Thursday, August 5, 2010

3:10 to Yuma

Whether it's the 1957 black and white film, starring Glenn Ford and Van Heflin, with a supporting role by Ford Rainey (who made appearances in six episodes of ASJ, in all three seasons) as a town marshal, or the 2007 color remake starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, both versions of this movie are great! Having recently read the Elmore Leonard short story upon which 3:10 to Yuma is based, I wanted to see both movies again.

What's interesting is that the basic plot is the same but with each succeeding iteration, the details are fleshed out more and more. The 1953 short story was only fifteen pages long, the original movie was 92 minutes and the remake was 122 minutes, so clearly additional details had to be provided. But the 2007 movie never seems too long--it is so full of action, and so well-paced, that one doesn't notice its duration. Neither version is better than the other; each fits perfectly the time period it was made in.

Another interesting fact: Although part of the beginning in both versions of 3:10 to Yuma is set in Bisbee, Arizona, those towns looks nothing like the Bisbee I visited! The landscape of the movie Bisbee is flat and scrub desert--just like the countryside around Tucson--whereas the real town of Bisbee is situated on a mountainside, with hilly terrain all around it. Fort Huachuca is also mentioned in both movies but it is never seen.

The original 3:10 to Yuma was filmed at Old Tucson Studios. (I had thought the remake was as well but the end credits to that movie state it was filmed in New Mexico.) A scene in the 1957 movie shows gang members riding into Contention City and in the background, a mountain range is a prominent part of the landscape. During the tour I was on, the guide noted that all Westerns made at Old Tucson Studios included a view of the three close-set mountain peaks in their movies; it is one way to determine if a Western was produced there. Here is a screenshot from 3:10 to Yuma (see top photo) and a picture I took (see photo underneath). The three mountain peaks in the center left of both photos are the ones that symbolize the movies made at Old Tucson Studios. Fifty-three years later, they look virtually the same.

The 2007 version of 3:10 to Yuma includes four bonus features. Besides the typical features about the making of the movie and deleted scenes, the two others are well worth watching. The first is a short documentary entitled Outlaws, Guns, and Posses, in which historians of the Old West describe several outlaw gangs and what happened to them. The other excellent DVD extra features historians expounding on the significance of the Western in American culture. 

Related Link:

Article about Elmore Leonard protagonists in his stories and in movies