The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976) Movie Review

Fantastic! That’s the best word I can use to describe the 1976 classic, The Town That Dreaded Sundown. A movie I always never got around to watching. Oh, we crossed paths a few times, but it was always the wrong time. I remember switching the TV on and see a grainy, crappy quality version of it on and it was the trombone scene and I thought to myself, this is pretty cheesy and switched channels. Well folks, now that I have the Blu-ray from Scream Factory, I can tell you not to pass this movie up. It’s an amazing movie and looks beautiful on Blu-ray. Read on to see why you should watch it now…

Release: Dec 24th, 1976 
Rating: R   
Run time: 86 mins  
Starring: Ben Johnson, Andrew Prine   
Director: Charles B. Pierce  

Short nitty-gritty plot description from Scream Factory is as follows: 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.

Tatlock’s Quick ‘n Dirty Review: I think the thing that gets me first is how wonderful this movie looks. Filmed in 1976 and made to look like it’s 1946, director Charles B. Pierce did an amazing job with the budget it had. The film is stylistic, which jaw dropping cinematographer by James Roberson. One scene in particular that involves a shootout next to a train is so phenomenal looking, my heart races just thinking about it.

Full Credit for screenshots goes to

When you combine a beautiful film, with a story that is ripped from the headlines, having been based on the Texarkana Moonlight Murders, you have a wonderful recipe for a successful slasher. Pile on high calibre acting from Ben Johnson, Andrew Prine and a psycho killer that is completely insane, The Town That Dreaded Sundown could be a perfect flick.

Notice how I said could be. The number one thing that drags down the film is the ill-conceived comedic relief from the character Sparkplug, played the director himself, Pierce. I realise that sometimes it’s nice to have a little break in the dark tone and trust me, at first, I was laughing and appreciating the light-heartedness of the proceedings, but come the middle half, things turn really serious and any bits of comedy should have been left out. Anytime I see it, it seems so out of place and really drags down portions of the film. It’s a shame really.

Full Credit for screenshots goes to

Blu-ray Features:

– The Evictors (1979) on DVD

– Audio Commentary with Justin Beahm and Historian Jim Presley

– Small Town Lawman – An Interview with actor Andrew Prine

– Survivor Stories – An Interview with actress Dawn Wells

– Eye of the Beholder – An Interview with Director of Photography James Roberson

– Theatrical Trailer

– Essay by writer Brian Albright

– Poster & Still Gallery

Full Credit for screenshots goes to

Verdict: Honestly, I am not going to let some bits of badly placed comedy drag the film down too much and it most certainly does not change my mind on the fact that this film is fantastic. The Town That Dreaded Sundown features wonderful acting, a psychotic killer and cinematography that will make your jaw drop. When you team up this wonderful movie with a fantastic release from Scream Factory, you have a purchase that is highly recommended!


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