Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

3:10 to Yuma

Cinema Monolith: 9/10
IMDb: 7.6/10
Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide: ***½ out of 4

Released on August 7, 1957
Not rated
92 minutes

Directed by Delmer Daves

Written by Halsted Welles, based on a story by Elmore Leonard

Cast: Glenn Ford, Van Heflin, Felicia Farr, Henry Jones, Richard Jaeckel, Leora Dana, Robert Emhardt, Sheridan Comerate, George Mitchell, Robert Ellenstein, Ford Rainey, Dorothy Adams, Boyd Stockman

I’ve been an enthusiastic reader of author Elmore Leonard’s crime novels for quite some time now, but only recently did I decide to give his Western novels a try, all eight of them, ranging in publication from the 1950s to the 1970s. The reason I’m mentioning this is, though I now love his Westerns as much as his crime fiction, I’ve never made an attempt to check out his many Western short stories, and thus never knew he’d written the source material for Delmer Daves’ outstanding 1957 film 3:10 to Yuma until I watched it a few nights ago.

But even without that knowledge, I still think I would’ve recognized Leonard’s trademark dialogue and plot elements, and though his short story was fleshed out to movie length, its framework remains the same: a man must guard, then deliver, a captured outlaw to an arriving train. The film opens with Ben Wade (Glenn Ford) and his gang robbing a stagecoach in the Arizona desert; from there they ride to Bisbee, where Wade is apprehended. Local rancher Dan Evans (Van Heflin) accepts much-needed compensation in exchange for sneaking Wade to a nearby town, where he’ll guard the prisoner until the 3:10 train arrives to take him to Yuma…hopefully before his gang arrives to retrieve him.

The film was outstanding in every way: acting, directing, photography, locations, and of course the dialogue, which played out both real and sharp, and carried Leonard’s subtle, dry tone. And though I’d heard of director Daves before, I didn’t know his work or style, but man oh man, did I ever notice it here: his framing and camera angles were things of beauty, and he and cinematographer Charles Lawton Jr took advantage of Arizona locations (and a red camera filter) to really give the film a dry, dusty, almost noir-like look. And how he was able to create such tension from two men sitting in a hotel room was masterful.

And this is what made up the bulk of the storyline: Wade and Evans merely sitting in a second-floor room of a hotel, one watching the other, and both taking part in a mental and emotional waiting game as the clock slowly ticked, a nervous and passive Evans standing watch over a calm and collected Wade, whose offers of cash for just walking away, or the opportunity to become business partners, slowly had Evans contemplating these tempting options. It seemed that all of our main characters were flawed in some way, except for Wade (although one could argue that he was flawed, for being a thief and a killer), so it was satisfying to see Evans arc from weak to strong, and passive to courageous.

But it was Ford’s efforts here that really impressed me the most; I’ve only seen maybe a dozen of his films, and most of those were noirs, but none had me sitting up and taking notice like this one did. And it surprised me at first to discover he was playing the villain of the story, but just like the characters in nearly all of Leonard’s novels, sometimes the bad guys aren’t so bad, and here Ford does an outstanding job of playing such a part. After a while I really started to like this guy, and what I thought was interesting was, though Wade and Evans were on opposite sides of the law, and lived entirely different lives, you started to notice a mutual respect—and perhaps even a bond—forming between them.

For whatever reason, I was not expecting 3:10 to Yuma to be as good as it was, but trust me, it was, and I now classify it as one of my favorite Westerns of all time. And though it could be coined a ‘psychological’ Western, and leans more towards the cerebral (not unlike the excellent The Ox-Bow Incident and The Naked Spur), it still delivers enough action and gunplay to satisfy any fan of conventional Western cinema. If you’re going to track this one down, and I highly recommend you do, I would search out the Criterion edition on Blu-ray…a wonderfully restored print that gorgeously showcases the film’s desert backdrops and landscapes.  (9/10)

40 comments on “3:10 to Yuma

  1. Dracula

    You gave me a good choice for my Netflix movie tonight. But I am not going to wait for a 03:10 start! I take it the train ride would have been on Southern Pacific.

    • Todd B

      Hope you can give it a look…let me know if you do. And you’re obliquely close on the rail line: it was the Yuma and Benson Southern.

  2. It’s about time! This has long been one of my favorite westerns. Ford nailed this one and as usual the Academy never noticed. You just have to love the crackling scenes between Glenn and Van. I could go on and on but won’t. Just have to tip my hat to Jack Lemmon who married sexy Felicia Farr and mention the participation of Richard Jaeckel. Lastly have u seen the remake?

