While us horror fans may fondly remember a young Matthew McConaughey as the sadistic Vilmer in the charmingly awful TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE NEXT GENERATION, it was of course his role in 1993’s DAZED AND CONFUSED that did a whole lot more to push his career forward. In McConaughey’s first feature film role, he arguably stole the show as the character David Wooderson, but like many actors, he made an appearance on the small screen before arriving on the big one.
McConaughey’s first acting gig? A small role on creepy show UNSOLVED MYSTERIES.
Seriously! Check out a screen-grab below!
The true crime segment, which originally aired on December 2nd, 1992 – just about a year before DAZED AND CONFUSED hit theaters – centered on Edward Harold Bell, a madman who at the time was still at large for a brutal 1978 murder. In the recreation of the murder, Matthew McConaughey played Bell’s unfortunate victim, Larry Dickens, a 26-year-old marine who was shot dead on August 24th of that year.
Bell, a former mechanic and construction worker, arrived outside the Pasadena, Texas home of Larry Dickens’ mother on that day, and when she saw that he was pants-less and approaching a group of young children, she notified Larry, who didn’t hesitate to exercise his civic duty. While the police were en route to the location, Dickens removed Bell’s keys from his pickup truck and confronted the man, but the situation quickly took an unexpected turn for the worse. Cornered, Bell drew a pistol and fired several rounds into Larry’s chest, violently demanding that Larry give him back his keys.
Watching the horrific scene unfold, Larry’s mother ran outside just in time to embrace her son in his final moments, and while holding him in her arms, Bell (pictured above) fired one more shot directly into his head. He then retrieved a rifle from his truck and finished the job, unloading the high-powered weapon into Larry’s head and face. Before the police or ambulance arrived, the marine died in his mother’s driveway, and Bell managed to flee the scene.
You can check out the reenactment below, from the 1992 episode of UNSOLVED MYSTERIES. We were only able to find the segment in French, but since McConaughey didn’t actually speak any lines of dialogue in the episode, that shouldn’t hamper your enjoyment of seeing him on the show.
Though he was caught less than an hour after taking Larry Dickens’ life, Edward Bell was released on bail a short time after the murder, and instead of showing up for his hearing, he vanished without a trace. Bell eluded authorities for nearly twenty years, and they later learned that he broke into another Texas home just six years after the murder, threatening a young woman with a knife – thankfully, the situation was a whole lot less ugly, as the woman bravely grabbed a gun and chased Bell out of her house.
Edward Harold Bell was finally arrested in Panama in 1993, and the UNSOLVED MYSTERIES segment is credited for helping to bring him to justice – it aired just months before Bell’s arrest. This time around, he was convicted and sentenced to 70 years in prison, where he still rots to this day.
In the years since Bell’s arrest, he has admitted (or at least claimed) that Larry Dickens was not his only victim, telling police that he’s responsible for the murders of at least eleven young girls throughout the 1970s. The murders, which were all unsolved prior to Bell confessing, were committed between 1971 and 1977, and he described each one in graphic detail. Chillingly, Bell’s belief is that he was brainwashed by the members of a top secret program, including his own father, to terrorize and murder young girls.
Without the UNSOLVED MYSTERIES episode that marked Matthew McConaughey’s arrival on the acting scene, there’s a good chance Edward Bell would still be out there today. And the world is damn sure a better place with that psychopath behind bars.
Mystery solved. Justice served. Alright, alright, alright.