December 9th, 2013: Terror in a Texas Town

What It’s About: George Hansen (Sterling Hayden) marches towards the center of a Western town with a harpoon and squares off against Johnny Crale (Nedrick Young), a man in black armed with the more traditional choice for a shoot-out. Terror in a Texas Town begins with this powerful image, then flashes back to its story.  Sleazy business man Ed McNeil (Sebastian Cabot) is running off homesteaders from valuable land. Only former whaler Sven Hansen (Ted Stanhope) and Jose Mirada (Victor Millan) decide to stick it out.  McNeil hires Crale (a longtime hired gun with a metal right hand who’s learned to shoot lefty) to kill Hansen as an example.  Hansen tries to defend himself, but an old man with a harpoon is no match for a man with a gun.  Hansen’s son George arrives in town sometime later to gain his inheritance and find out what happened to his father-but can he discover the truth behind McNeil’s scheme and Crale’s murder before it’s too late?

Why Watch it Today?:  Dalton Trumbo, the writer who was one of the Hollywood Ten blacklisted for their leftist politics in the Communist paranoid 1950s, was born on this date in 1905.  Trumbo wrote the script for Terror in a Texas Town but his front Ben Parry was credited.  Cult director Joseph H. Lewis (of Gun Crazy and Big Combo fame) directed this bizarre tale of a corrupt businessman hoping to make a bundle by hustling land owners off their oil rich land and the immigrant whalers (could the fact that their industry was behind the last oil boom tie into the political content of this movie?) and Hispanic Americans who fight his disfigured hired gun.  Terror in a Texas Town never quite lives up to that amazing (and incongruous) first scene largely due to budget limitations and some of the casting, but it’s worth a look for Western fans looking for something very different and those wondering if there were perhaps precursors to all those wild touches in the next decade’s Spaghetti Westerns.

No trailer, but check out the opening, even if you don’t intend to watch the film:

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