This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.
Director Charles B. Pierce had managed to produce a minor indie hit with his 1972 horror faux-documentary The Legend of Boggy Creek, and was commissioned by Samuel Z. Arkoff’s American International Pictures to produce this somewhat more high-budget piece. Adopting the same style as Boggy Creek – combining narration and dramatic re-enactments of incidents to produce a quasi-documentary account of a supposedly true story, this piece has the distinction of actually being based on a real incident – namely, the Phantom killings that plagued the town of Texarkana in the wake of World War II.
Despite its pseudo-documentary tone, the film fails to convince as a serious and in-depth examination of all sides of the case. J.D. Morales (Ben Johnson), the shit-hot investigator sent up from Austin to investigate the case, is given an almost hagiographic treatment, greeted warmly by all the local dignitaries when he arrives at the station and taking time to stuff money into a blind man’s collection cup and generally swaggering about like the most archetypal Southern gentleman the 1940s could offer.