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The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)

A Texas Ranger hunts for a hooded serial killer terrorizing the residents of a small town, set in 1946 Texas. Loosely based on a true story.




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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jimmy Clem ...
Jim Citty ...
Charles B. Pierce ...
Robert Aquino ...
Cindy Butler ...
Christine Ellsworth ...
Earl E. Smith ...
Dr. Kress (as Earl E. Smith)
Joe Catalanotto ...
Eddie LeDoux (as Joe Catalanatto)
Roy Lee Brown ...
Mike Hackworth ...
Misty West ...


Set in the late 40's the residents of Texarkana, Texas are left terrorized by a mysterious hooded killer who is stalking victims during the evening and leaving the local police at a loss. Written by Losman <losman@express-news.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


In 1946 this man killed five people... Today he still lurks the streets of Texarkana, Ark. See more »


R | See all certifications »




Release Date:

24 December 1976 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Pânico ao Anoitecer  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Considered one of the first of many Slasher films, which originated as far back as 1960 See more »


Several times in the movie when we see a close-up of the cops driving in their car, you can see rows of houses behind them out the back window of their car, but in the immediate next wide angle shot they're out in the wooded countryside, with no houses anywhere in sight See more »


Emma Lou Cook: I bet you miss Japan.
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Emma Lou Cook: All those Japanese girls scrubbing your back.
Buddy Turner: I must say they do know how to please a man.
Emma Lou Cook: Well if you haven't been pleased with me for the last six weeks you can just take me home.
Buddy Turner: I didn't say you didn't please me. You started it!
Emma Lou Cook: Well... I'm just on edge.
See more »


Featured in Small Town Lawman with Andrew Prine (2013) See more »

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User Reviews

Horror and crime, for once, work hand in hand
25 January 2012 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The Town That Dreaded Sundown achieves at a style of horror filmmaking films of the same genre don't even consider anymore; documentarian style. I'm not talking low budget, shaky camera. I'm talking haunting narration, no name casts, a well developed story, and the perfect mixture of murders as well as crime-drama.

This all feels like an episode of CSI, only better, more developed, and more entertaining. The film is based off the real murders that occurred in the mid-forties in Texarkana, Arkansas. The killer wore a white sheet with two little holes for eyes. He was dubbed "The Phantom Killer" and went on to kill five people and attack three of them. To this day, he has never been caught. Being that the film dates back to 1976, it states that "today, he still lurks the streets of Texarkana, Arkansas." Obviously, in 2012, he's most likely long-gone dead. Or is he? The age of the killer in the film, like in the real life case, are very unclear. He is seen to be a very tall man, modestly built, and casually dressed, despite the mask. Never do we see anything we could identify in a police lineup. It's as vague and as ordinary as the man in the real life case.

The film also packs in some excellent, chilling narrations from Vern Stierman, a popular voice in film. His narration is a main contribution to why the film plays like a documentary. The way he narrates the events, announces the character's occupations, etc doesn't feel like a lazy way at character development as much as it feels like a well conducted docudrama.

In the suspense field, the film is pursued with knowledge, surreality, and success. We get the dark, eerie atmosphere of the setting in the mid hours of the night, combined with some fantastic chords in the music. The chords don't serve as much as a jump scare that makes you laugh at yourself for becoming bait, but it offers substance and a murder to go along with it. It's not simple trickery like we're so used to.

I normally don't like when films try to do one too many things. This one tries to do two things and is successful at both; be a horror film as well as a crime-drama. Since the film is going for more of a docudrama atmosphere, both feel well developed and fitting, rather than the film immediately changing what it is trying to be halfway through. It's not a movie that had ambition to be a horror film, but then got sidetracked in the second or third act.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a creepy horror film and an effective crime-drama, never feeling like it is insisting upon itself on either level. When you think about it, how many horror films succeed at pulling off two genres that don't totally go hand in hand? Only one comes to mind instantly.

Starring: Ben Johnson, Andrew Prine, and Dawn Wells. Charles B. Pierce.

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