    • Todd B

      That was the first thing I did after watching it, was to see if Ford had been nominated for an Academy Award…nope! And that kinda pissed me off, because I think he deserved it. And beyond Ford and Heflin, I thought all the supporting actors did a good job, including Jaeckel, who just by his presence alone had me thinking of that line he kept saying in The Gunfighter: “I wanna know what you meant by that remark you passed!”

      Never knew Jack Lemmon married Felicia Farr; I wonder if he met her at that same bar in Bisbee! And no, have not seen the remake, and I kinda don’t want to…have you?

      • I saw the remake shortly after it went to DVD. A good movie for today’s crowd and I do appreciate the fact that someone made a Western with popular actors but overall it’s not memorable and the magical era of Westerns is long past. Don’t intend to play spoiler but really wasn’t fond of the ending either.

      • Todd B

        No need to worry about playing spoiler; after watching the 1957 version, I have zero desire to see the 2007 one. I’d read that the more recent version had a different ending, so I’m curious now to find out how they changed it, and why. If the ending is available on YouTube, I’ll give it a look.

        Just watched the ending…um, yeah. Seems kind of ridiculous when compared to the 1957 version.

  3. Todd I’m gonna skip reading this just now as I’m still going to watch it. I will try and see it tonight and pop back as soon as I have.

    • Todd B

      No sweat, Mikey…come back when you’re done. Hopefully you’ll get to watch that Criterion version!


    Excellent review and (of course) choice of film to review!!! Great year for flics too.

    • Todd B

      Thanks, Julie! And would you say 1956 would be the best year for flics?

      • NOHERE4LONG!

        Not sure. Too young to tell at the time?

      • Todd Benefiel

        Well yeah, I’m assuming you didn’t take yourself to too many films as a baby! “One newborn for The Ten Commandments, please.”

  5. geelw

    Yup, this one’s a classic. I first saw it quite accidentally as a kid when it was on TV and I sat on the remote control and it was just beginning. I guess this will get added to the library at some point, although I can catch it on TCM, as they run it a few times a year.

    • Todd B

      A unique way of looking for good movies, Greg…I tried that once and ended up in the hospital. And yes, it’s definitely one to add to the library; if I hadn’t written a ‘no more buying movies’ treaty, I’d do the same. I wonder if TCM shows the spiffy Criterion version, or just some old, scruffy print…click here for a sample of what I keep harping about.

      • geelw

        Well, sometimes my butt’s smarter than my brain, but let’s keep that between us… or, wait.. maybe not. I’ll need to see which version TCM has, but I do recall they’ve shown remastered versions of other films in the past. Nobuhiko Obayashi’s HOUSE (HAUSU)) springs to mind for me right away as Criterion flick they’ve run a few times.

      • Todd B

        Good that TCM shows remastered films…it’s been so long since I’ve been able to watch that channel, I have no idea if they’ve stayed cool, or have gone the way of AMC. As for you and your backside, well, the less said the better.

      • geelw

        Oh, provided you avoid the merch shilling, TCM is still a decent channel. Lately, I tend to only watch films and programming that I find intriguing (they ran a bunch of Ernie Kovacs Show episodes I hadn’t seen since they were rerun decades ago), but once in a while I stumble across something on the old bucket list. As long as TCM doesn’t go the way of IFC and start adding commercial breaks to movies (ugh) and editing them for “time and content” (double ugh), I’ll keep an eye in their direction when necessary.

      • Todd B

        Well thank heavens TCM hasn’t yet gone the way of AMC or IFC with those stupid commercial breaks…that was why I stopped watching AMC in the first place. And editing movies for time…I can’t believe IFC would actually do that. I guess that’s why I own a giant movie tower, loaded with over 1,000 films: no commercial breaks, no edits. Just the occasional time-out to make a sandwich.

  6. Oh dude how good was that! Oh my I enjoyed that so much. Glenn Ford was superb. I’ve never seen him like that. He was menacing bad with all that charm and smile. That line he says to Van’s wife. “I hope I can send him back to you alright?” Oooooo. That really hit home. I loved the way Van is covered in sweat and Glenn is smiling away cool as a cucumber.

    One thing to the end, I was on the edge of my seat, I knew it was coming. I waited, yep it’s coming……. No it didn’t! I was convinced Glenn was gonna give Van a friendly little push outta that carriage lol. He had done what he needed to do, get his pride back. Now he could get on with some cowgirl loving with his lady in the rain.

    The town drunk was brilliant. That was so shocking too! Jaeckel was awesome as the loyal thug. And I was convinced Mr Butterfield was in fact Roy Brocksmith from Total Recall. The hologram that sweats!

