Friday, April 23, 2010

The Town That Dreaded Negative Publicity

A few blurbs on Charles B. Pierce's The Town that Dreaded Sundown, one of his best films and still criminally unavailable on DVD.

From The Northwest Arkansas Times, Jan. 27, 1977

Phantom Killer Still Haunting Texarkana

TEXARKANA, Ark. (AP) -- Does a phantom killer still lurk in the streets of this city on the Texas border? City leaders say no. Advertisements on television and in newspapers say yes.

"In 1946 this man killed five people. Today he still lurks the streets of Texarkana, Ark.," say the ads for the movie "The Town That Dreaded Sundown."

"The ad is too much -- that's just not true," says Mayor Harvey Nelson. "There's objection that this whole thing will be spreading fear in the community. There are relatives of the victims still living here, and this is very unpleasant to them."

The movie is based on the Phantom Killer murders, which occurred between March and May 1946. The victims were usually young people parked in lovers' lanes. The men were killed first, shot in the head. The women were tortured before they were killed.

Four of the deaths occurred on the Texas side of the border, one in Arkansas. City leaders complain that the ads single out the Arkansas city.

The murders were never solved, the killer never punished.

"The fellow they thought -- but couldn't prove -- was the Phantom was sent to prison in Leavenworth, Kan.," said Harvey Wood, executive editor of the Texarkana Gazette. "It is absurd to say the Phantom is still at large. It scares the children."

Nothing like the panic that occurred in 1946 has been sparked by the movie.

"No one is going around locking their doors, afraid to come out like they did back then (in 1946)," Wood added. "People have lived through so many Phantom stories they're not upset anymore -- except the kids."

Police Captain Walter Weir added: "There's been no problem that I've heard of. Everyone's going to see the movie, but there's nothing like a panic."

Nelson said he hasn't and won't go see the R-rated movie, which has been playing in town for nearly a month. "I wouldn't be interested. I lived through it. I like tings that are amusing. This isn't amusing."

Capt. M.T. Gonzaullas of the Texas Rangers was in charge of the investigation, and is a key character in the movie. Now 85 and living in Dallas, Gonzaullas said Wednesday that he's still devoted to solving the Phantom Murder case.

Is the Phantom Murderer still at large? "That's the 64-dollar question," he said.

From The Oakland Tribune, Feb. 28, 1977

Film Angers Town

TEXARKANA, Ark. (AP) -- City councilmen have voted to file a lawsuit against the producer of the movie "The Town That Dreaded Sundown" for advertising that "a phantom killer still lurks in the streets of Texarkana, Ark."

City Atty. Joe Griffin said the suit was prompted when Texarkana officials visited Washington, D.C., and were kidded about the advertisement.

John Stroud, a lawyer for producer Charles B. Pierce, said Pierce already has asked distributors of the film to change the newspaper and television ads.

The movie is based on the Phantom Killer murders that occurred between March and May 1946. Five persons were killed, and no one was arrested despite a massive investigation.

**The article below predates the film's release, but includes the interesting bit of trivia that the governor's wife was the script supervisor on Town! David Pryor, coincidentally, also served as a U.S. Senator from 1978 to 1997, and his son, Mark Pryor, now holds his former Senate seat. At the time of this article, the Pryors were separated, but later reconciled.

From The Northwest Arkansas Times, Oct. 20, 1976

Barbara Pryor Has Movie Job

LITTLE ROCK (AP) -- Arkansas First Lady Barbara Pryor -- the estranged wife of Gov. David Pryor -- has become the secretary-treasurer of a new movie production company.

The company, Fair Winds Productions Inc., is scheduled to shortly begin filming "Wishbone Cutter," a western, along the Buffalo River.

Mrs. Pryor will be co-producer of the movie, an official said.

The company is headed by Earl Smith, who has been associated with some of Charles B. Pierce's Arkansas-based productions.

Smith said Mrs. Pryor became interested in movie production while working as a script supervisor on the Pierce production of "The Town That Dreaded Sundown," filmed in Texarkana.

He said Mrs. Pryor is talented and "extremely efficient."

Pryor's office said the governor has nothing to do with the film.

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