Wednesday, October 8, 2014
The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)
"In 1946 this man killed five people... Today he still lurks the streets of Texarkana, Ark."
A Texas Ranger hunts a hooded serial killer terrorizing the residents of a small town.
I've been waiting a long time to finally see this movie, thanks to Netflix that wait has come to an end. The Town That Dreaded Sundown was actually a TV movie released back in 1976(yes there was a time TV had good original movies ). The movie begins with narration about the real life back story about what happened in 1946 and the hooded serial killer only known as The Phantom that terrorized the small town.
The beginning of the film plays out mostly like a documentary with the phantoms first appearance and his first victims that he follows up to lovers lane and slowly stalks Linda(Christine Ellsworth) and Sammy(Mike Hackworth) who are just listening to the radio when Linda decides she's ready to leave at first Sammy doesn't want to leave but he comes around to Linda's thinking.
The Phantom lingers in the shadows waiting for the right moment to attack as the car slowly starts up and begins driving, The Phantom appears hanging onto the car breaking out the Sammy's window and pulls him out the car, cutting him on the broken glass in the process.
The next morning Linda is found on the side of the road barely alive by the police who have surrounded the area as its now a crime investigation. The scene is led by Deputy Sheriff Norman Ramsey (Andrew Prine) who sees exactly what The Phantom has done to Linda.
After this first attack things seem to calm down until March 24 when Ramsey is back out at Lovers Lane and finds Howard Turner dead and his girlfriend Emma Lou Cook tied to a tree she is dead as well, this time Ramsey gets a look at The Phantom as he's fleeing away but isn't able to catch him.
The town is now in a state of panic as The Phantom has struck again and the two victims this time are both killed, The Sheriff Department decides to bring in the best criminal investigator around Captain J.D. Morales (Ben Johnson). Morales comes to town and quickly takes over the investigation he is partnered up with Ramsey and a driver Patrolman A.C. Benson aka Sparkplug( Charles B. Pierce) who is good for moment then a few laughs threw out the movie.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown seems very tamed compared to a lot of movies that followed it but after watching it, it has influenced more then a far share of horror movies that's followed it most note worthy being Jason Voorhees look in Friday the 13th part 2 (1981) and Michael Myers Halloween (1978).
If you are expecting a lot of blood and kills you won't see to much of that, but where this movie lacks in that area it surely makes up in the atmosphere of terror since the majority of attacks take place at night and The Phantom stalking ways add a lot to the movie.
The biggest thrill scene in the movie is when The Phantom attacks another couple, after shooting the boyfriend, The Phantom attaches a pocket knife to the girls trombone and pretends to play it while using it to kill her, you'll rarely see a scene like that in a movie today.
Ben Johnson, Andrew Prine and Charles B. Pierce are the standouts acting wise, especially Pierce as Sparkplug with his Barney Fife like Patrolmen character who is heavy footed on the gas and had no business behind the wheel of a car.
Also Dawn Wells (Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island) makes an appearance as one of The Phantom's victims, her appearance is a interesting one but adds a great deal to the movie since she always has that girl next door/ very likeable quality about her. who is just wrong place, wrong time in this movie.
The finale of the movie is one that's very exciting as the police seems to have caught up to The Phantom and despite wounding him a few times he manages to get away or as the narrator says dies somewhere out in the swamp but no one knows for sure. leaves audiences with the feeling that just maybe he is still out there. The Phantom killer just like Jack The Ripper, The Zodiac real identity was revealed in real life.
Ben Johnson- Captain J.D. Morales
Andrew Prine- Deputy Norman Ramsey
Dawn Wells= Helen Reed
Charles B. Pierce- Patrolman A.C. Benson
Cindy Butler- Peggy Loomis
Christine Ellsworth- Linda Mae Jenkins
Steve Lyons- Roy Allen
Mike Hackworth- Sammy Fuller
Misty West- Emma Lou Cook