Swedish immigrant George Hansen may speak slowly, but there’s nothing tentative about his quest for justice from the barbed end of a whaling harpoon. He has a score to settle against McNeil, the local grandee who metes out eminent domain through a hired gun, with Hansen’s father only the latest fatality. Shot in ten days by one-time Technicolor specialist Ray Rennahan in a frequently impoverished one-take style that anticipates the involved gaze of Warhol’s films, Terror in a Texas Town is a specimen of terminal cinema without any real equal. No less than Lewis’s The Halliday Brand, Terror in a Texas Town is a Cold War Western with startling subtextual edges. Starring remorseful HUAC informant Sterling Hayden and boasting an uncredited script by the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo, Terror in a Texas Town is the anti-High Noon–a film that takes seriously the possibility of a community uniting against a regime of political violence. It’s also gonzo-and-a-half enough to convince Western-skeptical film fans that something important is missing from their lives. (KW) —Northwest Chicago Film Society
American low-budget filmmaker Joseph H. Lewis began his long screen career editing such Republic serials as The Miracle Rider (1935) and The Undersea Kingdom (1936). Lewis was elevated to director with Courage of the West, a 1937 Universal oater that also marked the debut of crooner Bob Baker. As a director, Lewis would remain in the Western field well into the television era, earning the nickname of “Wagon Wheel Joe” because of a penchant for framing shots through the spokes of a wagon wheel. The moniker was bestowed upon him by fellow B-Western expert Oliver Drake, but unlike Drake, Lewis’ oeuvre managed to stand out in a crowded field, mainly due to careful lighting and other atmospheric touches not often considered sine qua non in low-budget filmmaking. Turning increasingly to thrillers, Lewis later directed Bela Lugosi in one of the veteran screen ghoul’s better later vehicles, Monogram’s The Invisible Ghost (1941), and even more importantly… read more
Just before riding off into the sunset of semi-retirement, B-movie specialist Lewis had one final ace up his sleeve; namely, an offbeat western that ranks amongst his finest work. Hayden is the returning Swedish seaman, rigid in his determination to get to the bottom of the circumstances surrounding his father's death. Brilliantly economical with scenes framed perfectly by a master bowing out with considerable style.
sterling hayden was a genuine seaman who had circumnavigated the globe several times before settling in hollywood and who always claimed he cared nothing for acting, only taking parts to finance his ships and voyages. he may not have killed any whales but he was quite a famous fisherman on the grand banks of newfoundland.