reality ( the scene with the trombone will haunt you for days), and the low budget actually accentuates the grim circumstances unfolding in this movie. This film is very, very scary. It has also received recognition as being one of the more accurate depictions of a true life crime case that has ever hit the screen. If you like to be scared, then pop this one into the vcr, turn off the lights and get ready to have your nerves assaulted. Charles B.Pierce demonstrated with this feature that he knows how to play an audience. It's a shame he hasn't done anything even remotely noteworthy since. Ah, well. If this were his only film as a director, he could still beam with pride.
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Format: VHS Tape
i consider this to be one of the scariest movies i have ever seen, and i love horror movies. but this is not really a horror movie, this is based on actual events that took place in texarkana. granted by todays standards it is very tame for the simple fact that in order to get shocks today, there obviously has to be an over abundance of blood and gore. i completely disagree with that. movies can still shock and scare without blood. and in my opinion this was does the trick. the whole concept of a hooded killer and not ever knowing who it is scares me more than anything. jason (from the 13th films) has nothing over this killer. this one was real! not fantasy. the acting is kinda out there, but the movie still pulls it off. i was only 12 when this movie was released and now i am nearing 40 and i still will not watch it alone. the most shocking scene is the trombone sequence. it is a bit unsettling. i recently purchased it on a new vhs and am hoping it will be released on dvd in its widescreen format. to me this is a must have for anyone who likes horror or mystery. it was made by the same man who made the "legend of boggy creek". once again this movie is a true story which is probably why the scare factor is high for me and the fact i only live 2 1/2 hours from texarkana!!! i give it 5 stars.
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Format: VHS Tape
This film gives an accurate account about a series of heinous murders that took place around the Texarkana area right after World War Two. This true story was national front page news circa 1946. It is not intended to be a modern day "slasher" hit. No blood & guts here. This is for the realistic and mature eye. Great attention to detail was paid in achieving an authentic 1940's era look and feel, which lends the film great aura. To this day, these notorious murders remain unsolved. This is a must see for any true-crime buff.
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