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:
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