A girl needs a chance to get away sometimes, right? Have a little fun. Maybe have a drink. Get a little lucky. So, I did that the other night. I just up and decided to take off on my own and head over to Town, have a couple of beers and scope out the dude situation. There’s nothing like cruisin’ down the highway, t-tops off, Molly Hatchet blaring, hair in the wind (a smart girl knows how much hairspray to use in these instances to keep oneself looking sharp), just you and the road and the hunt. Unfortunately, the only dudes in the situation were Daniel, the bartender, and Melvin, my ex. Believe it or not, I am actually a smart lady. I have no idea why I’d expected something different than the last 8 times I’ve been there.
None of that is happening. Daniel’s been married forever and is much, much older than I. Not that I’m that picky, but I respect a man that’s kept the same lady for 40 years. Melvin can just….eat a bag of dicks. His idea of a good movie is As Good As It Gets and drives a 1995 Camry. Uhg. I gotta remember that when I got the itch, I might as well go into the City. Anyhow, since I didn’t just get all dolled up for nothin’, I crossed the street to Mike’s to see what was going in the theater.
The theater is always a crap shoot, because, like the marquis says, “Whatever I Want” is the movie du noir. (See, I even know a little French. It means “of night.” Smart, I tell ya!) Mike throws whatever he’s got just lying around at the screen; you want a choice, back to the City you go. I paid my $3.00 to the little high school chick he has running the booth and swing in for what she says is a two-fer. A double feature, in movie parlance (another fancy word, y’all). 3:10 To Yuma, 1957 and 2007. Huh. Didn’t realize ’til just now that they’re 50 years apart. Amazing how that works out.
So, I think I missed the first, oh, ten minutes or so of the 1957 version, but it’s okay because they’re old favorites. It starred Glenn Ford (not a bad looker in his day), Van Heflin, and Felicia Farr, and was directed by Delmer Daves (prolific in writing/directing Westerns in the 40s and 50s.) It was actually based on a story by Elmore Leonard, but really, the story is so bare bones, it might as well have been just a treatment for a movie or play.
Anyhow, we got a rancher and his boy who witness a stagecoach robbery where the gang leader shoots both the stagecoach driver and one of his men dead. The gang rides into town and gets spotted by the owner of the stagecoach company as the Very Bad Men. The Chaos That Is Law In The West ensues, but Wade (the bad guy) gets himself caught. The Marshall needs to move this guy from the town they’re in to Contention City, in order to catch the 3:10 train to Yuma (hence the name, if you weren’t paying attention.) Wade’s gang is everywhere, so it’s going to be tricky to pull it all off. He asks for volunteers and good old Dan (the rancher who witnessed what went down) decides to go, as the $200 would go a loooong way towards satisfying the debt he’s currently in due to back-to-back droughts. Shenanigans ensue.
It’s a good telling of the tale. Leonard kept everything in Dan’s point of view, and it’s very short, maybe 15 or 20 pages. There’s a lot a good script writer and director could play with, and I can state in confidence that Halsted Welles (writer) and Daves (director) did admirably. It was filmed in black and white, but everything was in a very sharp focus, as compared to softer-edged cinematography of the day. Ford didn’t often play a villain, so he was hailed for this atypical screen presence. It even won a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Award).
After the flick, I popped out to take care of the necessities, run across the street and grab another beer or two (just pop ’em in your bra, ladies!), and back in my seat for our second feature. The 2007 version of the film was a little more star-studded. Here, we get the same movie. Maybe some of the dialog is different, but the order of events is constant. Dan the rancher is portrayed by Christian Bale (yummy). The Bad Dude Ben Wade is played by Russell Crowe (also, yummy.) There’s also Peter Fonda, Alan Tudyk, Logan Lerman, and Ben Foster, to round out some of the cast for ya. Wade kills some folks; Dan sees it. Marshall & posse get the Bad Guy, but we gotta get the Bad Guy to Yuma.
This adaptation is very well done. It’s in color (obvs), and the cinematography is top-notch. The fight scenes are amazing. The chemistry amongst the actors is really amazing, which for me makes this an easily rewatchable flick. It was easier for me to suspend disbelief and just lose myself in the entertainment before me. It also occurs to me that Mike popped my Yuma cherry, as I’d never seen either film in the theater before that night. (Cheers, Mike!)
Overall, both movies are worth seeing. The shortness of the story they’re based on means there’s a lot less that could be fucked up (as happens with a book adaptation.) The Wild West is a thing, even if slightly romanticized by film, that everyone should get a little exposure to, since it informs some of how we act today. Also, Mike, good buddy, old pal, GET SOME GOTTDAMN CONCESSIONS!!! And, I don’t mean the warm sodas from the ancient machine out front or those JuJuBes that have been there since 1982. Also, how do we get more… available… individuals in Town? Sigh.