3:10 To Yuma (1957)

This is Western starring Van Heflin as a struggling farmer who must guard a robber until a train arrives (at 3:10 heading to Yuma). The chances that someone else saw or will see this film is slim I imagine, but there are some interesting things about this film–specifically Glenn Ford’s character, which is an early version of a Tarantino character–that I feel warranted a separate review.

(The following goes into some detail, so if you plan to see the film, and you don’t want to know anything, you probably shouldn’t read on.)

Heflin and Ford do a fine job particularly Ford. Ford creates an interesting villian in this film. In a way, he is a precursor to Quentin Tarantino’s characters that juxtapose cold-bloodness with charm. He reminds me of that line from Albert Brooks’ character in Broadcast News about the devil. The Devil is not going to be scary and mean. Instead, he’ll be incredibly charming, nice and attractive. “He’ll get all the good-looking woman.” This describes Ford’s character pretty well. He is polite, reasonable and even kind. At the same time, there is a scene early in the film where he kills a man in a matter-of-fact way. After the incident, a man among the men he rides with makes a comment about how that could happen to any of them. Ford is not hissing or spooky looking–not in a dramatic way. He is calm, and rational, which makes him even more scary in a way.

Heflin is a struggling farmer who is in need of money so he can rent land to water his cattle. (There’s been a drought for a while.) In the beginning of the film, he runs into Ford and his outfit during a stagecoach robbery and does nothing (and he can’t do much) to stop it. Both his sons and his wife seem disappointed in him. All of these factors, eventually lead him to agree to guard Ford’s character until a train arrives that can take him away: he will get paid $200 for doing this, and his family seems proud that he is taking on the task.

Heflin, the marshal and his men devise a way of fooling Ford’s men, and part of the movie involves Ford’s men trying to find out where he is. The main drama and tension lies between Heflin and Ford as they wait for the train. Ford is so calm, reasonable and even likeable. You don’t hate him and you may even like him. Yet, in the back of your mind, you know he can’t be trusted. Earlier, I spoke about Ford as the Devil and he plays the part in these scenes by tempting Heflin to let him go. He makes very compelling cases. As 3:10 approaches, more things occur to tempt Heflin, and the director does a good job of building up this tension. (There are some scenes towards the end that I found a little false, though, and I think the ending is not very satisfying, although it is acceptable.)

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