Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)

Director: Charles B. Pierce

Writer: Earl E. Smith

Composer: Jaime Mendoza-Nava

Starring: Ben Johnson, Andrew Prine, Dawn Wells, Jimmy Clem, Jim Citty, Charles B. Pierce, Robert Aquino, Cindy Butler, Christine Ellsworth, Earl E. Smith, Steve Lyons, Joe Catalanotto, Roy Lee Brown

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Not Everyone Who Comes to This Lover's Lane Has the Same Thing on Their Mind.

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

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Maybe.

I've got to say that I would love to see this in a drive-in theater. It's ideal and not only because of the nature of the horror aspect with the killings but because it's centered in and around (and filmed on location) Texarkana, Texas and the outdoorsyness of it all looks like it'd be fun watching outdoors.  I really dig the acting. There seem to be a lot of people who either aren't actors or have little feature credit.  That works great in selling this docudrama.  Ben Johnson isn't doing anything different than he's done before but he brings a lot of gravitas to the production.  He's not too far from playing the same character he did in DILLINGER (1973) but a little lighter and with more fun.  Speaking of fun, Dawn Wells (Mary Ann on GILLIGAN'S ISLAND) is fantastic. I need to check out more of her pictures because she really blew me away with how she handled her part.  It was completely believable. Prine is good, too.  I don't want to leave him out or he'll come kick my ass with that awesome Texas accent.  The one big issue I have with this is the silly slapstick comedy crap that's all from the director who plays Patrolman Benson, the cop who drives Johnson and Prine around.  Benson isn't the brightest bulb on the tree and the stupid shit he does makes you want to cringe.  It's completely uncalled for.  It's like director Pierce wanted to also make this a hybrid drive-in horror and rednexploitatoin picture.  The horror and police procedural aspect is great and the broad comedy really hurts the film.  If you're familiar with the true story (I wasn't) then you'll dig the ending.  I did.  No spoilers here but it satisfies both the ending of the real events and movie making.  I really dug this picture and I can see slapping this in one night on my backyard screen.  I wish I had done it last night. 

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