At the start of this made-for-TV western, experienced lawman Dave Harmon (Clint Walker) has just been appointed the new marshal of Yuma. He’s served as the marshal of several towns, all of which were near rowdy army bases. He’s a laconic, no-nonsense lawman who is quick with a gun and smart enough to negotiate with the local Indian tribes.
As soon as Harmon rides into town, he comes across the King Brothers (Bruce Glover and Bing Russell) making trouble. He kills one of the brothers in a saloon and then takes the other one to jail, where he’s mysteriously gunned down during a midnight jailbreak. It turns out that there’s a third Harmon brother, cattle baron Arch King (Morgan Woodward), and he rides into town looking for revenge. He gives Harmon a set amount of time to find and arrest his brother’s killer or Arch and his men are going to return to town and kill Harmon.
Fortunately, Harmon has a witness to the jailbreak murder. Andres (Miguel Alejandro) is a young, Mexican orphan who sleeps at the jail. He witnessed the murder but he only saw that the killer was wearing what appeared to be army boots. Harmon’s investigation brings him into conflict with the local army base’s commandant (Peter Mark Richman) and also leads to the discovery of a plot to defraud the local Indians.
The main problem with Yuma is that it was clearly designed to be a pilot for a weekly television series and, as a result, it introduces a lot of characters who don’t get much to do. There’s a lot of talk about how Harmon is searching for the men who earlier killed his family but that subplot is never resolved. (If Yuma had been picked up as a weekly show, maybe it would have been.) Yuma has to set up the premise for a potential show and tell a complete story in just 70 minutes. That’s a lot to handle and Yuma ends up feeling rushed and incomplete.
As a B-western for undemanding fans of the genre, it’s acceptable. Clint Walker was a convincing lawman and the film was directed by Ted Post, who knew how to stage a gunfight. But it’s not really a western that you’re going to remember for long after you watch it.