Jethro Compton’s Frontier Trilogy: The Clock Strikes Noon
Jethro Compton’s latest trilogy continues with a tense siege drama set against a changing West. The railroad is coming, and they want farmer Ben Walker’s land to build it across. Walker’s resistance has escalated into a bloody gunfight, and we find him holed up in a chapel, counting his last bullets and the minutes until his fate will be decided.
It’s another high-quality production, with excellent performances, particularly from Sam Donnelly as Walker, and Bebe Sanders as the self-assured daughter of the Washington railroad corporation.
Set across a single hour, it’s the most direct and punchy of the three plays, but it also lacks the heart of Blood Red Moon or the dramatic bravura of The Rattlesnake’s Kiss. Compton has taken his plotting cues from Biblical legends, and while it provides reassuringly clear patterns of heroes and villains, there’s also a lack of nuance to his characterisations.
It means that for all the care and attention that has gone into their presentation, the plays of the Frontier Trilogy have a hollowness at their centre. It’s great, pulpy entertainment, but when so much effort has gone into polishing it, you can’t help wish they offered something more.