March Issue 2018
Classic Movie Review: 3:10 to Yuma
A ruthless order prevails in the drought-ridden wilderness of Cochise County, south-eastern Arizona, in the late 19th century. It is cobbled together by gangs of highwaymen and outlaws — their eyes and ears dotting desert outposts like a telegraph network.
It is a truth that Dan Evans (Van Heflin), a passive yet morally astute cowboy struggling to feed his family, must face up to, in Delmer Daves’ 1957 production, 3:10 to Yuma.
For when he finds himself inextricably tied to a drive to deliver notorious outlaw Ben Wade (Glenn Ford) to Yuma Territorial Prison, he is forced to confront obstacles on a practical and fundamental level.
Holding the much-feared Wade hostage isn’t as simple as it may sound — despite the deceptive simplicity and calmness of sparsely populated towns such as Bisbee and Contention City, where part of the story unfolds. Wade’s gang of 12-strong have dispersed across all nearby routes via which their leader could be transported to justice, in a bid to recover him.
A particularly atmospheric and well-crafted opening sequence set against the soundtrack of ‘3:10 to Yuma’ sung by Frankie Laine, culminates in a stagecoach robbery-gone-wrong. Charles Lawton Jr’s cinematography establishes a sense of menace from the very moment the highwaymen surround the stagecoach. And the scenic backdrops of filming locations in Arizona — which include Sedona, Texas Canyon and the Little Dragoon Mountains — add an aesthetic element to the shots.
While the protagonist may not be the nihilist anti-hero of Harry Horner’s Man From Del Rio — released a year earlier, in 1956 — director Delmer Daves delivers a multidimensional villian in the charmingly devilish Wade (a show-stealing performance by Glenn Ford). He more than makes up for Heflin’s Evans and his morality of the dutiful strongman — which today’s audience may find somewhat outdated. Felicia Farr leaves a lasting impression as Emmy, the beautiful bartender, despite the limited screen time.
The drought through which Evans’ family and cattle have struggled is a physical and metaphorical one. For once Evans decides that he will not back down from the challenge at hand, thundering clouds can be heard in the distance
The writer is an Assistant Editor at Newsline (www.alibhutto.com)