Sunday, October 07, 2007

[DVD] 3:10 to Yuma (1957)

One More Shot

No, this isn't the updated version starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. While it's making its rounds in general and festival circuit release, over here we've got to wait until next year (yes! Almost 3 to 4 months!) before it arrives on our shores. So what can one do in the meantime? Do some homework and pick up the original of course.

You would already know by now the basic premise of the story. Ben Wade (Glenn Ford, who was Jonathan Kent in Superman which starred Christopher Reeves, and in the 3:10 update the character is played by Crowe) is one of the most notorious and wanted criminals in the Wild Wild West, and together with his gang, rob a stagecoach in the beginning of the movie, and in the process, kills the driver. While getting his rocks off with a local barmaid Emmy (Felicia Farr), he gets arrested by the town sheriff with the help of poor rancher Dan Evans (Van Heflin), and Evans gets offered 200 dollars as a volunteer to transport Wade to Contention City, in time for the 3:10 train to Yuma (hence the title).

It's really a simple story about the dynamics and uneasy relations between the two men. One captive, the other the guard. One a criminal, the other just being the mercenary in need of money to get through hard times and feed his family. One full of cunning, the other a good boy scout who has high morals and is serving out his moral obligation. There are enough engaging material here to keep you mesmerized, but the movie turned out to be a quick 92 minutes (the update runs for at least 30 more minutes). The best parts are nonetheless the temptation that Ben brings to the table - let him walk free, and he'll reward Dan with 10,000 dollars, more than 50 times the amount provided to him. Will Dan buckle? It's a quick get rich scheme, nobody will blame him (given nobody else wants this job anyway), and it's almost a banker's guarantee that there will be no blood loss on either side.

The tension built in the hotel room where temptation gets seductively dripped and the time gets ticking, is excellence par none, even despite the movie's age. And as the clock approaches 3pm, you find that the odds get stacked against Dan, slowly but surely. However, there are some jarring moments to the plot during those tension filled moments, like Dan's wife Alice (Leora Dana) comes a visiting. And for all the build up, the climax is a little disappointing, at least to me, as there's no big OK Corral styled shoot em ups. It does have a satisfying ending, but one that is rather muted for a Western.

In fact, if you look at it on hindsight, it's quite unsophisticated, with few sets, and little battles. What made it being touted as arguably one of the best of its genre, is the delivery by both Glenn Ford and Van Heflin. Ford's mannerisms in his portrayal as Ben Wade will offer no surprises why Russell Crowe was chosen for the role. Van Heflin's Dan is a curious choice to offer to Christian Bale however, as the Dan here's a little stocky, and confident but yet unsure. But Bale being an excellent actor, should be able to pull this off, and it'll be interesting to see how his Dan will react to Ben Wade's propositions.

All in all, after watching this one, I can't wait for the remake to come any sooner. No doubt having known how the story played out might mar the enjoyment, you'll never know when, as usual, the Hollywood remake will throw a curveball in the story, especially in beefing up the action with a couple more gunfights. Watching Crowe and Bale go head up against each other, is reason enough to watch the updated version, some half a century after the original was made.

Code 1 DVD by Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment comes in both full screen and widescreen formats. The anamorphic widescreen transfer brings about the sense of scale in the outdoor shots, but frankly, most of the movie happened indoors, either in the saloon, or the hotel room where both men gets holed up until 3:00 p.m. It's a 1957 movie, so naturally it's in black and white, but being digitally mastered more than makes up for it with its pristine visual quality. The audio unfortunately is in mono, and in English only, but subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

No other special features included, besides the ability to zoom into your favourite moments given a 28 chapter scene selection, and trailers for other Western movies like MacKenna's Gold (5:05) and Silverado (1:48) starring a very young Kevin Costner.

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