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3:10 TO YUMA
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Glenn Ford, Van Heflin, Felicia Farr
Director: Delmer Daves
Audio: DTS HD 5.1, PCM Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Criterion
Features: See Review
Length: 92 Minutes
Release Date: May 14, 2013

“I mean, I don't go around just shootin' people down... I work quiet, like you.”

“All right, so you're quiet like me. Well then shut up like me.”

Film ***

Having seen the 2007 remake of 3:10 to Yuma immediately when released to theaters, and not even knowing that it was a remake until after I saw it, I was always curious to check out the original 1957 film based on Elmore Leonard’s treasured western novel. At the same time, I held off on seeing it for fear that I might end up lowering my opinion of the remake as a result. I happen to find director James Mangold’s version to be a damn fine action packed western, which was also responsible for briefly revitalizing the genre that time period, along with the likes of the equally powerful Aussie western The Proposition and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, which is simply one of the greatest western films ever made.

As it turns out, my opinion of the remake still stands very high, though this initial version can definitely be consider a faster paced, more tightened execution of the story. It was certainly one of the more violent westerns of its time (released nearly a decade before The Wild Bunch), and definitely carried the dark mood established in Leonard’s book. And just like its remake, the film boasts a great performance by an acclaimed actor in one of the single best characters you’ll see in any western!

That character is Ben Wade, portrayed in the remake by Russell Crowe. It still stands as my favorite performance of his, and even though Crowe had already enjoyed one Oscar win and multiple nominations, he was sorely deserving of an Oscar nod for his work here. In this version, the character is played by the legendary Glenn Ford.

Wade is the villain of the story, and having Ford in such a role was a huge deal at the time. An actor known for playing good hearted heroic types (he was initially offered the heroic role here), Ford wanted to break free of his persona and venture to the opposite end of what he was used to. Upon discovering this, I couldn’t help but think of Henry Fonda demanding to switch gears in the same exact way for villainous part in Once Upon a Time In the West.

And sure enough, Mr. Ford’s charismatic quality remained in tact even when portraying a bad cowboy. Ben Wade is indeed the most important character of the piece, in addition to being a villain you kind of like. Those are a rarity in any movie, especially westerns.

The story concerns the plight of farmer Dan Evans (Van Heflin) who is going through excessively desperate times, with both water and cattle in super short supply. Luckily, opportunity arrives following the capturing of wanted outlaw Ben Wade (Ford). Dan is soon offered the job of escorting Wade 80 miles to a prison train…a job that will pay him a quick $200.

The driving force of the film, just like the remake, is the flawed relationship that develops between law-abiding Dan and proud outlaw Ben. The good natured farmer has nothing but contempt for men like Ben who enjoy prosperity from breaking the law. But through a set of circumstances, a mutual respect will eventually be established.

There are some differences between this film and the remake, and those little differences perhaps result in my preferring the remake. Here the character of Dan is loved and appreciated by his wife and sons, which was slightly the opposite in the remake. And this version ends on a much happier note than the remake, which I found to be much bolder in its choice to end things much bleaker.

That having been said, this initial version of 3:10 to Yuma is a most superb, classically executed western. Anchored by a one of a kind performance from Glenn Ford, this is a most thrilling good guys vs. bad guys in the old west yarn, which also delves deep into the grey areas between the two quite effectively. And since the western is these days a non existent genre, unfortunately, it’s always nice to visit a film from the golden age of the genre!

Video ****

Criterion astounds yet again with a magnificently restored Blu-ray presentation. The film has received a 4K restoration courtesy of Sony Pictures, and it results in one of the grandest Black & White presentations the Blu-ray format has ever delivered! We get nothing but clean and crisp imagery, with super strong black levels and a fantastic level of detail displayed during daytime sequences, which take up about 90 percent of the film. So if you did wait around like I did to finally see this film, you will be rewarded with the absolute best presentation possible!

Audio ***1/2

Talk about a surprise! For a film with this much age, Criterion will usually just go with a simple digital mono track and put it to terrific use. That very sound mix is included here, but they also went for the gold and applied a DTS HD 5.1 mix! As you’d expect, this nearly 60 year old film sounds far more incredible than once could ever expect, as the lossless sound mix provides a wider range of background and ambient sound, as well as a great deal of extra bang to the shootout sequences. Dialogue delivery is super crisp, in addition!

Features **

I have to say, it’s quite rare to come across a Criterion release with such a light offering of supplements. But given their top notch reputation, this is probably all that they were able to attain for this release (and given the astounding presentation, I really shouldn’t be complaining). Included are two well done in-depth interviews; the first with author Elmore Leonard, and the second with Peter Ford, Glenn Ford’s son and biographer.

And as always with Criterion, there’s a great insert booklet featuring an essay by critic Ken Jones.

Summary:

Although I find its remake to be an all around stronger film, the original 1957 version of 3:10 to Yuma is a most effective western in the classic tradition. Glenn Ford makes quite an impact in one of the great characters ever created in any western, and Criterion’s Blu-ray presentation is a tremendous treat for enthusiasts of the format!

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