THE HOUSTON STORY
(director: William Castle; screenwriter: Robert E. Kent-alias James B. Gordon/based on the story by James B. Gordon; cinematographer: Henry Freulich; editor: Edwin Bryant; music: Mischa Bakkaleinikoff; cast: Gene Barry (Frank Duncan ), Jeanne Cooper (Madge), Barbara Hale (Zoe Crane), Edward Arnold (Paul Atlas), Frank Jenks (Louie Phelan), Claudia Bryar (Clara Phelps), John Zaremba (Emile Constant), Jack V. Littlefield (Willie Lucas), Paul Richards (Gordon Shay), Chris Alcaide (Chris Barker), Paul Levitt (Duke), Fred Krone (Marsh), Pete Kellett (Kalo); Runtime: 79; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sam Katzman; Columbia Pictures; 1956)
“A routine expose racketeering melodrama on the corporate structure of the oil industry, that is mildly enjoyable.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A routine expose racketeering melodrama on the corporate structure of the oil industry, that is mildly enjoyable. The programmer is similar to Miami Expose (1956) and The Miami Story (1954). Future horror pic maven William Castle (“13 Ghosts”/”The Tingler”/”Mr. Sardonicus”) smoothly directs this minor film noir, as he adapts to the screen the story by pulp writer James B. Gordon.
Amoral Oklahoma oil driller Frank Duncan (Gene Barry) is working as a ‘wildcatter’ in Houston and has figured out a clever illegal way to siphon oil from the field by slant drilling. With that in mind, Frank finds a way to meet the nightclub singer Zoe Crane (Barbara Hale), the widow of his oil rigger friend who died in an accident. Zoe’s nightclub is owned by the mob, and her boyfriend Gordon Shay (Paul Richards) is an underling in the mob. The ballsy Frank wants to use Zoe’s mob connections to make a deal with the mob’s local boss, Paul Atlas (Edward Arnold), to financially back his crooked scheme. The scheme calls for Frank setting up as a front a dummy corporation, in which he induces his unaware cabbie friend Lou Phelan (Frank Jenks) to be in charge.
Warning: spoiler alert in the next 2 paragraphs.
While the ambitious Frank has eyes on becoming rich and powerful, he dumps his good-time waitress girlfriend Madge (Jeanne Cooper) and goes after the sexy but dangerous Zoe. Frank finds he fits right in with the mob and kills one thug to advance in the organization, and schemes to get Atlas and the nightclub owner killed by the police. The syndicate’s ruthless chief, Emile Constant (John Zaremba), finds that Frank is getting too big for his britches and orders a hit. When Frank learns of this, he asks his former waitress girlfriend to go to his apartment and get him clothes so he can go on the run. When Frank disappears, two mob enforcers beat up Jenks for info. When that fails they take Zoe hostage, and she tells them where she expects to meet Frank.
But the waitress, wanting no part of her ex-boyfriend’s criminal dealings, calls the cops, who arrive in the club after Frank disposes of the two enforcer thugs during a shootout. The weary Frank surrenders to the police, and will be soon sent to prison for his scheme proving ‘crime does not pay.’
REVIEWED ON 9/19/2014 GRADE: B