Friday, January 4, 2013

A Small Town in Texas (1976)

Man, if this one lived up to its poster, the movie would be killer. Unfortunately, A Small Town in Texas is not the lean, mean exploitation flick one might expect. It awkwardly straddles drive-in sleaziness and legitimate dramatic terrain, and a movie trying to be two things succeeds in being neither. For instance, leading man Timothy Bottoms, a strong presence when playing sensitive souls, is miscast as a rootin’-tootin’ wild man with a penchant for bikes, booze, and brawling, so the actor’s endearing persona is neutralized and the potential of the role is unrealized. When we meet Poke Jackson (Bottoms), he’s just gotten out of jail following a pot bust, and he’s ready for vengeance against Sheriff Duke (Bo Hopkins), the small-town cop who sent Poke up the river. Poke’s grudge against the lawman grows deeper when he realizes that the whole time he’s been in jail, Duke has been courting Poke’s girl, Mary Lee (Susan George). Had that been the whole story, A Small Town in Texas could have been a tidy little package of low-rent nastiness. Yet screenwriter William Norton adds a layer of political corruption that never quite coalesces into a worthwhile subplot, with Duke and rancher C.J. Crane (Morgan Woodward) executing some sort of power grab over their municipality. As a result of this extraneous material, the promising Duke/Poke tension gets dissipated, and poor Mary Lee gets relegated to whimpering while Duke threatens bodily harm against her once-and-future significant other. The action in A Small Town in Texas doesn’t get underway until the 40-minute mark, and even though things eventually become gruesome—beatings, deaths, explosions—the movie never tips over into the gleeful excess of gen-yoo-wine Southern-fried trash cinema. It’s all a bit too restrained, with tasteful widescreen compositions and solid production values, so in the most important particulars (for this sort of picture, that is), A Small Town in Texas fails to impress. (Available as part of the MGM Limited Collection on

A Small Town in Texas: LAME

No comments: