Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Yuma

(This post originally appeared in somewhat different form on June 3, 2009.)

I don’t know how I missed this made-for-TV movie back when it originally aired in 1971, because I watched just about every Western that was on, plus I was a big Clint Walker fan when I was a kid because of his TV series CHEYENNE. But I’d never seen it before, I’m pretty sure of that.

Walker plays U.S. Marshal Dave Harmon, who’s sent to Arizona Territory to clean up the lawless town of Yuma. Right away he runs afoul of a couple of cowboys from the crew that’s bringing a herd of cattle to Yuma so the army can turn it over to the Indians on the nearby reservation. Only it seems that the cattle haven’t been making it to the reservation like they’re supposed to. Something has been happening to some of them along the way. Something crooked, no doubt, and the new marshal has barely arrived before there’s a murder connected to the scheme. He has to solve the killing, deal with the vengeful brother of a cowboy he was forced to shoot in self-defense, keep the Indians from leaving the reservation, and uncover the identity of the criminal mastermind behind the whole thing.

For the most part, it’s pretty standard stuff, and it doesn’t help matters that there’s a gaping hole in the plot, too. But Walker always makes an impressive Western hero, and he’s supported here by a number of fine character actors like Morgan Woodward, Edgar Buchanan, and Barry Sullivan. There’s a good-looking hotel owner, too, played by Kathryn Hays, but she’s given almost nothing to do.

What makes YUMA worth watching, though, is a plot twist in the final few minutes that I didn’t see coming at all. Looking back, it’s set up fairly (the hole in the plot has nothing to do with the surprise), and while some of you might be able to predict it, I sure didn’t. And I always like it when that happens.

YUMA is short, only 75 minutes (it probably ran in a 90-minute time slot) and plays a lot like the old B-Westerns. I enjoyed it quite a bit and think it’s well worth a look if you’re a Western fan.

(UPDATE: I no longer have any memory of what that plot twist was that I mention in the next to the last paragraph. Maybe that's a good enough excuse for me to watch YUMA again sometime.)

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