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Left to right: Tammy Rundle, Kelly Rundle, Villisca Mayor Susie Enarson, Dr. Edgar Epperly. examine the murder weapon in Villisca in June 1993

Photograph by Carolyn Cole Gage and courtesy of the Villisca Review.

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 experience.

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  The Rundles interviewed over 50 people, collected thousands of copies of historical documents, and gathered and copied hundreds of photographs in an effort to conduct research and to tell the story visually.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 several historians.

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 City.

"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 screenwriter.

"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


Kelly Rundle
Fourth Wall Films
POB 341610
Los Angeles, CA 90034

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