Terror in a Texas Town
DirectorJoseph H. Lewis
Release Date(s)1958 (July 11, 2017)
Studio(s)United Artists/MGM/20th Century Fox (Arrow Academy)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: C+
Terror in a Texas Town made its way to cinemas in 1958 carrying one of many screenplays written by then-blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. The film stars Sterling Hayden as a Swedish farmer named George Hansen, newly-arrived in the United States to take up residence with his father and settle down. However, he soon discovers that his father has been killed, with no witnesses and nobody who will pursue the matter any further. He takes it upon himself to fight back against a local, unsavory gunslinger named Mirada (Victor Millan) and his odious boss McNeil (Sebastian Cabot), the latter of whom is employing Mirada to drive people off of their land so that he can take control of the oil underneath of it.
Although it’s essentially a B-western, the final film of director Joseph H. Lewis, who also directed The Big Combo and Gun Crazy, contains many interesting visual elements and a sense of style in an otherwise retread of the High Noon mythos. For this reason, as well as its harpoon-hurling ending, it stands out a bit more than other cheaply-made westerns of the era. While it features a solid performance from Sterling Hayden, many of the other performances aren’t nearly as strong. The score, which is not much more than constant trumpeting, also seems out of place and doesn’t entirely fit in with the noir-ish aspects of the film. Even so, Terror in a Texas Town is a lean western yarn that plays on clichés, but ditches them in favor of fresher approaches in specific areas.
Arrow Academy’s Blu-ray release is sourced from a 2K restoration from a 35mm fine grain positive element. Other than a mostly bare bones release from MGM on DVD, this is the film’s first major appearance on disc. It’s a fantastic transfer that features solid grain levels and a strong encode. There are high levels of fine detail and texturing on display, on both objects and in close-ups. Delineation is quite good, with deep black levels and strong shadow detailing. Excellent brightness and contrast levels also aid in this cause. Besides being a stable presentation with more information in the frame, often on all edges of it, there’s next to no film damage leftover other than an occasional line running through the frame. The audio is featured on an English mono LPCM track. It too is quite satisfying. Dialogue and score come through quite clearly, while sound effects have decent presence to them. Not an overly busy soundtrack, but clear and precise on the whole. Subtitles in English SDH are also included.
The extras are scant, but there are a couple of interesting tidbits worth checking out. There’s a 12-minute introduction to the film by author Peter Stanfield; Terror in a Texas Town: A Visual Analysis by Peter Stanfield; the film’s theatrical trailer; and a 20-page insert booklet with an essay on the film by Glenn Kenny.
Terror in a Texas Town is one of those underappreciated entries that mainly film and genre buffs appreciate more than most. It’s not a perfect film, but it offers up enough interesting elements to make it one worth pursuing, and in that regard, Arrow Academy’s Blu-ray presentation of it is the best option that money can buy.
- Tim Salmons