Monday, October 22, 2012

Spelling B: "Yuma" (1971)

Aaron Spelling produced this made for television western that gets awfully plotty for a seventy three minute film. It plays like a probable failed series pilot.

Handsome Clint Walker is U.S. Marshal Dave Harmon, who wanders into Yuma, Arizona Territory in time to kill one of the brothers of the local bigwig rancher who is out on a trail drive.

Walker takes the other brother to jail. Walker also meets a "cute" homeless Mexican kid who sleeps at the jailhouse. One night, Andres is snoozing when a villain and another man dressed in Army blue take the remaining brother into the street and kill him, pinning the murder on Walker. Not good for your first twenty four hours on the job. Walker visits the local Army fort, and rankles the chains of the commander. The bigwig hears of his brothers' deaths, and rides back to town in time to get his chains rankled as well. The local native population, who get short changed by the Army on their beef, also get rankled in the chains area. With all these chains getting rankled, Walker still has time to woo the local hotel owner. The Army guy involved in the murder ends up dead, the local cattle buyer is implicated, the Indians do a lot of hesitant speechifying, and the climax brings about an unlikely showdown as Walker must prove to the town that the villainous cattle buyer had a boss, someone we have suspected as being too helpful all along.

There is a semi-subplot involving the death of Walker's family at the hands of Army raiders, and I think this would have been the force behind the series, had it been picked up. Instead, the film ends abruptly, and I kept waiting for scenes from next week's exciting episode. Because of the fade outs for nonexistent commercial breaks, the pacing is all off on this and its story jumps in fits.

Walker is handsome, rugged, and has a voice deeper than a well. The rest of the cast is full of television actors you have probably seen in other television movies. Much of the action is pretty lame, and the violence is tepid. The first brother killed gets a shotgun blast mid-torso, and falls without a scratch on him. I did not expect "Reservoir Dogs," but this is the wrong film to use to teach children about the evil of guns! Speaking of children, the Mexican kid here goes from "cute" to "aneurysm-inducing annoyance" very quickly.

If you dislike westerns, then you will dislike "Yuma." If you like westerns, then you will still dislike "Yuma." I cannot recommend it. (* *) out of five stars.