It is Sunday March 3, 1946 in Texarkana, on the boarder of Texas and Arkansas. Sam Fuller and Linda Mae Jenkins are parked on a local lovers’ lane. Suddenly a man throws open the hood of the car and yanks out some wires. The man is wearing jeans, a jean jacket and a sack hood with cutouts for his eyes. Linda Mae screams as Sammy tries to start the unresponsive car. The man breaks the passenger side window and pulls Sammy out of the car over the ragged edges of broken glass. He then goes for Linda Mae.
The next day Linda Mae is found barely alive. Sammy is found further down the road, clinging to life. Deputy Norman Ramsey (Andrew Prine) is at the scene. The victims are taken to the hospital. They survive but there is little they can tell the police. Eventually they are released and sent home but the doctor tells Sheriff Barker (Robert Aquino) that Linda had been severely bitten on her stomach, back and breasts.
March 24th, 1946, while patrolling a local lovers’ lane Deputy Norman Ramsey hears gun shots. He calls for backup and races to where he heard the shots. He finds an empty car. More shots are heard further in the woods. Ramsey races in that direction. He finds the body of Howard Turner. Nearby the body of his girlfriend Emma Lou Cook is found tied to a tree. Ramsey pursues the killer but he gets away.
The killer begins to get the nickname the Phantom Killer. With the town in a panic and law enforcement at a loss as to what to do to apprehend the killer, Sheriff Barker calls for help. Help comes in the form of Captain J.D. Morales (Ben Johnson), the most famous criminal investigator in the country. Morales has been nicknamed the “Lone Wolf” and is a Texas Ranger. Morales takes charge of the investigation and brings in his team. Ramsey is assigned to assist the Ranger in whatever he needs. Patrolman Benson is assigned to be his driver.
It’s not long before Morales is tested. Ramsey notices that the attacks have happened 21 days apart. Morales sets out decoys in several of the lover lanes. Unfortunately the next 21 day anniversary is the same night as the Junior/Senior dance at the high school. Peggy Loomis and her boyfriend Roy Allen decide to go to a park located in the middle of town. So does the Phantom.
“The Town That Dreaded Sundown” was released in 1976 and was directed by Charles B. Pierce. It is an Independent American horror crime drama done in the documentary style. The film is loosely based on the true story of a murder spree that occurred in 1946 in Texas that was known as the Texarkana Moonlight Murders. A quasi-sequel-remake of the film was done in 2014.
There is a real creepiness to the killer of the film. His face is never seen and the hood he wears shows no features except his eyes. It is very reminiscent of “The Shape” from “Halloween” 1978 and Jason Voorhees from the “Friday the Thirteenth” franchise. Similarities basically end there. As a precursor to the slasher film genre, “Sundown” has some questionable acting and a little too much comic relief but the story is an interesting little cult film with less blood than would later show up in full fledged members of the slasher film style.
As well as being the producer on the film, director Pierce also plays Patrolman A.C. Benson AKA Sparkplug, the comic relief. Pierce also produced and directed the docudrama “Legend of Boggy Creek” 1972. The film was narrated by Vern Stierman. Helen Reed is played by Dawn Wells. She is best known as MaryAnn Summers in the television series “Gilligan’s Island”. The Phantom was played by stunt man Bud Davis. Davis does a good job of looking menacing even though you never see his face.
The movie is a nice piece of nostalgia and, for the most part, very entertaining. A decent “B” movie.