Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Movie Review: 3:10 To Yuma (1957)

After seeing the new 3:10 To Yuma a month ago, I caught the original 1957 film today on cable. I was surprised at how similar and yet different they were. The remake added a 25 minute middle to the movie. The opening robbery and town scenes are pretty similar, even the diner at Evans' house. What's added is the whole travel sequence to Contention, in the remake it's several days. In the original it's overnight and just a couple of minutes of screen time. The whole second half of the film is Dan and Ben hold up in the hotel and the shootout getting to the train. It's pretty similar in both films though it makes a more sense in the original.

What's so different is that there's no back story on Dan, and his son has just a minor role. There's a drought and he needs $200 but the landlord isn't an ass and is broke since no one he rents to can pay him and there's no railroad coming to buy the land. Dan just watches the robbery happen and doesn't do anything to stop it but it's pretty clear that there wasn't anything he could do. There's no Civil War injury. The result is that while Van Heflin's Dan is perhaps depressed, he's really not down on himself and his family is actually proud of him. I had problems accepting Glenn Ford as a villain. His Ben is less slick and less ruthless than Russell Crowe's, but then again the whole film is much less bloody. They also do a much better job in the original at keeping a gun pointed at the prisoner.

The original comes across as a short morality play. The first half is setup and the second is Dan in a difficult situation with Ben not making it easy to do the right thing. Everything else is really quite secondary. The remake is much more of a character study with Dan's character really fleshed out and many more situations to test and define his character; however the new plot elements don't hold together as well. I guess that's not hard to understand given as the writers were most known for 2 Fast 2 Furious. The cinematography of the remake (not to mention the color) makes the scenery much more interesting. The music of the original struck me as dated and overly melodramatic. Aside from some differences discussed below in the spoilers section I liked the remake more than the original.


The conversation in the hotel is quite different. In the original Dan turns down Ben's money because it's the right thing to do, not because he won't be able to explain where the money came from. You get no backstory on Ben and he doesn't quote the Bible once. The way they leave the hotel is much more plausible in the original as Dan has a gun on Ben the whole time. It still happens too suddenly but Ben's reasons for helping Dan at the very end makes much more sense. Instead of just respecting him, he owes Dan for saving his life in the hotel room. The remake gives Dan a character arc and depending on your view of him, Ben one as well. Yes Dan lives in the original, in fact the ending is so happy it even starts to rain in the last scene. Does changing things to have Dan die make much of a statement? Not that I can think of.

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