April 9, 2003
For Immediate Release:
After ten years of research, fundraising, film production, editing, and screenings, final
revisions are nearly complete on Kelly and Tammy Rundle's documentary feature film Villisca: Living with a Mystery. The two-hour final-cut will be
submitted to more than a dozen interested distributors in the summer of 2003.
"We visited Villisca, Iowa for the first time in June 1993," said producer Tammy
Rundle. "At that time, I don't think we adequately realized the complexity of
the story we were about to tell on film."
Villisca: Living with a Mystery recounts the circumstances
surrounding the 1912 Children's Day axe murders in Villisca, Iowa and explores the effects
of the crime on the small rural community both then and now. The victims included
six children and two adults, and the crime is still Iowa's worst mass murder. Period
photographs and documents have been combined with interviews with historians, and people
who remember the crime as children, to create an engaging and enlightening documentary
Production began in January of 1994 and continued periodically through 2001 in 11 states
from Hawaii to Massachusetts. Unlike other sensational historical crimes, there was
no central repository for photographs or documents related to the axe murders. There
were no existing nonfiction books or films to review. The Rundles interviewed over
50 people, collected thousands of copies of historical documents, and gathered and copied
hundreds of photographs in an effort to conduct research and to tell the story visually.
In June 2002, with assistance from local residents, the Rundles planned a 90th anniversary
commemorative weekend in Villisca. A lengthy fine-cut version of the documentary was
screened for the first time before an audience. A Nebraska Humanities program
followed in Omaha that included portions of the film along with commentary provided by
From July-November, nearly 700 viewers in 8 different states--from California to North
Carolina--participated in a series of 12 screenings of a 2-hour and 20-minute fine-cut
version of the film. Over 95% responded positively and said they would recommend the
film to others. Many offered insightful feedback that assisted the Rundles as they
continued the editing process:
"The film has considerable soul and held my interest throughout. Worth the
wait. A work to be proud of," said a video production executive from Kansas
"I liked it very much. It was extremely fascinating and, as a non-American,
very informative. I would recommend this film for distribution on television and
abroad," said an Arizona psychology student.
"I got a feel for the people and town in 1912 and felt transported to that era.
A fantastic true story that never fails to fascinate," said a Los Angeles
"I felt it unfolded in a clear and intriguing manner. I was drawn in and
curious to know more. I would use it in my cultural or intellectual history
classes," said a California University professor.
"The research is outstanding. Thank goodness you were able to interview so many
with such close connections to the event. What an exceptional concept for a
film," said a Nebraska library director.
"The story is well told, well paced, good commentary and good music. Very well
done. I look forward to seeing the finished film," an Academy Award® winning
documentary filmmaker wrote.
"The feedback screenings were a great success. They helped us make important
creative changes to the film and they have proven what we already knew: that Villisca's
story holds interest beyond the Midwest," said director Kelly Rundle.
Late in 2002 the Rundles were approached by a Los Angeles-based director/writer team and
they are now consulting on the development of the Villisca story as a big-budget dramatic
historical feature film.
In addition to making final changes on their documentary, the Rundles are creating second
editions of their historical document reprints related to the murders. They are also
busy re-mastering two previous Villisca-themed videos for release on DVD and VHS, and
co-writing a non-fiction book on the murders with Dr. Edgar Epperly. Epperly has
spent nearly 50 years researching the infamous crime and has consulted extensively on the Villisca documentary film project. Their book will be
submitted to publishers in the fall.
Kelly and Tammy Rundle are former Iowa residents now living in Los Angeles, California.
Fourth Wall Films is a film and video production and publishing company.
For more information visit the Villisca: Living with a Mystery
website at www.villisca.com.
Fourth Wall Films
Los Angeles, CA 90034