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Terror in a Texas Town

3.3 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Sterling Hayden (Dr. Strangelove) turns in "a brilliant performance" (The Hollywood Reporter) as a peace-loving Swedish seaman who's forced to take on an entire frontier town in this compelling and startlingly imaginative western. When George Hansen (Hayden) arrives in Prairie City, Texas, to help manage his family's fledgling farm, he finds that his father has been mysteriously murdered and no one in townnot even the sheriffplans to do anything about it! Determinedto track down the killer himself, Hansen learns that a ruthless oil prospector and his vicious group of hired guns have been forcing immigrant farmers to sell their mineral-rich landor pay for it with their lives. Despite crooked lawmen, brutal ambushes and terrorized townsfolk, Hansen tracks down his father's killer and faces off against the enemy in a remarkable showdown, reminiscent of High Noon, that's one of the most original and dramatic action sequences ever filmed.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Sterling Hayden, Sebastian Cabot, Carol Kelly, Eugene Mazzola, Nedrick Young
  • Directors: Joseph H. Lewis
  • Writers: Ben Perry, Dalton Trumbo
  • Producers: Carrol Sax, Frank N. Seltzer
  • Format: Anamorphic, Black & White, Closed-captioned, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Dubbed: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: United Artists
  • DVD Release Date: May 20, 2003
  • Run Time: 80 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00008PX7G
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,160 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Terror in a Texas Town" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Steven Hellerstedt on June 3, 2005
Format: DVD
Dressed in a squared-off bowler, a wool jacket that doesn't cover his wrists, a stubby tie and sporting a painfully off-key Swedish accent, Sterling Hayden is an unlikely western hero. That ten-foot steel tipped harpoon he carries around doesn't help to buff the image much, either. Then again TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN is an unlikely western. Scripted by blacklisted Hollywood writer Dalton Trumbo (Ben Perry received credit), it's ostensibly about a land robber (Sebastian Cabot as Ed McNeil) using means fair and foul (Ned Young as hired-gun Johnny Crale) to buy out the homesteaders in the small community of Prairie City, Texas. It's also about standing united against injustice, and not letting fear conquer integrity.

Hayden's George Hansen comes to the Prairie City after twenty years at sea to reunite with his father and help him on the farm the elder Hansen built in his absence. It was a farm coveted by McNeil as well, and hired goon Crale saw to the "Or else" part when McNeil's offer to buy it from the elder Hansen was rebuffed. The cowed community is too intimidated by McNeil to stand up to him, strength in unity or not. It's up to the foreign outsider to discover who murdered his father - the McNeil owned sheriff isn't going to tell, and the otherwise good folks don't want to get involved.

I'm not usually a great fan of the message westerns of the fifties. However noble it was to fight McCarthyism, it doesn't usually make for an interesting story - too many cowardly and townspeople for my tastes, too self-righteous a tone. Half the time I find myself rooting for the bad guy. TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN is all that, to be sure, but the acting is generally strong, the musical score is interesting, and the pace doesn't relax too much.
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Format: VHS Tape
If this is not a cult film I don�t know what one is. The opening scene of Sterling Hayden walking down the main street of a Western town with harpoon in-hand to meet a gunman clad in black is just so offbeat one finds it difficult not to be enthralled and immediately immersed into the story. Hayden seems to have been breed for these types of films but with his pseudo-Swedish accent it just makes it all the more bizarre. Even more bizarre is Nedrick Young�s portrayal of Johnny Crale the gunman in black. Now working for Ed McNeil (Sebastian Cabot) we learn that Crale had his right hand blown off and had it replaced with a steel one. Crale must now use his left hand to do his shooting which has diminished his skills. Basically Ed McNeil has hired gunman Crale to buy out or kill all the local landowners in town. What is really offbeat his how gunman Crale confronts each landowner and explains to each one his own perverse code of conduct and how he must carry out his duties as a gunman. Victor Millan as farmer Jose Mirada will not beg for his life and he explains it is his duty to die in dignity at the hand of Crale. Eventually Hayden the Swedish seaman must face Crale in probably the most bizarre and offbeat shootout ever filmed. I had not seen this film in over forty years until recently but I never forgot the incredible finale. Under Joseph H. Lewis� direction it is style and offbeat characterizations that sets this film apart from its rather ordinary plot. Even the score by composer Gerald Fried is rather contradictory and strangely upbeat in some scenes. This is definitely a low budget film but a very effective one.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Writer Dalton Trumbo was one of the infamous Hollywood 10, that list of 10 Hollywood screenwriters whose political leanings got them blacklisted, jailed and kicked out of a guild they helped create. Hollywood did to them what the Germans did the "degenerate artists" twenty years before. Trumbo was probably the best of these writers and wrote a mind boggling number of excellent scripts, from his bathtub, as he smoked through 6 packs of cigarettes with his parrot on his shoulder, cheering him on. Only such an eccentric original could have fashioned Terror in a Texas Town (1958). Team Trumbo with B-movie maestro Joseph "Wagon Wheel" H. Lewis and a cast of idiosyncratic character actors and you get a peach of movie such as this.

Trumbo wasn't the only victim of the HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) associated with this film. Actors Ned Young and Sterling Hayden were also called before the committee. Young was also a screenwriter. Jailhouse Rock (1957), The Defiant Ones(1958), Inherit the Wind (1960), and The Train (1964) are among his credits, most of which he wrote under pseudonyms. Young refused to cooperate with the HUAC and was blacklisted as well. Hayden caved into the committee and gave them what they wanted, which cost him much in the long run. All this has given Terror in a Texas Town a cult status as a quirky reaction to the HUAC. The reputation is well-deserved.

The film opens to George Fried's bizarre score as Swede George Hansen (Sterling Hayden) walks down a dirt road in the middle of Prairie City, Texas. George is mad as hell, he means business and he's carrying a big whaling harpoon over his shoulder to prove it. George is followed by bloodthirsty, local farmers who are mad as hell, too.
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