‘The Town That Dreaded Sundown’ Where it was Shot in Texarkana
I hear there is a film crew in town filming a new movie about Texarkana's phantom killer from the 1940s, the new movie is called "Sundown." The movie got me thinking about when the original classic Charles B. Pierce movie "The Town That Dreaded Sundown."
The movie starred Ben Johnson. Andrew Pine and Dawn Wells along with many local actors and talent from around the area. There are many locations where the movie scenes were shot that are still around today, however, most locations are abandoned and were abandoned back then as well when the movie was made in 1976. I remember because I was in high school back then and was cast as an extra in the movie. More on that later in this story.
Thanks to Ramblin' Ted and The Daily Woo they recently shot a video that highlights some of those locations. Many of these locations I remember as well so let's take a look.
Union Station was the opening scene in "The Town That Dreaded Sundown" the narrator was TV weatherman Vern Lundquist who began telling the story. If you look carefully in this scene, there are 3 boys running across the street from the train station, one of those boys was me. Union Station was used as the main police station in the movie, it's ironic that today that there is a police station located in the Bi-State Justice building right around the corner today.
The McCartney Hotel was vacant at the time of the shooting but was made to look like it was in use and also used the front to look like a movie theater entrance. I was in this movie scene as well, playing a dating couple walking out of the building. It was hot that night and makeup crews kept wiping off our brows until the scene was shot. Unfortunately, my part was edited out of the movie so you never see me. The guy you see in the movie was a friend of mine from high school who was in front of me.
National Guard Amory
The old National Guard Armory off Hickory was used for shooting the promo scene. This is the movie where you can really get a pretty good glimpse of me. Many of my friends and other local Texarkana people were in this scene. I had to sign a piece of paper to be cast as an extra, pick a tuxedo from a movie trailer beside the building. The producers paired me up with a girl for my prom date, she was cute from what I remember but to this day I don't remember her name and have never seen her again. In the scene, we were instructed to dance with our partners, it was extremely hot inside because there was no air conditioning in the building. The film crew's makeup artist was busy trying to keep us dry wiping off our foreheads from sweat and reapplying makeup to our faces. The scene took several takes before the producers got the shot they finally wanted.
My experience as a movie extra was something I will always remember. Casting calls for auditions for the new movie "Sundown" are now being taken here.
The Grocery Store
The Grocery store used in the movie was located on West 7th Street and still stands today as a vacant building. The scene shot here was with Dawn Wells (Gilligan's Island) who was portraying Mrs, Starks. She is seen walking out of the grocery store to her parked car while just a few spaces over the phantom killer was watching her from his car.
The Road Chase
There was a scene in the movie that starred Ben Johnson as the infamous Texas Ranger who came to Texarkana with hopes of catching the phantom killer flying down a country road with Sparkplug played by Charles B. Pierce when Sparkplug comes to a screeching halt, the Texas Ranger slams his cigar up against the dashboard in a funny moment. The road seen in the movie was a road out near Mandeville, Arkansas just outside the Texarkana city limits.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown to this day remains a classic for fans nationwide and was sort of the start of the Hollywood slasher movies.
The Phantom Killer murders remain a mystery today.
For a more in-depth look at the movie, check out these videos.