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  • Though he will doubtless be remembered as a master of creepy schlock for the pubescent audience which emerged in the late 1950s and early 1960s, William Castle directed half a dozen noirs. His first, and probably his best, was Betrayed, aka When Strangers Marry, but Johnny Stool Pigeon and Undertow have their admirers, too. His last noir, The Houston Story, doesn't number among his best, but it too has its moments.

    Wildcatter Gene Barry has ambitions that go beyond collecting his paycheck for working on the oil rigs. He dreams up a scheme for siphoning off oil from the big pipelines and selling it to fly-by-night distributors or foreign interests. He approaches Edward Arnold, local boss of a sinister "combine" based in St. Louis, who goes for the plan (meanwhile planning to dispose of Barry once the oil and the money start flowing). It turns out Barry is a bit smarter and more ruthless than he seemed; forty years later, he would have been a vice-president (at least) of Enron.

    Along with his slithering around to evade the various minions of the complicated syndicate, he finds romantic complications as well. On the right shoulder sits good-gal Jeanne Cooper, waitress in an eatery called The Derrick. But on the left side is Temptation, in the person of Barbara Hale. Identified almost entirely with her television role as Perry Mason's loyal and efficient Girl Friday Della Street, Hale displays an unsuspected side to her talents. Gussied up in strapless gowns and a platinum "Italian" crop, she plays a shantoozie kept by a racketeer. Of course, she falls for Barry (well, sort of) and he for her (again, sort of). She's also the most memorable thing in this watchable but confusing and derivative film.
  • Every time I see this movie, I can't prevent myself to think of another thriller from the 50's: "711 Ocean Drive", a little masterpiece directed by Joseph M Newman.

    The topic is nearly the same. A "honest" worker becomes greedy, ambitious, ruthless and implicates himself with gangsters, planning to take over crime syndicate. In this case, it concerns stealing oil.I find it unusual. A man who is not a thug at the beginning, that's the most interesting. Of course, what happens next is predictable.

    Gene Barry gives us a pretty brilliant performance.

    I recommend it. Catch it if you can.
  • Gene Barry works in the Texas oil fields but he's got other plans... He's come up with a plan to steal oil from the fields and sell it on the grey market. To get the plan financed, he identifies a jane doe suicide as the former name of torch singer Barbara Hale, who knows the local underground. Not wanting trouble, she gives in, and Barry meets up with local boss Edward Arnold and his #1 man, Paul Richards. They agree to the plan, and soon Barry is rolling in money. But Barry wants to climb higher in the organisation, while Arnold and Richards want to get rid of him.

    Lee J. Cobb was originally planned to play the lead role, but I really can't imagine him in this role. Barry ('Naked Alibi') does a great job and also has nice chemistry with Hale ('The Clay Pigeon'), who is an almost unrecognizable platinum blonde femme fatale here. The rest of the cast are good, but it's Barry and Hale who excel here. Hale even pulls off a convincing 'Put The Blame On Mame', altho she's no Rita Hayworth.

    A bit of a derivative story (and title), but who cares when it's executed this well. This was director William Castle's last noir ('Johnny Stool Pigeon', 'New Orleans Uncensored') and he keeps things interesting, aided by some nice cinematography by Henry Freulich ('Chicago Syndicate', 'The Miami Story'). I was more than pleasantly surprised by this late noir. Recommended! 8/10
  • Houston Story, The (1956)

    *** (out of 4)

    Gene Barry plays an ambitious oil worker who gets involved with a Mob boss (Edward Arnold) because he hopes to work his way up. Barry comes up with a way to steal about $5 million in oil each year but he soon learns there's always a way to get yourself knocked off. Here's another gem that rarely gets talk about and even though the thing starts to get dragged out towards the end, this is still highly entertaining. Castle is best known for his horror films but this is perhaps the best directed film I've seen from him. He does a great job with the visual style of the film and I'd also add that he handles all the action quite well. It certainly doesn't hurt that Barry turns in a remarkable performance. He is so incredibly good in the role and believable because you can't help but feel his desire to succeed in not only his body language but also his voice. You can even look into his eyes and see his passion for making money. Arnold is also very good in his supporting role of the Mob boss. Barbara Hale, Paul Richards and Jeanne Cooper are also good in their work. Apparently Lee J. Cobb started out in the lead role but suffered a heart attack so he can be seen in a few of the medium shots. Apparently Castle filled in for him during the long shots before Barry eventually took over the role. When people mention film noir this film often gets overlooked and while it's not a masterpiece of the genre it's still a very entertaining little gem that's worth checking out.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    (Some Spoilers) Sizzling but very complicated crime thriller involving former Galveston oil driller Frank Duncan, Gene Barry, cooking up this plan to siphon off oil from the Huston oil fields. Duncan plans to accomplish all this by using a dummy oil company as his cover. Needing 5 million dollars to get his plan into motion Duncan strikes oil in tracking down his former oil drilling foreman Joe Hempner's two-timing wife Carrie. Carrie who dropped out of sight has now resurfaced in using the name of nightclub singer Zoe Crane, Barbara Hale, in Huston Texas.

