The remake of 3:10 to Yuma comes out tomorrow on DVD, so I thought it would be interesting to watch the original and see how they compare. I saw the remake in the theater and loved it, but I didn't write a real review of it at the time, so I'll probably let this serve for that too.
The first surprise for me was that the original's in black-and-white. That doesn't affect my enjoyment at all, but some of the art I'd seen associated with it was in color and color is a reasonable expectation of a '50s movie, so I figure it's worth pointing out.
Both movies start off the same with Ben Wade (played by Glenn Ford in the original) and his gang robbing a stagecoach by using Dan Evans' (Van Heflin) cattle. The robbery is longer and more exciting in the new version (and adds Peter Fonda's character for some great, extra flavor), but other than that the scene goes down about the same way.
There's no subplot in the old one about Dan's feuding with a neighboring rancher. Dan's still desperate for money to get his ranch through a drought, but that's as far as it goes. And it's enough really. When the stagecoach owner offers $200 to anyone who'll help transport the captured Ben Wade to the 3:10 train to the prison in Yuma, we totally get why Dan volunteers.
Most of the posse's scheme to get Ben to the train is the same, but the remake adds a lot to the journey. In the original, once the good guys have sent Ben's gang on a false trail, we go immediately to Contention City where the train station is. The remake spends a lot of time on the trip, building tension for the end, but the original saves its tension-bulding for Contention where Dan and Ben have a lot of time together waiting for 3:10.
Ford and Heflin are great actors, so the wait's not boring, but it is quiet and it's pretty long. I won't say anything about the ending in case you want to see it. It's a good movie and I can see why it got remade. The story is unique for a Western, the interplay between the two leads is fantastic, and Ben Wade is a charmingly ambiguous bad guy. And there's a damn fine shoot 'em up at the end. Not to knock Roy Rogers and Gene Autrey-type Westerns, but it's a far cry ahead of them in terms of sophistication.
The remake though takes a very good film and makes it excellent. It leaves all the important elements of the original intact, but adds sub plots, action, extra drama, an awesome ensemble cast of supporting characters, and further complicates Ben Wade in interesting ways. And with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale playing Ben and Dan, it doesn't slouch in the acting department either.
The 1957 gets four out of five lonesome whistle blows.
The 2007 gets five out of five.