3:10 to Yuma (1957)
Spine No. 657
the directing: Delmer Daves
the writing: Elmore Leonard (story), Halsted Welles (screenplay)
the acting: Glenn Ford, Van Heflin, Felicia Farr
Ben Wade (Glenn Ford) is a notorious outlaw freshly captured after pulling off a job that resulted in two deaths – both by his hand. Dan Evans (Van Heflin), a witness of Wade’s recent crime, is giving the dangerous task of getting him to Contention with the intention of putting him on the 3:10 train to Yuma for a measly reward of $150. Conflict materializes from the loyalty of Wade’s gang as they come looking for their boss with guns fully loaded, condemning Evan’s life to just about forfeit.
Many are most likely aware of the 2007 James Mangold re-imagining of 3:10 to Yuma starring Russell Crowe and Christain Bale, where action is hardly sparse and bullets are infinite. Other than the underlying plot, Mangold’s film is one line away from becoming utterly unrecognizable to Delmer Daves’s 1957 original. With a run time of 92 minutes, Daves dedicates the majority of his film to the Contention setting, which is in stark contrast to Mangold’s two hour duration that puts a large amount of the film’s focus on the journey to Contention. Daves leaves the entire journey to the audience’s imagination.
Not enough can be said about the acting throughout this film. Glenn Ford perfected the suave bad guy, always cool under duress. Then there is Van Heflin playing his opposite, seemingly out of his league with the task at hand. Heflin’s wavering nature only plays into Ford’s unworried leisure as the two go back and forth testing the other’s wit and will. This duo of sturdy actors would be all but enough, yet the film is fortified by the resolute talent of the supporting cast ranging from the likes of Felicia Farr with her lifting innocence to Henry Jones and his climactic courage. Each name has a voice, magically harmonizing upon one another with the intention of creating the beautiful symphony of flawless film.
3:10 to Yuma as a whole is fantastically filmed. The final scene in particular will probably be forever ingrained in my mind as the rain starts falling down, casting one last satisfying emotion over the audience. Evans and Wade’s ongoing intimate scene in the hotel room is another example Daves’s expertise, as he successfully casts the tone of the scene with shadows and perspectives. One could watch these moments on mute and still easily understand the situation. Thus, bringing up an interesting point in that 3:10 has a much different feel compared to the many other Western’s of its time. It has been described as a psychological Western, and I will do nothing to critique that, for the bottle episode feel confines the setting allowing Wade’s character in particular to conduct his mind games. This genre film compares the toughness of the mind with the toughness of one’s character, daring to argue in favor of the former.
The Bonus Features:
the essay: “Curious Distances” by Kent Jones
the interviews: Both in 2013, one with writer Elmore Leonard and the other with Peter Ford
First the essay. Kent Jones’s ten-page passage feels more like a rant than an informative critique. Jones is quite angry at the fact that director Delmer Daves is not more well known and respected by the film community as a whole, reducing the piece to comparisons with other directors and Daves’s filmography – frankly I could have IMDbed him and saved time. But in spite of it all there is a silver lining keeping Jones’s essay momentarily afloat, for he examines the crisis of Dan Evans’s character, making some valid and interesting points in the process. Still, it would have been nice to read more edifying points like this, but their exiguous nature remained consistently sound.
The first of the two interviews is with story writer Elmore Leonard. Running around ten minutes, the audience gets a quick glimpse at Leonard’s break into the industry and the Western genre as a whole. Besides the praise of Glenn Ford’s casting, Leonard appears largely cynical when referring to some of the artistic liberties taken during the filming process. However, the present day setting makes him come off intrinsically knowledgeable, and as a writer I found this quite compelling, but in reality I feel the majority of audiences would lose interest immediately or skip it entirely.
Criterion’s second interview puts Peter Ford, son and biographer of actor Glenn Ford, into the spotlight. Ford’s interview takes an instant turn for the worst once it becomes clearly evident he never really knew his father. Sure he wrote his biography, read his diary, and is aware – and somewhat weirdly proud – of his father’s myriad of affairs, but he does not know him as a father, not in the slightest. In all honesty, this interview was fifteen minutes of depression, leaving me feeling sorry for Peter’s daddy issues and forever blacklisting Glenn Ford as a person.
Worth the Criterion: No, because of the bonus features. But if the need to obtain 3:10 on blu-ray is insurmountable, you have to go through Criterion. Otherwise you can easily pick up Daves’s original on DVD for less than $10.
Worth the Link: Sure, for you rich quality folk.