Like most folks my age, my first exposure to Elmore Leonard's "3:10 To Yuma" was via James Mangold's 2007 remake. Westerns made a short-lived comeback around that time, bringing us excellent productions like The Proposition and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. That same year, I also picked up Sony's DVD of the original 3:10 to Yuma adaptation, directed by Delmar Daves in 1957. Just for the record, I obviously wasn't a lifelong fan of Westerns at that point: my dad was never really into them and the genre didn't dominate TV or the big screen during my childhood. Genres aside, both versions of 3:10 to Yuma are successful because they're based around a suspenseful, layered story with magnetic central characters that are easy to care about. In this case, the original's even better.
It's better because, unlike James Mangold's remake (still a fun ride), there's less clutter to distract from these magnetic central characters. Dan Evans (Van Heflin) is a down-on-his-luck Arizona rancher with no easy access to water and a dwindling cattle herd. His wife Alice (Leora Dana) and two sons admire Dan's determination to provide for them, while his staunch morality ensures he'll play fair to get back on track. Opportunity arrives when outlaw Ben Wade (Glenn Ford) is captured and the wealthy stage-line owner Mr. Butterfield (Robert Emhardt) offers Dan $200 to escort Ben to a prison train just over 80 miles away. Wade's posse is still at large and determined to free their leader, so this is anything but easy money.
The counterbalance to Dan's unyielding, almost frenzied determination is Ben himself, who represents everything that the rancher has come to despise: financial prosperity without following the rules of law and order. The quick-witted Ben comes across as cool and relaxed under pressure, and it seems almost inevitable that he'll escape before the train arrives. The casting of typically heroic Glenn Ford as the "villain" (which the actor insisted on after being offered the role of Dan Evans) gives 3:10 to Yuma a leg up on the competition: he's got more charisma than "the good guy" and a more natural self-assurance than your typical black hat. Their particular relationship is what drives 3:10 to Yuma from Ben's capture all the way to the train departure; these two polar opposites almost end up seeing eye to eye, despite their vastly different backgrounds and plans for the future. It's a fine formula to stage a film around.
So without the remake's darker ending, added handicap(s) for Dan Evans, shifting father-son focus and episodic journey to Contention's railroad, this 1957 adaptation of Elmore Leonard's original story plays a lot straighter and more naturally than its younger brother. Both films celebrate the gray area of human behavior in different ways, though, and that's why the core material has remained so durable. Criterion's new Blu-ray of Delmar Daves' 1957 film arrives less than a year after its induction into the National Film Registry and sports a new 4K restoration that makes it look and sound better than ever before.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Not surprisingly, this 1080p, 1.85:1 transfer looks terrific from start to finish. Supervised by Grover Crisp at Sony Pictures, this new 4K restoration of 3:10 to Yuma reveals a striking level of detail, clarity and texture. The image is clean and crisp, with strong black levels and a mild amount of depth during daytime outdoor sequences, of which there are many. No digital imperfections (including noise reduction, edge enhancement and banding) were spotted along the way, rounding out the visual presentation perfectly. This is simply a flawless presentation of a great-looking classic film and fans will enjoy every minute.
DISCLAIMER: These promotional images are strictly decorative and do not represent Blu-Ray's native 1080p resolution.
The audio is another highlight...and in addition to the uncompressed original mono mix, there's also a new DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. It's a tasteful remix that even the most staunch purist should enjoy, providing a wider sound field and occasional hints of background ambiance. Overall, it's a toss-up based on personal preference, as both audio tracks feature crisp dialogue and a perfectly suitable atmosphere that gets the job done. Optional English subtitles have been presented during the main feature.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen below, the menu interface retains Criterion's typical format; it's clean and organized nicely, but the menu transitions are a little on the clunky side. This release is housed in Criterion's usual "stocky" Blu-ray keepcase, adorned with classy artwork and a chapter list printed on the inside. The included Booklet
features an essay by film critic Kent Jones, who discusses the film's moral ambiguity and other themes.
Only two recent Interviews
(1080p, 28 minutes total) are included here, but they're informative and put together nicely. The first features Elmore Leonard, who discusses his early work, writing habits, love for the Western genre and even comments briefly on James Mangold's 2007 remake. We also hear from Peter Ford (actor Glenn Ford's son and biographer), who discusses his father's professional legacy, personal life and his insistence on playing the villain. Both are fantastic supplements, but a full-length commentary or more interviews (heck, even the trailer, which was included on Sony's 2007 DVD) would've been nice.
3:10 To Yuma is a timeless example of the Western done right. The characters are simply magnetic from start to finish: we've got an underdog hero just trying to make life better for his family and community, as well as a villain whose charisma and skill make him almost equally likeable. It's dangerous for any film to toe such a line but 3:10 to Yuma does it perfectly, serving up a complex character study that easily one-ups the usual "white hat vs. black hat" approach. Criterion's Blu-ray is light on supplements, but the fantastic new A/V presentation more than makes up for it. Whether you're a long-time fan or have only seen James Mangold's 2007 remake, do yourself a favor and pick this up. Highly Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.