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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


Not Everyone Who Comes to This Lover's Lane Has the Same Thing on Their Mind. See more »


R | See all certifications »




Release Date:

24 December 1976 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Pânico ao Anoitecer  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


The 2013 Blu-ray/DVD release contains an onscreen essay in the bonus features called "The Phantom of Texarkana". The author refers to this film as a "creepy Techniscope horror film". While it's true that Charles B. Pierce did shoot some of his previous films using the Techniscope format, he actually shot this film using the Panavision anamorphic format. It was the second film that he had shot in this format, the previous one being The Winds of Autumn (1976). See more »


Closeup camera crew visible on a flatcar during long shots of the train. See more »


Emma Lou Cook: Buddy, you better not go down this road or you're gonna get stuck.
Buddy Turner: Oh it's ok there's gravel on it.
See more »


Referenced in Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape (2010) 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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