6.8/10
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37 user 37 critic

Terror in a Texas Town (1958)

Not Rated | | Drama, Western | 25 August 1958 (USA)
A Swedish whaler is out for revenge when he finds out that a greedy oil man murdered his father for their land.

Director:

Joseph H. Lewis

Writers:

Dalton Trumbo, Ben Perry (front for Dalton Trumbo) (as Ben L. Perry)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Sterling Hayden ... George Hansen
Sebastian Cabot ... McNeil
Carol Kelly Carol Kelly ... Molly
Eugene Mazzola ... Pepe (as Eugene Martin)
Nedrick Young ... John Crale (as Ned Young)
Victor Millan Victor Millan ... Mirada
Frank Ferguson ... Deacon Matt Holmes
Marilee Earle ... Mona Stacey
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Storyline

Sven Hanson is one of a number of farmers whom Ed McNeil wants to run off their land (because he knows there's oil on it). When Hanson is murdered by McNeil's gunman, Johnny Crale, Hanson's friend Pepe Mirada hides his knowledge of the murderer's identity in order to protect his family. When Hanson's son George arrives and takes up his father's cause, not only Mirada but also Johnny Crale begin to reevaluate their attitudes. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

HARPOON against SIX-GUN! A savage duel! See more »

Genres:

Drama | Western

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Spanish

Release Date:

25 August 1958 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Hard as Nails See more »

Filming Locations:

Santa Clarita, California, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$80,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Seltzer Films See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (DVD)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This was the final feature film for director Joseph H. Lewis. He would spend much of the next decade directing television episodes before retiring from the industry. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Cinemania (2002) See more »

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User Reviews

 
The Whaler and the Western.
21 November 2009 | by SpikeopathSee all my reviews

Joseph H. Lewis was something of a B movie king, with his best directorial efforts coming via Westerns and film noir. After this Sterling Hayden starrer he signed off from Hollywood for good, as a legacy it's difficult to say if it's a fitting point of reference to Lewis and his talents, or entirely apt for his career? It's an often quirky, even bizarre, picture that manages through its surreal like tendencies to detract from its formulaic Western plot.

Set in Prairie City, Texas, the tale revolves around George Hanson (Hayden), a Swedish whaler who after 19 years away, returns to Prairie to find his father has been murdered. As he delves deeper with a staunch undaunted determination, he finds that the law is corrupt and a horrible land baron called McNeil (Sebastian Cabot), aided by gunslinger for hire Johnny Crale (Ned Young), is behind his fathers death. It appears there is oil in the land and McNeil is using force to buy up the land at ridiculously cheap prices. But if he thought George was going to be forgiving? Or going to be easily frightened? Well he and Crale are in for some big shocks.

Shot in stark black and white, Lewis' film throws up the always interesting conflict between homespun virtue and greedy evil. There's compelling villains and some nicely drawn characterisations for the decent citizens of the town, such as those who are on the periphery of the protagonists struggle (note Victor Millan's poor Mexican farmer and Carol Kelly's downbeat girlfriend of Crale).

What of Hayden, though? It's a fascinating performance, where saddled with the task of trying to do a Swedish accent, and wearing a suit a size too short for him, it's difficult to know if he is in tune with the off-kilter nature of the film, or he's just on robotic auto- pilot while Lewis chuckles to himself off camera. Either way Hayden gives us a character to root for with our every breath. Hanson is a bastion of good and well meaning, we ache for him to outdo the lobster eating land baron and the metal clawed outlaw.

There's some controversy in the tid-bids here. The script was credited to Ben Perry, but actually was written by Dalton Trumbo who was blacklisted. Hayden, although not blacklisted, appeared before the House of Un-American Activities Committee and simultaneously admitted past communist affiliations and named names. Lewis was not involved in the unsavoury chapter but was a close friend of Ned Young, who was blacklisted for taking the fifth, but whose impact on the film was to not only be in it, but to also be instrumental in getting Lewis to direct it. Boy was that an interesting time in American history.

Stylish, odd and certainly different, Terror In A Texas Town has enough about it to make it worthy of a night in. And it gets better on repeat viewings once you buy into the kookiness. 7.5/10


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