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Oklahoma Territory

In the low-budget programmer Oklahoma Territory (1960), a railroad agent stirs up the local Cherokee Indians by framing their chief for murder. The railroad man knows that if the Indians retaliate by declaring war, a treaty stipulates that their land will then be available for use by the railroad. A fast-shooting district attorney, who is a friend to the Indians and has known the chief all his life, initially prosecutes the case successfully, but when he is accused of trying to use the case to catapult himself to the governorship, he starts to reexamine things.

The district attorney is named Temple Houston, based on an actual son of Sam Houston, the legendary American politician who helped bring Texas into the union. Temple Houston was colorful like his father, as skilled with a gun as he was in a courtroom. In one scene in this film, he combines the two, forcing a judge at gunpoint to reopen a case.

Playing Temple Houston is the Brooklyn-born actor Bill Williams, who had a long career in movies (mostly 'B' films, with a few supporting roles in 'A' titles), and on television. As The Hollywood Reporter observed, "Bill Williams has long proved he knows his way around in a film of this sort."

Oklahoma Territory received little attention from audiences or critics. Variety noted a too-leisurely pace and an "overly contrived plot but [the film] stacks up as a fair entry for the less discriminating oater market." The trade paper also observed that leading lady Gloria Talbott, as the Indian chief's daughter, "looks about as much like an Injun as Ted de Corsia, the chief -- who doesn't."

Director Edward L. Cahn had an eclectic career, starting as an editor at Universal in the 1920s and soon becoming the chief of that department. He turned to directing in 1931, and his western Law and Order (1932) stands as an important and imaginative early talkie that features the earliest sound depiction of the gunfight at the OK Corral. Eventually Cahn went to MGM and turned out two-reelers for the Our Gang and Crime Does Not Pay series (among others), as well as some B films. And later he made a new name for himself in science fiction, directing such popular entries as The She-Creature (1956) and It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958), which influenced Ridley Scott's later Alien (1979).

Cahn ended his career with a string of B films, most of them westerns including Oklahoma Territory, for producer Robert E. Kent. Giving a sense of how quickly and cheaply these films were ground out, Cahn had ten released features in 1960 and eleven more in 1961. Only occasionally a stylist, Cahn certainly lived up to his reputation as fast and efficient on set.

Three years after the release of this film, Jeffrey Hunter played the character of Houston in the TV series Temple Houston, which lasted one season.

by Jeremy Arnold

SOURCE:
Dennis Fischer, Science Fiction Film Directors, 1895-1998

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