Blu-ray Movie Review – Terror in a Texas Town (1958)

Terror in a Texas Town
Directed by Joseph H. Lewis
Courtesy of Arrow Academy & MVD Distribution
Original Year of Release: 1958
Blu-ray Release Date: July 11, 2017

I have to confess: when I first got the press release for TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN, I thought it was for a horror movie. You have to admit, the title does fit perfectly for a fright flick. But when I realized it was a Western, I launched it to it nonetheless. After all, Arrow and MVD have rarely ever steered me in the wrong direction.

And sure enough, they produce the goods once more.

TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN is an excellent, albeit different, genre film, and it’s one I recommend you give a look soon. This is not TOMBSTONE or SHANE remade…no, this is a nice little B-grade Western that offers an intriguing storyline, interesting characters, and even a social commentary or two.

If you are not familiar with TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Arrow Academy & MVD Distribution:

For his 41st and final feature film, Joseph H. Lewis was able to combine the two genres in which he had excelled. The man in the director s chair for My Name is Julia Ross, Gun Crazy and The Big Combo, Lewis was one of the all-time greats in film noir. But he was also a fine director of Westerns, having made A Lawless Street, 7th Cavalry and The Halliday Brand, all of which especially the last remain underrated. Terror in a Texas Town would bring his noir sensibilities to the American West, resulting in one of his finest works.

McNeil (Sebastian Cabot, The Time Machine) is a greedy hotel owner who wants to take control of Prairie City, the Texas town of the title. Keen to drive the local farmers of their land, McNeil hires a gunman, Johnny Crale (Nedrick Young, who would pen the Oscar-winning screenplay for The Defiant Ones the same year), resulting in the death of a former whaler. The dead man s son, George Hansen (Sterling Hayden, The Killing), arrives in town to inherit the farm and set the stage for revenge armed with only his father s old harpoon…

Terror in a Texas Town was written by Dalton Trumbo, one of the Hollywood Ten blacklisted by the film industry and forced to write under pseudonyms or to use fronts . Two years before he helped break the blacklist with on-screen credits for Otto Preminger s Exodus and Stanley Kubrick s Spartacus, his work was credited to Ben Perry, but it demonstrates a psychological depth and political dimension that is undoubtedly that of Trumbo.

I think the unusual aspects of this film are a big part of what make it so good for me. For example, the hero is not a traditional Western good guy; he’s a Swedish whaler’s son. Also, the weapon he chooses to use: a harpoon. Who ever heard of using a harpoon in the Old West? But it totally works for this film!

TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN is shot well and looks great onscreen. The picture is in black and white, but you barely notice because the story is so gripping. I though the b&w aspect would throw me off, but it did not in the least.

The acting is very good. I read other reviews that stated the B-grade quality of the acting was lacking. I disagree completely. Everybody in the cast does a great job. Sterling Hayden, who plays the main character, George Hansen, does a stupendous job as a Swedish immigrant, from the way he talks down to his mannerisms. And Sebastian Cabot shines as the bad guy, McNeil.

The story in TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN, as mentioned, is very interesting and, despite the fact we’ve seen it numerous times, it is well done and engaging. The basic plot reminds me a bit of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, which is another reason I found the film so much fun. But don’t let its familiarity dissuade you from seeing this film; you’ll greatly enjoy it regardless.

TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN is a big win for me, and it’s a definitive feather in Arrow Academy and MVD’s cap. I love the fact Arrow Academy is preserving films like this with the Blu-ray treatment, and I can’t wait to see what’s on their title list for the future. TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN is available now. In addition to a great picture and sound quality, the Blu-ray offers special edition contents that include:

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:
• Brand-new 2K restoration from original film elements produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p)
• Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM Audio
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Introduction by Peter Stanfield, author of Hollywood, Westerns and the 1930s: The Lost Trail and Horse Opera: The Strange History of the Singing Cowboy
• Scene-select commentaries by Stanfield
• Theatrical trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Vladimir Zimakov
• FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing by Glenn Kenny

MSB

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