The Most Beautiful Fraud: Terror In A Texas Town

by Leonard Pierce

Joseph H. Lewis’ reputation was built on his ability to create surprisingly artful films out of extremely base material, transforming ultra-low budgets and relatively unknown casts into movies that, if they weren’t cinematic classics, were at least far better than they had any right to be. Responsible for two of the least-known and best-made post-war noir thrillers — Gun Crazy and The Big Combo — he never made anything that wasn’t B-movie filler, but his ambition and talent led him to stretch his films in the direction of A-movie ambition. Terror in a Texas Town, for all its small virtues, isn’t anywhere near on the level of those two films; it’s mostly notable for its gimmicky final showdown, its lead performance from Sterling Hayden, and its status as the last movie made by Lewis before he retired from the big screen and worked in television for the rest of his career. But it’s worth a viewing, even if it doesn’t rank with his finest films, because it displays that same quality of ambition on the cheap that marks those movies.

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