Arrow Academy’s ‘Terror In A Texas Town’ Re-Issue Is Anything But A Terror

Courtesy: Arrow Academy/United Artists

Late this past July, independent movie company Arrow Academy re-issued the little-known classic Western flick Terror in a Texas Town on Blu-ray.  While perhaps not the most well-known offering from the “Western World,” it is in fact a movie that Western fans and cinephiles alike will appreciate.  That statement applies regardless of audiences’ familiarity with the movie.  This is due in part to the movie’s central story, which will be discussed shortly.  The work of the movie’s cast plays its own part in the movie’s enjoyability and will be discussed later.  The bonus material included in the movie’s recent re-issue rounds out its most important elements.  Each element is important in its own right to the re-issue’s overall presentation.  All things considered, they make Arrow Academy’s re-issue of Terror in a Texas Town anything but a terror.

Arrow Academy’s recent re-issue of United Artists’ 1958 Western Terror in a Texas Town is a work that is anything but a terror.  Yes, that awful pun was fully intended.  That statement is supported in part through the movie’s story.  Written by Dalton Trumbo, the movie’s story follows a relatively familiar plot yet does so with a few alterations to that all too familiar plot.  Trumbo’s story follows protagonist George Hansen (Sterling Hayden—The Godfather, Dr. Strangelove, The Asphalt Jungle) as he sets out to avenge his father’s death.  In the way of that vengeance is the standard evil businessman/landowner McNeill (Sebastian Cabot—The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh, The Jungle Book, The Sword in the Stone) and his henchman, Johnny Crale (Nedrick Young—Inherit The Wind, The Defiant Ones, Jailhouse Rock).  One of the most notable variations incorporated into this story is that Hansen comes in not as the incoming Sheriff who typically fights the bad guys, but a man from another land.  This element is discussed more in-depth in the bonus material and will be touched on later.  In other words, this story isn’t the standard man in white versus the man in black story.  It is just a man who wants justice and (not to give away too much here) gets it without going around the town shooting all the bad guys.  That in itself is another variant that can’t be ignored here.  Along with those variants, audiences will also notice that the underlying romance subplot that is all too common in so many other is absent from this story, too.  Its absence here makes the story all the more engaging for audiences, proving even more that a good story doesn’t necessarily need all of the clichés of a genre to be enjoyable.  The fact that Trumbo left so many Western clichés out of this story, opting instead for something more directed and focused also played positively into the movie’s roughly 80-minute run time, ensuring even more audiences’ maintained engagement.  What’s more, the lack of those clichés also is obviously what led to the movie’s 80-minute run time.  If all those unnecessary items had been added to the story, it likely would have been far longer in terms of its run time and even less well-known.  Keeping all of this in mind, it becomes clear why the story at the center of Terror in a Texas Town is such an important part of the movie’s whole.  It also becomes clear why the story is so entertaining and engaging from start to finish.  With this in mind, the movie’s story is only one of its most important elements.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to discuss as its story.

The work of the cast in Terror in a Texas Town is so critical to the movie’s overall presentation because the cast’s work is just as simple as the story.  This is not a bad thing, either.  From Hayden’s confidence as George Hansen to Cabot’s diabolical McNeill and even to Young’s work as Johnny Crale, and beyond, every cast member here does just enough to make their characters believable.  Audiences will be especially moved by the subtlety in Young’s portrayal of Crale as Crale clearly is struggling internally with who he is and was.  The way that Young handle’s Crale, there almost seems to be a hint that Crale doesn’t like being a hired gun anymore and has second thoughts about what he is doing despite convincing himself in the end of his place.  Even in the case of Cabot and Hayden, their performances are spot on.  Cabot, even in his few on-screen appearances still manages to make audiences know McNeill is the evil businessman without going over the top in doing so.  Hayden echoes hints of Gary Cooper (which is also discussed in the re-issue’s bonus material) in his simplistic approach.  Between all of this and the work of the rest of the movie’s cast, so much can be such of the cast’s work, all of it positive.  Audiences will see that for themselves when they check out this movie for themselves.  Keeping this in mind, it becomes clear why the work of this movie’s cast is just as important to its presentation as the movie’s story.  It still is not the last of the movie’s most important elements.  The bonus material included in its recent re-issue rounds out its most important elements.

