Kelly and Tammy Rundle left their Los Angeles home with their newly completed documentary feature film "Villisca: Living with a Mystery" on June 2. Ninety days, 40 showings, 24 cities, and 5 states later they return for three special final events in Iowa at the State Historical Museum Theater in Des Moines where the unprecedented tour began.
"Villisca" explores the history and mystery surrounding the still-unsolved 1912 Villisca, Iowa axe murders of eight. The film asks the question: what if murder visited a small town and never went away? It also examines a possible link between similar mass murders in five midwestern states.
Rather than book the film in modern theater multiplexes, the Rundles uniquely chose to place their documentary in historically relevant venues to further immerse their audience in the past during the show.
"I don't know of any filmmaker who has taken this approach over such a long period of time and in such a large geographic area," said director-writer Kelly Rundle.
"It's been a real pleasure to see the film with our audiences at each event and to have a chance to answer questions and discuss the story following the showings," said producer-writer Tammy Rundle.
Both entertaining and thought provoking, "America's Greatest Unsolved Mystery" has been overwhelmingly well received by audiences and has prompted glowing reviews from media critics.
The Des Moines Register's Jeffrey Bruner gave the documentary 3 = stars, and said, 'Villisca: Living with a Mystery' discusses what many have refused to speak about...terrific interviews...accessible and not academic."
Quad City Times film critic Linda Cook gave the film 4 stars and said, "Impressive...a fascinating tale...I'm still astonished at this well-made film!"
"Villisca" combines period photographs, computer animation, original art, limited reenactments, and interviews with historians, town residents, eyewitnesses and forensic experts to shed light on the 92-year-old mystery, and to reveal the face of a new suspect.
Summer film tour highlights included the gala premiere in Des Moines, near sold-out showings in numerous locations; wide-spread television, radio, and print media attention; showcasing the film in beautifully restored theaters across the Midwest including three showings in the Montgomery County Court House where the axe murder trials took place in 1916 and 1917.
Each showing in Des Moines will feature pre-show ragtime music and magic lantern slides, a lobby display of historical artifacts including the infamous axe, the 2-hour historical documentary, and a Q&A with the filmmakers and historian Dr. Edgar Epperly. Epperly has spent nearly 50 years researching the axe murder story.
"Villisca" will screen three final times in Iowa at the State Historical Building Theater on August 20, at 7 pm and on August 22, at 2 pm and 7 pm. Tickets are $8-$10/pp at the door and advance tickets are available online at www.villisca.com.
National and international broadcast and home video release is slated for 2005. Parental guidance is suggested. Visit www.villisca.com for more information.
The Rundles are former Iowans now living in Los Angeles, California where they own and operate Fourth Wall Films, a film and video production and publishing company.