    As it turned out Zoe faked her own death and started a new life as a nightclub singer and mistress of top Huston hoodlum Paul Atlas, Edward Arnold. By becoming a member of Atlas' gang Duncan can not only get the cash he needs to start his oil stealing operation but take over Atlas' organization from within. This all takes a lot of planning but Duncan has all his bases covered except his own greed and that in the end does him in. By him double-crossing not only Atlas but even the one person who would lay her life down for the selfish and ungrateful Duncan the girl he left behind, in Galveston Texas, the Derrick Diner waitress Made, Jenne Cooper.

    Duncan slowly worms his way up the Atlas mob ranks by not only getting his head honcho Gordon Shay, Paul Richards, to get caught in a purposely setup oil rig bombing adventure. That was in revenge for Shay earlier having an oil trucker murdered that he stupidly tried to frame Duncan with. This has the head men of the national crime syndicate Emile Constant, John Zaremba, who greatly dislikes violence, he feel it's bad for business, have Shay unceremoniously dumped as Atlas' head man.

    Caught red-handed in his grenade attacks on a number of oil rigs Shay fingers his boss Atlas not knowing that it was Duncan, not Atlas, who had him set up in the blotched bombings! Atlas himself ends up being gunned down by the police with Shay, feeling that Atlas doubled-crossed him, turning the tables on him by turning evidence in order to save his hide and stick it to his now on he run, from he law, boss. Constant, the non-violent one, now realizing that Duncan is threatening his very existence as a national crime boss gives into his fears of ending up behind bars and orders a hit on Duncan in order to save himself and his now collapsing crime syndicate.

    ***SPOILERS***The hit on Duncan by out of state-from St. Louis- hit men Kalo & Stokes, Pete Kellett & Charles H. Gray, backfires with them killing the wrong person-Zoe Crane-who tried to leave town with Duncans $25,000.00. This alerted Duncon of not only their intentions, of whacking him, but their identities as well. Duncan who by now had gotten way over his head could only throw in the towel, or throw away his handgun, knowing that his plan to live the good life, on stolen and pilfered oil money, was just a pipe dream. In the end Duncan finally listened to his girlfriend Madge whom he tried to use without her knowledge as a human shield, in protecting his own sorry a**, in her telling him to call it quites and face the music. That's before the pursuing Galveston police force who had him trapped in the Derrick Dner blows him to pieces.
  • The Houston Story is a slightly formulaic yet very entertaining film from William Castle of The House on Haunted Hill and The Tingler fame. The movie is about a young, ambitious oil-driller who involves himself with organized crime and double crosses his way to the top of his respective racket. Gene Barry turns out a solid performance as well as Perry Mason veteran Barbara Hale, who plays the femme fatale to a tee, always following the money and the man in charge. Hale is introduced in a very enjoyable song act that did the job of conveying her character as well as,if not better than, the writing did.

    Despite a few predictable scenes and some forced writing, The Houston Story is a thoroughly enjoyable film worth viewing.

    Also, watch for a few entertaining performances from Edward Arnold and Paul Richards.(remember Beneath the Planet of the Apes??)
  • Oil slick Gene Barry (as Frank Duncan) endeavors to siphon millions of dollars in Texas crude, but needs financing from organized crime. After platinum blonde "Put the Blame on Mame" singer Barbara Hale (as Zoe Crane) leads Mr. Barry to powerful mob boss Edward Arnold (as Paul Atlas), success is assured. So, will these characters learn that crime does not pay? This predictable, production-line crime story has more spark than the story suggests. As ably directed by William Castle, Barry injects his characterization with all the life he can manage; watching his amoral "Frank Duncan" steadfastly steer his own descent into depravity is somewhat fun. With nice girl Jeanne Cooper (as Madge) and others in the mix, "The Houston Story" adds up.

    ***** The Houston Story (2/56) William Castle ~ Gene Barry, Barbara Hale, Edward Arnold