    Oh yes Criterion version Todd and it looked absolutely stunning. The red filter brought the grayscale tones out a treat. Just gorgeous.

    My god! I too just witnessed the end of the new one! Seriously! Why do they need to do that?

    I’ve added The Ox-Bow Incident to the list. Oh and Mike put me on to Jubal (1956) a year or so ago. Same director and Glenn Ford and Felicia Farr to boot.

    • Todd B

      Glad you liked that one, Mikey, and I’m glad you were able to watch the Criterion version. So many good things about that movie, and yes, I thought that line Ford said to Heflin’s wife was quite ominous…lots of good lines in that one. And the ending: I didn’t know at all what to expect, from either Ford or Heflin. I was surprised when Ford suddenly said to trust him, and jump up into the train with him. I just thought it was so neat that both guys began to respect – and like – one another; to me, Ford liked Heflin because he was a stand-up guy, and had a life – and family – Ford was jealous of, while Heflin didn’t want to harm Ford because of the good he saw in him.

      Yeah, I noticed how sweaty and nervous Heflin was, too…but then he gets confident and tough towards the end. It’s funny to look at that photo above, and if you didn’t know any better, you’d think Heflin was the bad guy, and Ford the passive good guy!

      That’s funny, I saw Jubal early last year, and really liked it…and I think it was Mike who recommended it to me as well! But I seriously don’t remember it being directed by Delmer Daves, or co-starring Felicia Farr! Knowing that, I’ll have to rent that one again. And let me know how you like Ox-Bow…and if I haven’t mentioned it yet, I highly recommend The Gunfighter, with Gregory Peck. A good copy is available on YouTube here.

      And I had to go check out that guy from Total Recall: yes, I see the resemblance!

      • Nice one Todd for the link to the Peck Gunfighter. Not seen it before and having that Toddy seal of approval I gonna go in now. Tied my trusty horse to the saloon post. Pour myself a beer and a whisky on the rocks. Give the poker table the lazy eye so they know to keep it down. Grab smiling big breasted Betsie to sit on my knee. She giggles, I smile back and give her a schhhh. The film begins. I fire my pistol into the ceiling, hell might as well if I can.

      • Todd B

        You know how many people have been given a bum steer by the Toddy Seal of Approval? NONE! But be careful if I ever recommend to you The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension; for whatever strange reason, many people have not had as much joyous fun with it as I have.

        And a great Western-y location to watch The Gunfighter! Let me know whe…whoa, wait a minute: who the hell is Betsie, and how can I get her to watch a movie with ME?

      • The Gunfighter was superb Todd. Peck was ace. I’m too old for this I gotta settle down. How old are you? 35! Oh…. Shit they were tough days back then. I loved the way he was like kinda based on Johnny Ringo. His relationship with his good friend the sheriff was excellent. Plus that end punishment he left was absolutely perfect. That was a wow moment. Top recommendation Todd. Been good adding a few westerns to the watch list.

        PS I’m still wanting to see The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension. I know I’m gonna enjoy it. I won’t hold you responsible if I turn it off after ten minutes and smash my face into a wall! hehe

      • Todd B

        Glad you liked it, Mikey…always fun to recommend one that someone ends up enjoying! It’s been one of my favorite Westerns for quite some time now…and yes, the relationship between Peck and the sheriff was awesome, and I loved how the sheriff beat the hell out of that guy in the end (even the deputy gave him a good whack: “Keep your mouth shut!”).

        And you gotta let me know when you watch Buckaroo Banzai…I’ve seen it a million times, and it cracks me up every time. I was in heaven when it finally came out on Blu-ray…and if you have the chance to watch the documentary, give it a look. Lots of cool and interesting stories about the film.

      • I’m gonna get to Buckaroo Banzai for sure buddy and my first port of call will be to phone the Cinema Monolith hotline and report my findings. 🙂

      • Todd Benefiel

        Cool, can’t wait to hear your thoughts…and don’t forget to use the toll-free hotline number! (And if you have the opportunity, depending on how you watch it, try to watch the deleted opening scene as well…some neat info there, plus you might recognize his Mom!)

      • Well Lieutenant General Todd this private here has just stumbled in from the pub earlier than expected. Too drunk to be pouring myself a double bourbon and a pint of porter (ooops) but duuude it’s time for The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. I’ll see you on the other side bro. Burp oooooh ooh matron!

