The Bravados (1958)

A Powerful Western Tale of Revenge and Redemption

The CinemaScope film was based on a novel of the same name written by Frank O'Rourke. Jim Douglas (Gregory Peck) is a rancher who has been pursuing the four outlaws who murdered his wife for six months. He rides into the town of Rio Arriba, where four men, Alfonso Parral (Lee Van Cleef), Bill Zachary (Stephen Boyd), Ed Taylor (Albert Salmi) and Lujan (Henry Silva), fitting the description are in jail awaiting execution, so that he can see the hanging. The town has issued instructions to only allow the hangman (Joe DeRita) to enter, so Jim is taken to Sheriff Eloy Sanchez's (Herbert Rudley) office to state his business. The town has never had an execution before, so they have brought in a man from outside town to do the job. The sheriff allows Jim into the jail to see the men. They claim they had never seen him before, but he has the face of a hunter.

Bravo for The Bravados!
The Bravados is directed by Henry King and adapted to screenplay by Phillip Yordan from the story written by Frank O’Rourke. It stars Gregory Peck, Joan Collins, Stephen Boyd, Albert Salmi, Henry Silva, Lee Van Cleef, Kathleen Gallant and Barry Coe. Music is scored by Lionel Newman and cinematography is by Leon Shamroy.
Jim Douglass (Peck) is pursuing the four outlaws who murdered his wife and finds them locked up in a Rio Arriba jail. When they escape jail and flee to Mexico, Douglass goes off once again in pursuit with revenge eating away at his very being.
Henry King and Gregory Peck made a number of films together, that they only made two Westerns is a constant sorrow to genre lovers. They made the quite superb The Gunfighter in 1950 and finally reconvened again in the genre for The Bravados eight years later. While as a point of notice The Bravados is not as great, it’s still one damn fine and meaty picture that finds the two men on either side of the camera bringing the best out of each other.
This on the surface looked to be a standard revenge driven story that would serve the Western genre so well during the heyday, but there’s a downbeat vibe to it all, which when cuffed together with ambiguous characters and an almighty revelation at story’s finale, marks it out as a must see for like minded Oater souls. It even throws up moral quandaries and boldly points an accusing finger at religion under a violent cloud, this for sure sits stoutly among the Adult Westerns splinter that so enriched a genre that almost sank into a light entertainment mire.
As the astute King establishes main characters and paces to precision for taut intrigue, Shamroy revels in the Scope format and cloaks the pic with ethereal vividness, especially for the night time sequences. Then it’s all about Peck, who brings a brooding menace here that wasn’t seen very often, which as it happens is something that makes the finale all the more special given his character is forced into an emotional flip-flop of substance. We of course have a number of Western staples, the fights, despicable crimes, tracking through glorious landscapes et al, all of which are staged with thought and potency for entertainment purpose.
The four outlaws are given enough meat to chew on, Bill (Boyd) is all vile and loose cannon like, Alfonso (Cleef) is shifty and oily, Ed (Salmi) a weasel and Lujan (Silva) is the ace in the pack, with more to him than meets the eye and he turns in a smart underplayed perf. Unfortunately, as is universally noted by most who have seen this, Collins is not only poorly cast as the main female character (Latino love interest, really?), she’s also under written and has no chemistry with Peck. It’s actually more credit to Peck that his strong silent type thesping ensures the Collins misstep doesn’t hurt the pic too much.
A must see for Western, King and Peck fans like. 8/10

20th Century Fox by Henry King, Philip Yordan, Frank O'Rourke.
Stars: Gregory Peck, Joan Collins, Stephen Boyd, Albert Salmi.

Genres: Drama, Western


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