The bonus material featured in Arrow Academy’s recent re-issue of Terror in a Texas Town includes an in-depth introduction to the movie and an analysis of its cinematography from author Peter Stanfield.  Stanfield, known best for his book Hollywood, Westerns and the 1930s—The Lost Trail and Horse Opera: The Strange History of the Singing Cowboy, explains what makes Terror in a Texas Town so many other Westerns and what also sets it apart from those flicks.  Audiences learn through Stanfield’s discussions that while Trumbo’s story was, on its outermost level a Western, it was on a deeper level, an allegory about personal freedoms.  This is key as he connects it to the impact of Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunt on Trumbo, Hayden and even Young.  This discussion alone adds so much more depth to the movie’s overall presentation.  Stanfield’s discussion on Trumbo’s balance of classic Western elements with his own writing style here adds yet more depth to the movie’s presentation as does his discussion on director Joseph H. Lewis’ stylistic approach to the movie behind the lens.  This is a discussion that any film production student and lover will appreciate.  When these and other discussions included in the re-issue’s bonus material is considered in whole, they prove collectively to be just as critical to the movie’s presentation as the movie’s story and the work of its actors.  Collectively, those bonus discussions, the movie’s story and the cast’s work show Terror in a Texas Town to be a work that Western fans and movie history buffs alike will appreciate.  That is even despite the movie being one of the lesser-known entries in the “Western world.”  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on this and other titles from Arrow Academy is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://arrowfilms.co.uk

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ArrowAcademy

 

 

 

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Suddenly Re-Issue Another Welcome Remnant Of Hollywood’s Golden Age

Courtesy:  Image Entertainment

Courtesy: Image Entertainment/United Artists

Almost half a century ago, the United States suffered one of the worst tragedies of the twentieth century.  That tragedy was the assassination of then President John F. Kennedy.  Conspiracy theories aside, what many people might not know is that according to author Kitty Kelley, it was Sinatra’s 1954 movie, Suddenly that was the alleged influence behind Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassination of then President John F. Kennedy.  According to her bio on the singer, His Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra, Oswald allegedly watched the movie the day before he changed history.  As a result of this accusation, the movie was pulled for years before it was finally allowed back into the public realm.  And now audiences can see how Suddenly may have played a role in that dark day for themselves as it has been re-issued on Blu-ray by Image Entertainment.

Suddenly is hardly the longest movie ever made.  But that’s not a bad thing, either.  In a time when it seems like so many movie studios seem to be competing with one another to see who can make the longest possible story, this movie comes in at a little less than ninety minutes.  Throughout the course of its hour and fifteen minute run time, audiences are kept engaged thanks to the growing tension between Sinatra’s psychopathic ex-military officer John Baron and Sterling Hayden’s clean cut fellow ex-military officer Sheriff Tod Shaw.  Much like 12 Angry Men which wouldn’t see the light of day for another three years, what really heightens the story’s tension is that the majority of the story takes place in a limited set.  This is a minor factor to some audiences.  But in viewing the movie from a more analytical vantage point, it’s a factor that plays a much larger factor.  Understanding this makes the movie that much more interesting and worth the watch.  Add in the understanding of the controversy surrounding the movie, and audiences get a movie that is that much more intriguing, underappreciated, and worth the watch.

A single viewing of Suddenly shows how Lee Harvey Oswald could easily have been influenced to commit a copy-cat act.  But it’s not necessarily the attempted act in question that will have audiences talking after watching.  If anything it’s Baron’s (Sinatra) comment late in the movie that he wasn’t the one committing the act.  Rather he was doing it for someone else, purely for the money.  Baron told Sheriff Shaw that he didn’t know for whom he was working and didn’t care to know, either.  If anything this brief moment will surely re-ignite the discussions between conspiracy theorists about whether or not Oswald worked alone.  On another level, it serves as one more example of the possible power of media to influence real life.  Should there be any credence to the influence of Suddenly on Oswald’s actions, it can be just as strongly used as another warning to the media in regards to taking responsibility for the potential impact of what is written for TV shows and movies.

Getting back to the story behind Suddenly as art.  Writer Richard Sale accomplished quite the feat with this movie.  It wastes no time establishing the story’s plot and its cast.  As a result of this quickness, the rest of the story is spent in just a few rooms of a house.  For most film makers and script writers today, limiting a story to so few sets would prove a mind twist, so to speak.  That’s because so many of today’s movies rely more on flash-boom-bang special effects and overt sexuality to drive their stories.  But for Sale, his writing was solely story based.  It allowed for more tension between Sinatra and Hayden.  And that tension is what keeps audiences so engaged.  There was obviously some chemistry between the two as they expertly played off of one another throughout the story making it increasingly emotional.  The chemistry between the two men made for a movie that was entirely enthralling; so much so that it’s ironic that it wasn’t Hayden whose character was ultimately responsible for the movie’s final outcome.  That outcome won’t be ruined for those who haven’t yet seen it.  But it is an ending that has quite the twist in and of itself.  It’s a twist that will leave audiences completely breathless after everything that had happened through the course of this underrated thriller.  That twist ending is the icing on the cake for Sale’s writing here.  And combined with the equally expert acting of both Hayden and Sinatra (and their supporting cast), it all comes together for a movie that is at the same time underrated and underappreciated.  And now that it’s available once more on Blu-ray, it’s a movie that every movie lover should see at least once.

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