      • Todd Benefiel

        Barkeep! Get this man a bib! Hey, it’s been about two hours since you had someone type this for you, and BB is only 103 minutes long, so…could it be that you’re done watching this classic sci-fi comedy? Or perhaps the movie is still in-progress? Will this be a reviewable movie, and a post I’ll see on your site? In your condition, will you remember watching the movie? And in the general scheme of things, does any of it really matter? Are any of us alive?

      • Well I’m afraid to report a mission failure! Made a ridiculously large supper of chips and I curried everything I could find in the fridge and poured on top of said chips. Started the film and woke up 3 hrs later wondering what had happened! I think I made all of 10 minutes before I was in a beer and food coma!

        Note pad had scribbles saying “Holy Lithgow!” “Krusty the crab!” and “Mike from Breaking Bad!” then the notes went weird? “Zucker bits noodles eating?” “Pimped up faster B2TF!!” “kamikaze” “Bull Mead” LOL I have no idea WTF hehe… I will 100 percent be doing a post this week. From what I saw I know I’m gonna love this film and can’t wait to watch it. Maybe tonight after Rocky Balboa with the family. Sorry for the madness. Hope you have a great weekend buddy.

      • Todd Benefiel

        Good lord, I don’t know what you put on those chips, but I’ve never before seen comments such as those associated with Buckaroo Banzai! Lithgow, yes…crab, yes…and THEN your notes get weird! “Zucker bits noodles eating?” That sounds like a nightmare you had after watching Police Squad! and eating spaghetti!

        Well, I already know that you got back to it and finished it, so I’ll move on to that comment now. Hope you’re weekend’s going well, and includes less comas!

      • Yes I’ll apologize again for the crazy. I have no idea where the noodle bit came from? I thought watching properly last night I’d see some kind of Zucker brother style gags with someone eating said noodles? LOL no there wasn’t. I must of been total zuckered up on the beer and curry chips hehe.

      • Todd Benefiel

        Who knows, maybe you’re notes are so ‘drunken sloppy’, you’re reading them wrong! Perhaps ‘noodles’ was really ‘poodles’, and ‘Zucker’ was really ‘jet car through mountain’!

        And I had to look up ‘curry chips’…maybe I’ll try them some day, but for now, I’ll stick with steak fries and ranch dressing!

      • Mate that was so brilliant. I can even begin to explain how on Earth I’ve never seen that before. Enjoyed it so much. Already started a post, give me a few days to put it into some form of way to read the illegible words. Todd I loved it 🙂

      • Todd Benefiel

        As those kids eating cereal once said, “Hey Mikey! He likes it!” I am totally JAZZED to hear you had fun with it…I’ve been loving that movie since it was released, and trust me, once you start watching it again and again, you’ll only like it more. Lots of things to see, find, and hear with each viewing, and with the Blu-ray out now, there’s even MORE to see. My brother and I quoted the hell out of that movie when we saw it back in the ’80s, and I still throw a quote or two around today. “Laugh while you can, monkey boy!”

        Can’t wait for your review! (And if you’re interested in mine, click here). In the meantime, I think I’ll watch it tonight…all this talk about it has me keyed up to watch it again! And by the way: “Get away from that car, or I’ll drink your blood!”

      • Todd I loved it. My brother is watching it tonight. So BB is starting to gain a whole new fan base of loyal fanatics. Haha I must remember to drop “Laugh while you can, monkey boy!” to my bosses at work tomorrow 🙂

        BB will be my next project Todd and I’ll link in your review. I won’t read it just yet but it’s probably safe to say it doesn’t include noodles! Should be up mid week. Very much looking forward to delving back in.

      • Todd Benefiel

        Ha, I’ve created an out-of-control Banzai craze that’s taking England by storm! You’ll have to tell me what you’re brother thought of it…I forgot that last night was Svengoolie night, so tonight will be my night to watch, and I think I’m going to prep a BB-related post to put in a week or two.

        And I had to re-check my review, to make sure it didn’t include noodles of ANY kind (lasagna, spaghetti, and chow mein included), and thankfully, it did not.

  7. Eric Binford

    Great film. Ford plays an interesting bad guy. I thought the remake (with Russell Crowe) was surprisingly good.

    • Todd Benefiel

      After watching this one, I kinda wasn’t interested in checking out the remake…but I did watch it’s wrap-up, and I must say I preferred the earlier version’s more. I really liked Ford’s performance, and yes, I thought it was interesting as well: the bad guy you can’t help but like.

      • Eric Binford

        I do prefer the original. However, I found the remake surprisingly good. It’s a pretty decent remake.

      • Todd Benefiel

        I keep saying I have no desire to see that remake, but you and a few others have mentioned that it’s not bad, so maybe someday I’ll give it a look…I’m sure my library has it on Blu-ray.

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