3:10 to Yuma: Criterion Collection
May 22, 2013
With its own unstoppable momentum, 3:10 to Yuma (1957) is a suspenseful, ticking-clock western expertly directed by Delmer Daves, one of the most under-appreciated journeyman filmmakers working in Hollywood during its classical period. Adapted from Elmore Leonard’s 1953 story of the same name, the film was something of a forgotten gem for years only to be remembered in recent years thanks to a decent remake starring Christian Bale and Russell Crowe. As in most cases, the original is vastly superior, bolstered by Daves’ expert direction and the solid acting of the always reliable Glenn Ford who plays opposite veteran character actor Van Heflin.
Ben Wade (Ford) is the icy cool leader of a gang of outlaws and has no problem gunning down one of his men when he’s held hostage by the driver of the stagecoach they’re robbing, and then killing that man as well. Cattle rancher Dan Evans (Heflin) and his two young boys witness Wade and his gang robs the stagecoach. To make matters worse, he and his family have fallen on hard times. A persistent drought is gradually killing off his cattle and his wife (Dana) urges him to go into town and ask for some money to make ends meet. On the way, he meets the coach owner and his posse and ends up helping them capture Wade. Unfortunately, his right-hand man (Jaeckel) escapes and races off to get the rest of the gang.
Unable to get a loan, Evans agrees to accompany Wade to the 3:10 to Yuma train that will take the outlaw to prison. Wade isn’t too worried though, because he knows his gang will come and spring him. The rest of the film plays out as a tense game of cat and mouse – a battle of wills between the cool-as-they-come Wade and reluctant hero Evans.
Glenn Ford’s trademark charisma is there, but in an interesting way as this time he’s playing the antagonist. Wade is as a charming as they come. He has the confident air of an experienced criminal and thinks that this gives him the advantage over Evans. That may be so, but Van Heflin’s Evans is determined to finish the job. He’s honest and resists Wade’s attempt to bribe him. He is more than capable of matching wits with the outlaw. What you have is two opposing points-of-view with two excellent actors that play so well off each other.
Daves expertly and gradually ratchets up the tension as Wade and Evans hold up in a hotel near the train station while the gang moves in. As the film progresses, the odds are increasingly stacked against Evans as he seems to be heading towards a very High Noon-esque climax. With 3:10 to Yuma, Daves has crafted a suspenseful thriller cum western.
The black and white cinematography of Charles Lawton, Jr. is beautifully realized on this new Blu-Ray transfer. The film has never looked better and is well worth the upgrade.
There is an interview with author Elmore Leonard who talks about the original story, which he wrote in the early 1950s for a pulp magazine. He soon started selling his stories to Hollywood and 3:10 to Yuma was one of his earliest. He praises the casting of Ford and his performance as well as saying nice things about Heflin. Rather interestingly, Leonard doesn’t think much of the remake and explains why.
Also included is an interview with Glenn Ford’s son, Peter who talks about the westerns his father made with Daves. He says that his father considered 3:10 to Yuma to be one of his favorite westerns. Peter also recounts filming anecdotes and biographical details about his father, coming across as quite candid about his extra-marital affairs.