Tuesday, September 1, 2015

3:10 to Yuma (1957)

Great film, too bad about the ending.

3:10 To Yuma generates plenty of suspense with a simple premise.

Outlaw Ben Wade (Glenn Ford) is taken prisoner in a small town after robbing a stagecoach. Business owner Mr. Butterfield (Robert Emhardt) offers $200 to two men who'll bring him to prison.

Dan Evans (Van Heflin) needs the cash. Badly. Extended drought over three years has hit the farmer hard. The only other person willing to bring Wade to justice is town drunk Alex Potter (Henry Jones).

Wade, and his armed escort, know his men want to free him before he darkens a cell.

The crime boss is the quiet type. He turns the screws on Evans by various means - offering him more cash to let him go, suggesting he'd take better care of his wife and asking why he's continuing with his assignment when others will surely bail when they see what they're up against.

"Don't make it hard on yourself," Wade suggests to Evans.

A good chunk of the film is set in a hotel room where Wade torments Evans as the train arrival nears.

What also gives 3:10 To Yuma an extra kick after so many years is its exploration of people not wanting to get involved. Wade uses Evans' cattle when he robs gold from Butterfield's stagecoach. Evans' boys ask him what he'll do in response. "Not much else I can do."

But when Evans gets a backbone, others try and talk him out of his resolve to deliver Wade to jail. Butterfield, as Wade predicted, doesn't have the stomach to possibly die in a shootout. His wife urges him, "Don't go through with it." Townsfolk recruited to help beef up guards to make sure Wade gets on the train back out. Hey, it's not our fight, they declare.

It's six against one when Evans makes his way from the hotel to the train station. But the film's ending strikes me as a copout, as opposed to a final showdown between Wade and Evans. Too bad.

RATING: 8/10

FUN FACTS: 3:10 to Yuma was made 50 years later with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale.

The film is based on a short story by Elmore Leonard.

That's Jack Lemmon's future wife, Felicia Farr, who catches Ben Wade's eye as a barkeeper. Loser's Crown, released in 2014, is her first film since That's Life in 1986.

Alex Potter's credits also include Vertigo, Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy, Support Your Local Gunfighter and Support Your Local Sheriff.

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