The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1977)

R | 90 mins | Melodrama, Mystery | January 1977

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HISTORY

End credits include the statement: “The Producer Wishes to Thank: Governor David Pryor of The State of Arkansas; The Cities of Texarkana, Arkansas and Texas; The Bear Skin Lake Railroad, Scott, Arkansas; The Jack Williams Ranch, Garland City, Arkansas; The Texarkana, Arkansas & Texas, Police Departments; The Texarkana, Arkansas Fire Department; St. Michael's Hospital, Texarkana, Arkansas.”
       Composer Jaime Mendoza-Nava’s last name is spelled Mendosa-Nava in the credits.
       The Town That Dreaded Sundown was based on a real case, according to the 5 Mar 1977 LAT, and J. D. Morales was patterned on Texas Ranger Manuel T. “Lone Wolf” Gonzaullas.
       The 9 Aug 1976 Box reported that principal photography began 21 Jun 1976 in Texarkana, TX, and was scheduled to end seven weeks later on 15 Aug. The title was given as Dreaded Sundown.
       The 19 Jan 1977 Var reported the film “doing hot [box office] . . . in Dixie.” An undated advertisement in Box announced that the film opened in several cities in LA, MS, AR, and TX, including Texarkana and New Orleans.
       The Texarkana, AR, city council voted to sue producer-director Charles B. Pierce because the film’s advertisements said “a phantom killer still lurks the streets of Texarkana, Ark,” according to the 2 Mar 1977 HR. Pierce responded that he had already asked his distributor, American International Pictures, to delete the wording. Nine months later, on 28 Dec 1977, the brother of Polly Ann Moore, the Phantom Killer’s first real-life victim, sued Pierce and the film’s distributor in Texas court for $1.3 million. The 18 Jan 1978 DV reported that ... More Less

End credits include the statement: “The Producer Wishes to Thank: Governor David Pryor of The State of Arkansas; The Cities of Texarkana, Arkansas and Texas; The Bear Skin Lake Railroad, Scott, Arkansas; The Jack Williams Ranch, Garland City, Arkansas; The Texarkana, Arkansas & Texas, Police Departments; The Texarkana, Arkansas Fire Department; St. Michael's Hospital, Texarkana, Arkansas.”
       Composer Jaime Mendoza-Nava’s last name is spelled Mendosa-Nava in the credits.
       The Town That Dreaded Sundown was based on a real case, according to the 5 Mar 1977 LAT, and J. D. Morales was patterned on Texas Ranger Manuel T. “Lone Wolf” Gonzaullas.
       The 9 Aug 1976 Box reported that principal photography began 21 Jun 1976 in Texarkana, TX, and was scheduled to end seven weeks later on 15 Aug. The title was given as Dreaded Sundown.
       The 19 Jan 1977 Var reported the film “doing hot [box office] . . . in Dixie.” An undated advertisement in Box announced that the film opened in several cities in LA, MS, AR, and TX, including Texarkana and New Orleans.
       The Texarkana, AR, city council voted to sue producer-director Charles B. Pierce because the film’s advertisements said “a phantom killer still lurks the streets of Texarkana, Ark,” according to the 2 Mar 1977 HR. Pierce responded that he had already asked his distributor, American International Pictures, to delete the wording. Nine months later, on 28 Dec 1977, the brother of Polly Ann Moore, the Phantom Killer’s first real-life victim, sued Pierce and the film’s distributor in Texas court for $1.3 million. The 18 Jan 1978 DV reported that Mark Moore claimed the film’s depiction of his sister’s death “intruded upon his physical and mental solitude” by publicly airing “a tragic and painful segment of his life.” The outcome of the case could not be determined as of the writing of this Note.
More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
9 Aug 1976.
---
Box Office
Nov 1976.
---
Daily Variety
18 Jan 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jan 1977
p. 3, 26.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Mar 1977.
---
Los Angeles Times
5 Mar 1977
Section B, p. 11.
New York Times
19 Feb 1977
p. 15.
Variety
19 Jan 1977.
---
Variety
26 Jan 1977
p. 30.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Samuel Z. Arkoff Presents
A Charles B. Pierce Film
An American International Release
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Grip
Grip
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Asst props
COSTUMES
Asst ward
MUSIC
SOUND
Cam boom op
Prod mixer
Boom op
Sd eff
Sd eff
Sd eff
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles & opt
MAKEUP
Make-up
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
Prod asst
Prod asst
Slate girl
STAND INS
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Dreaded Sundown
Release Date:
January 1977
Premiere Information:
Premiered in the South: January 1977
New York opening: 18 February 1977
Los Angeles opening: 2 March 1977
Production Date:
21 June--15 August 1976 in Texarkana, TX, and Texarkana, AR
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor®
Lenses
Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
90
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
24740
SYNOPSIS

