Directed by: Joseph H. Lewis
Cast: Sterling Hayden, Sebastian Cabot, Carol Kelly, Nedrick Young
I try to review every film that finds its way to my mailbox. Time can be a tricky one, and sometimes good movies are forced to sit and wait for a “good” window in my schedule to pop upon. Joseph H. Lewis’s Terror in a Texas Town just happens to be one of the many that sat for a few weeks before I could get to it. And I’ll be honest, one glance at the film told me it was a western, and that left me uncertain as to whether I’d cover it at all.
Western or not, I’m glad I did.
Arrow Films consistently sends home excellent Blu-rays, and the restoration afforded to Terror in a Texas Town is stunning. This is certainly among the greatest restorations I’ve ever seen, and the story itself is compelling and is likely to work for anyone who feels very familiar with horror themes.
The bad man in black. The endless bullying of locals. The unlikely hero who rises up to tear down the local oppressors. And of course, the greedy bastard who never knows when to quit.
These are all ideas frequently exercised within the horror genre, and they make for perfect plot propellers for the western as well.
As for the story itself, that centers on George Hansen, who, after his father has been killed, returns to a small western town to claim his rightful property. But the shady mayor and his band of goons aren’t so open to the man holding any deed, in fact, this group is trying to get everyone and their neighbors booted from their homes. There’s a valid reason for that, but I’ll call a halt before the big spoilers start to trickle out of my face. When George learns of what has been taking place in this seemingly peaceful little town, he decides to stand up – not just for his property, but for the rights of the locals who are being ushered from their homes.
It’s a great story, and the image is so wildly crisp that it’s hard to take your eyes from the screen (it’s a good thing you don’t really need to see the popcorn as you shovel it down your throat). The sound mix is excellent and the performances themselves – especially the efforts put forth by Sterling Hayden (who plays the heroic George), and the industry black-listed, Nedrick Young (who is extremely menacing as the mayor’s main muscle, Crale) are top-notch. The supporting cast is impressive, but these two steal the show, and when they’re together in frame, the appropriate sparks fly.
Whether you’re a western fan or not, you’ve got to give Terror in a Texas Town a very fair shot. It’s an engaging piece of artwork that I’d recommend to anyone who considers themselves a fan of film.