Digi-Schlock: THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (Scream Factory Blu-Ray/DVD Combo)

The DVD format was a boon to the revival of vintage horror fare but it missed out on some directors during its heyday.  Charles B. Pierce is a good example: despite scoring some noteworthy hits on the indie circuit in the 1970’s, his work was pretty much ignored on DVD.  Thankfully, the blu-ray era has brought in a new set of revivals and this time Pierce has made the cut.  Scream Factory made this possible with their new blu-ray/DVD combo of Pierce’s The Town That Dreaded Sundown – and not only do they give it the special edition treatment, they also throw in another Pierce film, The Evictors, as a bonus.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown gets an impressive transfer (viewed on blu-ray for this review).  Those who became aware of it via the old Warner VHS version will want to check this out: it restores the film to its full scope format glory and does well by James Roberson’s stylish photography.  The frequent night scenes look good and the southern landscapes are frequently stunning thanks to the boost in color and clarity the film receives here.  The original mono soundtrack is presented in lossless style here and it’s a quality vintage mix.

The disc’s producers have also thrown in a nice collection of extras.  First is a commentary track with Jim Presley, a historian who has studied and written about the murder spree that inspired The Town That Dreaded Sundown, and Justin Beahm as moderator.  It’s a little on the dry side but very informative: Presley points out the many places where the film fictionalizes the real details of the case and Beahm keeps him talking with plenty of questions.  It’s worth the time for true crime buffs.

This special edition also includes a trio of interview featurettes.  “Small Town Lawman” features Andrew Prine talking about his working-actor approach to his profession, his memories of Pierce and a funny anecdote about a notable scene in the film that he and Ben Johnson shot while suffering from brutal hangovers. “Survivor Stories” is a brief but informative piece that features Dawn Wells talking about her post-Gilligan’s Island career choices and some great anecdotes about the grueling, sometimes dangerous shoot for her scenes. “Eye Of The Beholder” focuses on cinematographer Jim Roberson, who talks about how he got started in the business, his appreciation for Pearce and the challenges of shooting the film (which included working with a broken foot!).

And that’s not all: the disc also contains the film’s excellent trailer, which uses narration to grim, Dragnet-style effect, and extensive gallery of stills and ad mats.  Fans will be really interested in “The Phantom Of Texarkana,” a text essay by Brian Albright.  Albright wrote a well-liked book entitled Regional Horror Films and he uses that knowledge to impressive effect here,  laying out a concise history of the film and its aftermath (including some lawsuits that Pierce had to deal with).

However, the biggest extra here is the inclusion of The Evictors, which is presented on the DVD.  It was Pierce’s follow-up to The Town That Dreaded Sundown and its horror-themed premise makes it an excellent co-feature. The anamorphic transfer looks really nice, particularly in the sepia-tinted sections, and the Dolby mono audio sounds good as well.

In short, this is another winner from Scream Factory: the transfer is strong, the extras are worthwhile and the inclusion of The Evictors really puts it over the top.  If regional horror fare from the drive-in era is your thing, don’t hesitate to pick this set up.

To read Schlockmania’s review of The Town That Dreaded Sundown, click here.

To read Schlockmania’s review of The Evictors, click here.

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