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Directed by Joseph H. Lewis
USA 1958

I don't know that there is a better way to start a film, western or not, than Joseph E. Lewis' Terror in a Texas Town (the director's last feature production). The noble music informs us of an impending conflict and we see a tall blonde man (soon recognized as Sterling Hayden) marching down the center of an old west main street. Behind him an interested mob follows at a safe distance. Wait - the blonde man is caring something on his shoulder - a rifle? - no - too large. Strange - it looks like... a whaling harpoon?! His unseen nemesis is now facing him - his back to us... taunting, and his gun and holster are easily accessible on his hip.

This low budget masterpiece achieves cult status with morally pigeon-holed, one dimensional characters and enough western conventions to approach a caricature parody... but it easily ranks as the greatest B-western of all time. The sparse exteriors were a function of the budgetary constraints but fit perfectly for the rigid and sparse stylistic composition. A typical western tale of corruption and revenge - one could only imagine how a more extensive and polished financial production would have ill-fit the atmospheric script by Dalton Trumbo (not Ben Perry) and B-master Lewis' uncompromising style that approaches an Ophuls-like exaggeration. One of the genre's best hidden gems.

***

For his 41st and final feature film, Joseph H. Lewis was able to combine the two genres in which he had excelled. The man in the director s chair for My Name is Julia Ross, Gun Crazy and The Big Combo, Lewis was one of the all-time greats in film noir. But he was also a fine director of Westerns, having made A Lawless Street, 7th Cavalry and The Halliday Brand, all of which especially the last remain underrated. Terror in a Texas Town would bring his noir sensibilities to the American West, resulting in one of his finest works.

McNeil (Sebastian Cabot, The Time Machine) is a greedy hotel owner who wants to take control of Prairie City, the Texas town of the title. Keen to drive the local farmers of their land, McNeil hires a gunman, Johnny Crale (Nedrick Young, who would pen the Oscar-winning screenplay for The Defiant Ones the same year), resulting in the death of a former whaler. The dead man s son, George Hansen (Sterling Hayden, The Killing), arrives in town to inherit the farm and set the stage for revenge armed with only his father s old harpoon...

Terror in a Texas Town was written by Dalton Trumbo, one of the Hollywood Ten blacklisted by the film industry and forced to write under pseudonyms or to use fronts . Two years before he helped break the blacklist with on-screen credits for Otto Preminger's Exodus and Stanley Kubrick 's Spartacus, his work was credited to Ben Perry, but it demonstrates a psychological depth and political dimension that is undoubtedly that of Trumbo.

 

  Poster

 

Theatrical Release: September 1958

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Comparison:

MGM - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 

1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT

2) Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

Box Covers

  

  

  

Arrow's Blu-ray package is also available in the UK:

Distribution MGM Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC Arrow Video - Region FREE - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:20:48  1:20:39.459 
Video 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.49 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 31,601,463,974 bytes

Feature: 23,631,630,912 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 34.97 Mbps

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Bitrate Blu-ray:

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0)  LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Subtitles English, French, Spanish, None English (SDH), none
Features

Release Information:
Studio: MGM Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1

Edition Details:

• Trailer (1:55)

DVD Release Date: May 20th, 2003

Keep Case
Chapters: 16

Release Information:
Studio: Arrow Video

 

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 31,601,463,974 bytes

Feature: 23,631,630,912 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 34.97 Mbps

 

Edition Details:

• Introduction by Peter Stanfield, author of Hollywood, Westerns and the 1930s: The Lost Trail and Horse Opera: The Strange History of the Singing Cowboy (13:10)
• Scene-select commentaries by Stanfield (14:14)
• Theatrical trailer (1:55)
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Vladimir Zimakov
• FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing by Glenn Kenny

 

Blu-ray Release Date: July 10th-11th, 2017
Transparent
Blu-ray case

Chapters 12

 

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray June 2017: This is being simultaneously released by Arrow on Blu-ray in both Region 'A' + 'B'. Regarding differences in the US and UK Blu's - This appears to be as Michael Brooke informed us on Facebook about Day of Anger: 'As the producer of Arrow's release, I can confirm first hand that the UK and US discs are absolutely identical: we only paid for one master, so there's no doubt about this at all! Which means that no matter which package you buy, the discs will play in any Region A or B setup (or Region 1 or 2 for DVD - and in the latter case the video standard is NTSC, to maximise compatibility). The booklets are also identical, but there are minor cosmetic differences on the disc labels and sleeve to do with differing copyright info and barcodes, and the US release doesn't have BBFC logos.'