On a rainy Sunday night, 3 March 1946, outside the Arkansas-Texas border town of Texarkana, a man wearing a cloth sack over his head attacks young Sammy Fuller and Linda Mae Jenkins in an area called “Lovers Lane.” Both victims are found barely alive the next morning, and though Linda Mae has not been raped, her body is covered with bite marks. Deputy Norman Ramsey, one of the first officers on the scene, works the case but gets nowhere. Twenty-one days later, on a rainy 24 March 1946, Norman gets a hunch the attacker may strike again. Driving out to Lovers Lane, Norman hears shots, and by the time he arrives, a car sits empty. Hearing more shots nearby, Norman calls the sheriff’s office, then ventures into the woods to find Howard “Buddy” Turner lying on the ground and Emma Lou Cook tied to a tree, both dead. He chases a hooded figure, but the man escapes in a car. Fear grips the citizens of Texarkana. Gun shops and locksmiths stay busy, and police warn residents to stay home at night and avoid Lovers Lane. Famed Texas Ranger Captain J. D. Morales arrives from Austin, the state capital, to take charge of the case. J. D. informs local law officers that the investigation will be done his way, and nobody but he will talk to reporters. Other Texas Rangers arrive to assist the manhunt. Norman tells J. D. he suspects the killer has a time table of twenty-one days and may strike again on 14 April 1946. The police set up decoys in Lovers Lane, but the killer strikes in a wooded area inside Texarkana city limits, where two ... +


On a rainy Sunday night, 3 March 1946, outside the Arkansas-Texas border town of Texarkana, a man wearing a cloth sack over his head attacks young Sammy Fuller and Linda Mae Jenkins in an area called “Lovers Lane.” Both victims are found barely alive the next morning, and though Linda Mae has not been raped, her body is covered with bite marks. Deputy Norman Ramsey, one of the first officers on the scene, works the case but gets nowhere. Twenty-one days later, on a rainy 24 March 1946, Norman gets a hunch the attacker may strike again. Driving out to Lovers Lane, Norman hears shots, and by the time he arrives, a car sits empty. Hearing more shots nearby, Norman calls the sheriff’s office, then ventures into the woods to find Howard “Buddy” Turner lying on the ground and Emma Lou Cook tied to a tree, both dead. He chases a hooded figure, but the man escapes in a car. Fear grips the citizens of Texarkana. Gun shops and locksmiths stay busy, and police warn residents to stay home at night and avoid Lovers Lane. Famed Texas Ranger Captain J. D. Morales arrives from Austin, the state capital, to take charge of the case. J. D. informs local law officers that the investigation will be done his way, and nobody but he will talk to reporters. Other Texas Rangers arrive to assist the manhunt. Norman tells J. D. he suspects the killer has a time table of twenty-one days and may strike again on 14 April 1946. The police set up decoys in Lovers Lane, but the killer strikes in a wooded area inside Texarkana city limits, where two high school seniors, Roy Allen and Peggy Loomis, park after leaving their junior-senior prom. Beating and shooting Roy to death, the killer ties Peggy to a tree and stabs her repeatedly. National media arrive in town, the attacker is dubbed the “Phantom Killer,” and J. D. consults a prison psychologist, Dr. Kress, to discern the phantom’s personality. Sitting with the ranger and other peace officers in a restaurant, Dr. Kress describes the killer as a “sadist” in his late thirties, highly intelligent, and normal in everyday life. He may never be caught, the doctor speculates. Near their table, a man with dark shoes gets up, pays his bill, and leaves. Police later nab a robber and car thief who confesses to being the Phantom Killer, but J. D. knows the man is lying and keeps him away from the press to avoid complications. On Friday, 3 May 1946, twenty-one days after the previous murders, the phantom, armed with a silencer, guns down Floyd Reed through his living room window, smashes through the door, and shoots his wife, Helen Reed, as she tries to telephone the police. While the phantom makes sure her husband is dead, Helen stumbles out the back door and reaches a neighbor’s house before the killer can reach her. Again, the investigation goes nowhere. Twenty-one days later, when nobody is attacked, J. D. suspects the killer may be in jail for another crime. Several days later, a police call comes in about a car parked in the woods. Norman notes that the make and year match the car he saw the night the phantom got away from him. He and J. D. drive to the car and walk into the nearby woods to a sand pit. J. D. sees a man wearing a cloth sack over his face standing with a pistol on a hillside, but before J. D. can get off a good shot, the phantom sees Norman and flees. They chase him to a railroad track, where the man eludes them by getting on the other side of a passing train, but J. D. shoots him in the leg before he escapes into the bayou. The Phantom Killer is never seen again, though many residents of Texarkana are certain he will turn up eventually and resume his spree. Meanwhile, a man in dark shoes limps in a crowd of people on a busy street.
+

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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