I have been reviewing a good bit of Arrow Video and Arrow Academy lately with still more to come. I’ve had some nice surprises and I have had a couple where the movie just didn’t grab me. When Terror in a Texas Town came to me, I was excited for what was billed as a noir mixed with a western. Like Jean Gremillon, whose film The Love of a Women I just reviewed, this would be director Joseph H. Lewis’ last feature film. Filmed in 10 days, Lewis came out of retirement to help an actor and screenwriter who were blacklisted at the time, knowing that helping them wouldn’t hurt any future projects he was doing since he was out of the game.
The Movie Itself (2.5/5)
I have few pet peeves when watching movies and try to go into each with an open mind. One of my least favorite is when the film opens to a scene that doesn’t occur until much later. I dislike it even in films I enjoy; John Wick is the latest example that comes to mind. Personally it takes a lot of the suspense out of a narrative. No, we don’t expect the main character to not make it until the end of the film, however I don’t see what benefit film makers get out of doing so. You can spend the whole film waiting for that one scene to happen. A similar syndrome seems to be applying to movie trailers that have scenes or characters in them that don’t come until the end of the film.
I have never seen it worse though than Terror in a Texas Town. The opening scene is literally the last 90 seconds of the film with 5 more seconds added at the end. Did I just spoil the whole movie for you? I kept waiting for that part to come and I knew the run-time of the film, so what suspense did I have?
Besides the aforementioned end, the film is rather run of the mill. Stop me if you have heard this plot before, evil baron (McNeil, played by Sebastian Cabot) wants to take land from settlers because it holds some riches, only a lone stranger can go up against them and rally the people together. I actually don’t knock the film for the plot because it is such a standard, unfortunately the execution doesn’t do it any favors. Terror in a Texas Town follows George Hansen (Sterling Hayden ) as he arrives in town and learns of his father’s death. He tries to piece together what happened and who is responsible.
One of the first people he meets, unbeknownst to him, is his father’s murderer Johnny Crale. Crale is a hired gun that apparently enjoys his job and wants to be partners with McNeil. He also lost his right hand and now needs to shoot lefty. The audience is also told his hand is replaced with metal and can knock people out in one blow. Well, none of that matters because it’s never used as a plot device in the future and other than his standing far away and shooting unarmed men, there is pretty much zero action.
The big draw of this film, as you can see the reverse packaging art, seemed to be this giant man and his harpoon versus the quick draw outlaw. For me, Sterling Hayden didn’t add much as a leading man. While a giant imposing figure, his accent and delivery often fell very flat and fake. With almost no action scenes, the interactions and dialogue were needed to carry the film and couldn’t deliver. The main bright spot though, has to be McNeil. Cabot has a great performance as the evil gluttonous land tycoon. With this film being a low budget “B” type Western, some of this can and should be forgiven. However, I think there are much better options out there for lovers of the genre. This film had potential, but hamstrung by a small budget and short run-time I think it won’t be the quirky offbeat western it aspired to be.
Visuals/Picture Quality (4.5/5)
One of the better black and white films I have seen with regards to detail. Contrast is nicely done and rarely things were out of focus. Throughout the film, there are some scenes of stock footage used. Those are noticeably of lower quality, thankfully they are few and far between. You can see the restoration details in the packaging section, a lot of care was put into this film and it works out well. Any fans should be ecstatic with this transfer.
Score/Audio Quality (3.5/5)
Terror in a Texas Town features an English LPCM 2.0 mono track that is suitable for the film though lacking any kind of low end punch. Effects don’t carry much weight, however the trumpet heavy score comes through loud and clear. Dialogue is fairly crisp and has no major issues. Once again like some of the other Arrow releases, there are wrong subtitles. While this one is not as bad as Madhouse, the fact that there are any errors by an English company making English subtitles for an English film still makes me scratch my head.
Special Features (2/5)
Introduction by Peter Stanfield (13:10) A video interview, Stanfield delves into the career of Joseph H. Lewis and a few of the other films he directed. He has some interesting analysis and informs the viewer about some of the behind the scene aspects leading up to the film. Would be a good supplement to the film and is fine to watch prior as a true introduction. No Subtitles
A Visual Analysis (14:14) Peter Stanfield goes through some of the cinematography and what makes a Joseph H. Lewis film. He compares the characters to other westerns and their inspirations could have originated. Worth a watch after the film for some added insights. No Subtitles
- Blu-ray (First Arrow title in awhile w/o the DVD, not that I mind)
- Disc Art
- Reversible Liner
- Clear Non-Eco Case
- Illustrated Collector’s Booklet (First Pressing Only)
- Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
- English: LPCM 2.0
- English SDH
Runtime 80 Mins
Terror in a Texas Town Overall (3/5)
While Terror in a Texas Town wasn’t the western noir I was hoping for, I think that those who already enjoy the film will really like this release. The transfer is overall gorgeous and the audio holds up well enough for most. While a little light on features, Peter Stanfield provides some interesting insights and in some ways hearing them was at times more enjoyable than watching the films itself. Having said that I’m still glad films like this make it to Blu-ray.
Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review and has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.