Had a chance to catch-up with the new BluRay/DVD release of Charles B. Pierce’s The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1976) today. While the transfer itself looks great and Scream Factory have done their usual terrific job with the presentation and supplementary material, I found the film itself (the first time I have ever seen it) to be a little underwhelming, even within the forgiving confines of the 1970's B-movie drive-in market for which it was clearly made.
Based on the true story of a series of random and unsolved murders which took place in the small town of Texakarna, in the backwaters of Arksnsas in 1946, the material is certainly there to make The Town that Dreaded Sundown a tense little exploitation thriller, but Pierce and writer Earl E. Smith decide to inject too much (bad) humour in the story, which kills off a lot of the film’s momentum and frisson. Was nice to see Dawn Wells (Maryanne on Gilligan’s Island) pop-up briefly in an exploitation film (and still looking cute as hell), and it has a nice clever ending, but too little atmosphere or tension.
Far more successful is Pierce’s rather obscure The Evictors (1979), which is included in this release as a bonus feature (though strangely, only on the DVD). A gothic thriller with hints at (PG-rated) supernatural horror, the film is set in Louisiana in (mostly) 1942, and uses the location and period to convey tension and ambience, has hints of Penkinpah in its style, and a stronger cast (headlined by Vic Morrow and Jessica Harper) than The Town that Dreaded Sundown.
I would have preferred if The Evictors was the main feature on this release, and there were some special features devoted to it, but overall this is still a worthy set that will be welcomed by fans of 1970s backwater exploitation cinema.