Filmed at a time when director Delmer Daves was delivering some of the best work of his career—his other mid-fifties films include Jubal (1956) (which he also scripted), Cowboy (1958), and The Hanging Tree (1959)—3:10 to Yuma, based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, is one of the best westerns of the decade, and a movie that still resonates almost sixty years after its theatrical release.
As the film opens, Ben Wade (Glenn Ford) is robbing a stagecoach Wade is the charismatic leader of the black clad group of thieves. He doesn’t thrive on hurting people, but he is forced to kill one of the drivers in self defense. The group decides to ride into town where they plan their escape across the border. Hoping to deflect attention from himself, Wade splits from his men. Unfortunately, that move only opens him up to capture.
Dan Evans (Van Heflin) is a hardworking rancher with a wife and two children. Unable to secure a loan to help him through the lengthy drought that plagues his land, he accepts an offer from a wealthy rancher to transport Wade to Contention City and put on the 3:10 to Yuma that will take him straight to prison. Evans will be paid $200. Wade is joined by Alex Potter (Henry Jones) the town drunk.
Locked in a small hotel room in Contention, Dan and Ben are clock watching as they wait for the train. Ben offers to make Dan a very rich man if he’ll let him go, but Dan won’t entertain the idea. Wade’s gang eventually arrives to save their leader, and all hell breaks loose. Dan Evans finds himself faced with two choices: let Wade go and escape to safety, or go through with the plan to send Wade to prison, thus risking his own death.
Elmore Leonard and screenwriter Halstead Welles provide a well-told narrative. The first act is genuinely suspenseful. We’re never quite sure what’s going on, nor can we predict what’s going to happen. Glenn Ford’s Wade may be a criminal, but the first act also makes it clear that he’s a man with a sense of personal ethics.
The ending is memorable, featuring an expertly choreographed ambush on the town. Evans must fight off a group of gangsters to get Wade into that train. The only slightly ‘cheesy’ moment occurs in the final shots, when rain starts to fall on the drought ravaged land. This film comes highly recommended.
Framed in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Criterion’s 1080p transfer looks terrific. This new 4K restoration shows off an amazing level of detail, clarity and texture. The image is spotless, sporting strong black levels, and a nice amount of depth. There are no digital anomalies to speak of, making this a wonderful visual experience in every way.
The audio is no less fabulous. In addition to the uncompressed original mono mix, there’s also a new DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. The soundfield is expansive, and a nice bit of ambiance. It’s personal preference as to which track you’ll prefer; both provide crisp, clear dialogue and a nice sounding theme from Frankie Lane.
English SDH subtitles are available.
The following special features are included:
- Elmore Leonard (HD, 13:01) Recorded in 2013, the author discusses how he sold his first story, and how Delmer Daves filmed it. He also discusses the cast, and the differences between the original film and James Mangold’s 2007 remake.
- Peter Ford (HD, 15:04) In this 2013 interview, Peter Ford, son of actor Glenn Ford and author of the definitive biography Glenn Ford: A Life, discusses the life and legacy of his father.
- Booklet: An illustrated booklet featuring an essay by critic Kent Jones.