Firstly, this IS one of the TOP 100 Westerns on Blu-ray - see our list HERE. The Arrow (advertised as being a 'Brand-new 2K restoration from original film elements produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release'.) It offers a, dual-layered, max'ed out bitrate, 1080P transfer looking an obvious darker than the SD with immensely better grain structure support. The 2003 DVD looks to have some minor boosting beside the arrow 1080P which also shows more information in the frame - notably on the right, and left edges of the frame. It is still in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, looks a shade dusty but we presume this to be more theatrically accurate and the grain is very pleasing. It looks wonderful in-motion.

We get a linear PCM mono track (24-bit) sounding tight and clear with some buoyant effects. The, heavy trumpet, score by Gerald Fried (The Vampire, A Killer in the Family, The Baby, and Kubrick's films Fear and Desire, Killer's Kiss, The Killing and Paths of Glory as well as venturing later into work in TV - Star Trek - and also did the music for I Bury the Living) has a lighter mood - especially in the early scenes with the character of George Hansen. As tension builds, the score shifts and sounds strong in the uncompressed. There are optional English (SDH) subtitles offered and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE. 

Arrow add some appealing new extras starting with an introduction by Peter Stanfield, author of Hollywood, Westerns and the 1930s: The Lost Trail and Horse Opera: The Strange History of the Singing Cowboy running just over 13-minutes. He also gives us a 14-minute scene-select commentary by Stanfield which is excellent in identifying themes and background. Great analysis. There is a theatrical trailer and the package has a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Vladimir Zimakov and for the first pressing consumers get an illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing by Glenn Kenny.

Well... Terror in a Texas Town has taken on mythical status in Western film lore advancing well beyond its 'B' status roots. It;s simple, cool and has a exaggerated edge.  AS Jonathan Rosenbaum writes, for his DVDBeaver article "A Dozen Eccentric Westerns"  'Terror in a Texas Town is singular both for its unabashed anticapitalist theme—-it was written pseudonymously by the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo, who used Ben Perry as a front--and for some of the worst acting ever to be found in a good movie (check out especially Nedrick Young as the gunslinger heavy). But I hasten to add that Sterling Hayden, the star, is exceptionally fine. He plays a peaceable Swedish seaman from the east who turns up in the very corrupt title town to visit his father, a farmer, only to find that he’s just been coldbloodedly gunned down. Stalking the killer with a harpoon instead of a rifle, he cuts a formidable figure.' This Arrow Blu-ray package is strongly recommended!

 -Gary

***

ON THE DVD The grain is quite thick and there is a lot dirt on most of this MGM image but it holds together for an acceptable, if unremarkable, transfer. There is a black bar circumventing the frame limiting the horizontal resolution on this 1.85:1 aspect ratio film. The 2.0 audio is consistent and clear and the optional subtitles are a disgusting bright yellow. Only a trailer surfaces as an extra feature. Weak, if standard fare from MGM but the film and price makes it an essential DVD - western fan or not.  

Gary W. Tooze

 


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1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

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1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

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1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


Recommended Reading for Western Genre Fans (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)

 

10,000 Ways to Die: A Director's Take on the Spaghetti Western
by Alex Cox

The Philosophy of the Western
by Jennifer L. McMahon Ph.D. and B. Steve Csaki

Sergio Leone: Something to Do with Death
by Christopher Frayling

The Western Reader
by Gregg Rickman and Jim Kitses

Spaghetti Westerns: Cowboys and Europeans from Karl May to Sergio Leone
by Christopher Frayling

The Crowded Prairie: American National Identity in the Hollywood Western (Cinema and Society)
by Michael Coyne

The Invention of the Western Film : A Cultural History of the Genre's First Half Century (Genres in American Cinema S.)
by Scott Simmon

The Searchers (Bfi Film Classics)
by Edward Buscombe

The Western Genre
by John Saunders
 

 

Any Gun Can Play: The Essential Guide to Euro-Westerns
by Kevin Grant
 

Spaghetti Westerns
by Howard Hughes
 

Western Movies: A Guide to 5,105 Feature Films
by Michael R. Pitts
 

Westerns: Films through History (AFI Film Readers)
by Janet Walker
 

The Noir Western: Darkness on the Range 1943-1962
by David Meuel

The Encyclopedia of Westerns (The Facts on File Film Reference Library)
by Herb Fagen, Tom Selleck

Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America
by Richard Slotkin

The Western (Inside Film)
by David Lusted

Red River (Bfi Film Classics)
by Suzanne Liandrat-Guigues

Check out more in "The Library"


 

Box Covers

  

  

  

Arrow's Blu-ray package is also available in the UK:

Distribution MGM Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC Arrow Video - Region FREE - Blu-ray




 

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