Plot: Jim (Gregory Peck) has ridden into town to witness some executions, as a band of criminals are lined up to be hanged for the murder of a bank teller. But he isn’t just a tourist or voyeur, as he believes this crew was the same group of outlaws that robbed his home a while back. The incident also led to the rape and murder of his wife, so Jim has a real investment in seeing justice served. While in town, he also encounters an old flame Josefa (Joan Collins) and he shares his story of loss, as well as his intention to see the criminals punished at last. But justice is sidestepped, as the hangman is in league with the outlaws and an escape is launched, which leaves the sheriff wounded and the bad guys on the loose. When the manhunt is fruitless, Jim decides to take matters into his own hands and stalk the outlaws, but can he find the criminals, let alone take them down on his own?
Entertainment Value: The Bravados is a straight forward, old school western, but it also has a dark narrative and an unlikely protagonist, so it does stand out from the crowded pack of 50s westerns. I especially like having Gregory Peck in such a dark role, even if the movie doesn’t hit all the marks it aims at and lets a lot of potential slip through the cracks. Even so, I like these bleak westerns and while it has some issues, The Bravados has a lot of positives and delivers a solid genre experience. The quest for vengeance isn’t handled like a hero’s march, so don’t expect a whirlwind of heroism and chest thumping, as that isn’t how this one goes. Instead, the concept of revenge is examined and the toll it takes on both Jim and those he has targeted, regardless of whether or not his focus is on the right place. The downbeat tone is likely to turn off some viewers, not to mention the heavy handed religious threads that pop up, so this isn’t a rootin’ tootin’, feel good western, to say the least. The atmosphere is tense and unsettling at times, capturing the lawlessness westerns often play on, while also getting some good world building and character development squeezed in. The visuals are a highlight as well, with beautiful landscape shots and some memorable compositions, so this movie gets a lot right, despite the various issues it runs into. So if you like westerns and don’t mind a bleak tone or you just want to see Peck in an uncommon, darker role, The Bravados might be flawed, but it is well worth a look.
As I talked about above, this is an interesting role for Gregory Peck and I’ve read that he disliked the character, as he didn’t enjoy such a dark role. While he might not have connected with the role of Jim, he brings his usual level of skill to the part and really delivers a terrific performance. He brings a grim presence the role demands and while he isn’t likable as he most often is, his effort is top tier and he elevates the entire movie on his shoulders. There’s also just a certain draw to seeing Peck in an atypical role like this one, as it seems like it should feel out of place, but he rises to the challenge and then some. I can even see fans of Peck who might not often venture into westerns take an interest in The Bravados, to be honest. I have to mention that Henry Silva has a solid role in this one as well and as always, he brings the heat and turns in a good effort, even in a smaller role than usual. The cast also includes Stephen Boyd, Albert Salmi, Joan Collins, Lee Van Cleef, and Ken Scott.
The Disc: The Bravados hits Blu-ray from Twilight Time and without a doubt, this is the best the movie has ever looked on home video. The image is very clean, with great touches of fine detail and overall visual depth, putting the old DVD version to shame and offering the definitive version of the movie. The colors have a warm, but still natural look and vivid hues, bringing the western visuals to life in rich fashion, so fans should be thrilled with this treatment. The extras include several Fox Movietone newsreels, an isolated music track, and the film’s trailer.