John Wayne's Ethan Edwards, Jimmy Stewart's Howard Kemp, or any number of roles Kirk Douglas has played have nothing of the intensity of Gregory Peck's Jim Douglas in The Bravados.
Peck is perfect casting for the part because he's playing against type. If Atticus Finch's wife had been a homicide victim, I think this is how we would see him. Totally lose a moral compass and become a relentless stalker. It's what makes The Bravados work, because we identify Gregory Peck with an innate decency.
Peck's house was robbed and his wife raped and murdered by intruders. Peck has a line on them, they're four killers who've been caught and scheduled to hang for a bank robbery in a town several miles away where a bank teller has been killed.
But they escape with the help of the hangman, Joe DeReda soon to become a stooge. These are a quartet of the nastiest villains ever, Stephen Boyd, Albert Salmi, Lee Van Cleef, and Henry Silva all of whom have played villains with relish on the big screen. One of them, Boyd, in fact is a rapist, they take young Kathleen Gallant the daughter of the town's dry goods merchant along as a hostage.
Charles Bronson never executed bad guys with as much relish as Peck did. They are convicted murderers who've escaped, there's no law to answer to.
Peck may be doing some public service homicides, but there's a higher law he must answer to for the preservation of his own soul. In fact the ending brings quite a twist to the tale.
The Bravados is one of six films directed by long time 20th Century Fox director Henry King who is most known for doing nine films there with Tyrone Power. In fact the first couple that Peck did were probably properties that were meant for Power, but Darryl Zanuck switched them for his new up and coming leading man.
This one however is all Gregory Peck's film, I'm not sure Power could have done a better job. Peck gets some able support from the villainous quartet and from Joan Collins as an old flame he finds that has settled in the town the four have savaged.
Special mention should go to Andrew Duggan as the priest in the town where apparently everyone is Catholic. Duggan does a good job as the padre who gives just the right spiritual advice and counsel to a troubled soul.
Themes like rape were not exactly subject matter for westerns before the Fifties. The Bravadoes succeeds both as Saturday matinée shooting and as serious adult drama. It shouldn't be missed when broadcast.