Bravados [1958]

During his Twentieth Century Fox contract years, Gregory Peck looked to veteran director Henry King as something of a father figure and gave two of his best performances--in Twelve O'Clock High (1949) and The Gunfighter (1950)--for him. The Bravados (1958) isn't in that league, but it's a surprisingly tough film from the flabby CinemaScope years when the studio, director, and star all seemed to be floundering. Peck plays Jim Douglass, a dark, haunted man who rides into a Southwest border town on the eve of a hanging. The bad men set for the drop (Stephen Boyd, Albert Salmi, Lee Van Cleef, Henry Silva) are the same ones he's been pursuing for the rape and murder of his wife. Douglass isn't happy about leaving it to the law to carry out his vengeance--and so there's a certain bleak satisfaction when the quartet busts out of jail, and he becomes the best hope for hunting them down. Perversity wasn't King's long suit, so Philip Yordan's screenplay about a hero turning more sinister than the outlaws he's chasing never acquires the demonic power or ironic flair that an Anthony Mann, Fritz Lang, or Robert Aldrich might have lent it. Yet the very foursquareness of King's style and approach--and Peck's earnest efforts to fight through his accustomed stolidity to hit the necessary notes of desperation and finally shame--make for a fascination all their own. Joan Collins hovers handsomely on the periphery as an old friend ready to redeem Douglass, and Joe (Curly Joe-to-be) De Rita makes an uncredited appearance as the hangman. --Richard T. Jameson

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