MOVIE REVIEWS

3:10 to Yuma (1957)

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8/10 NR

August 7, 1957

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By John Chard February 10, 2017

Room 207 and the 3:10 To Yuma.

Van Heflin plays rancher Dan Evans whose family and livelihood is at breaking point due to a devastating drought. Needing money fast, Evans gets thrown a financial lifeline when a reward is offered to escort a recently captured outlaw, Ben Wade (Glenn Ford), on to the 3:10 train to Yuma prison. But as Wade's gang closes in to free the shackled outlaw, and the clock starts to tick down, Evans finds himself torn between a sense of social duty and an easy option courtesy of Wade's mind game offer.

Based on a story by Elmore Leonard, this is a tight and tense Western that harks to the wonderful High Noon five years earlier. Directed by Delmer Daves, 3:10 to Yuma sees two of the Western genre's most undervalued performers come together in perfect contrast. Heflin's Evans is honest, almost saintly; but ultimately filling out his life with dullness and too much of a safe approach. Ford's Wade is the other side of the coin, ruthless (the opening sequence sets it up), handsome and very self-confident. This coupling makes for an interesting story-one that thankfully delivers royally on its set-up. As Wade's gang closes in, led by a sleek and mean Richard Jaeckel, Wade toys with Evans, offering him financial gain and gnawing away at him about his abilities as a husband, the tension is palpable in the extreme. Nothing is ever certain until the credits role, and that is something that is never to be sniffed at in the Western genre.

The comparison with High Noon is a fair one because 3:10 to Yuma also deals with the man alone scenario. A man left alone to deal with his adversaries and his own conscience; money or pride indeed. Daves' direction is gritty and suitably claustrophobic, with close ups either being erotically charged {watch out for Felicia Farr's scenes with Ford in the saloon} or tightly wound in room 207 of the hotel; where Heflin & Ford positively excel. His outdoor work, aided by Charles Lawton Jr's photography, also hits the spot, particularly the barren land desperate for water to invigorate it. While the piece also has a tremendous George Duning theme song warbled (and whistled by Ford in the film) by Frankie Laine. Great acting, great direction and a great involving story; essential for fans of character driven Westerns. 8.5/10

Footnote: The film was very well remade in 2007 with two of the modern era's finest leading men, Russell Crowe & Christian Bale, in the dual roles of Ben & Dan respectively. One hopes, and likes to think, that they remade it purely because it was such a great premise to work from. Because Daves' film didn't need improving, it was, and still is, a great film showcasing how great this often maligned genre can sometimes be.

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