Frank Duncan (Gene Barry) is an oil driller from Galveston who is now in Houston, TX.  Currently he is renting a room from his old friend, Louie Phelan (Frank Jenks) and his wife, Clara (Claudia Bryar).  Duncan comes up with a scheme to steal millions of dollars worth of oil but he needs backing to execute his plan.  Frank finds a former friend, Carrie Hemper who hails from Oklahoma.  Carrie is now going by the name of Zoe Crane (Barbara Hale) and is singing at a nightclub.    Zoe has an in with a mob boss, Paul Atlas (Edward Arnold).  Duncan convinces her to introduce him to Atlas.  Atlas, in turn, reports to Emile Constant (John Zaremba).

Duncan’s plan is to first pay off some of the drilling foremen.  Then they will highjack a truck with oil drilling pipes and connect the pipes to some of the rigs.  That way they can siphon off some of the oil, diverting it to holding tanks.  They then can sell it on the black market to either some independent oil dealers or foreign companies.  Duncan estimates that they will make 5 million dollars a year.  Atlas likes the plan. 

Gordon Shay (Paul Richards) runs the nightclub that Zoe sings in.  He is also on Atlas’ payroll.  Shay doesn’t like Duncan and doesn’t like him hanging around his star attraction.  Atlas tells him that he will have to make nice with Duncan until things are set up and the money is rolling in.  After that Atlas says they won’t need Duncan anymore.  Atlas plans on having one of his goons, Chris Barker (Chris Alcaide) kill Duncan.  Duncan’s plan works and Duncan is riding high for a while, but since there is no honor among thieves, Duncan ends up on several hit lists.        

“The Houston Story” was released in 1956 and was directed by William Castle.  It is an American crime film noir.

The main reason I wanted to watch this film was because of Barbara Hale.  Seeing Hale as a blond gangster’s moll is a bit jarring.  As far as acting is concerned, she did fine, but I couldn’t help seeing her as Perry Mason’s secretary instead of a hard-hearted nightclub singer. One high note of the film is that we get to hear Hale sing “Put the Blame on Mame” in her dusky voice.

Originally, Lee J. Cobb was hired to play Duncan.  Unfortunately, Cobb had a heart attack after production had already started and had to drop out.  The film’s producer, Sam Katzman, didn’t want to stop filming so director William Castle played Cobb's character in long shots.  When, after suffering a second attack, it was determined that Cobb would not be able to return to the set, Gene Barry was hired to replace him.  According to Castle, footage of both Cobb and he were included in the film.    

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