Not Rated Dir: Henry King | Twilight Time | 1h 38min
Plot: What’s it about?
The Western film genre has not been given the proper amount of attention it deserves in recent years. For fans of the genre, all that can be done is look back and try to discover films in the genre from yesteryear. It’s a shame that this genre is given such short thrift. Thankfully Twilight Time has proven itself to be one of the best distributors of Western films. They are picky about which Westerns get a release and have put out great films like The Man from Laramie and Hombre amongst many others. I was glad to see that they were releasing another Western that I had not seen and Became even more excited when I saw that it started the great Gregory Peck.
A man named Jim Douglass (Gregory Peck) is stopped outside of town called Rio Reba. The sheriff of the town doesn’t want anybody entering the town until the hanging has occurred. The man relinquishes his gun and rifle. He had ridden one hundred miles to see the hanging. He meets Sheriff Sanchez, the banker , and other citizens. The city is on edge from the recent violence at the bank. They assume that Jim is the hangman and are dismayed to learn he is just a spectator. Jim sees a woman he had known a half decade earlier in New Orleans named Josefa Velarde (a young Joan Collins.) Jim’s wife had been raped and killed by four outlaws: Bill Zachary (Stephen Boyd,) Lujan (Henry Silva,) Alfonso Parral (Lee Van Cleef,) and Ed Taylor (Albert Salmi.) Jim inspects them all in the jail and confirms that they are the ones which did the deed. Jim has lost his faith since his wife’s death but agreed to walk Josefa to church. Convicted by Josefa’s mentioning that he should talk to god, Jim enters the church with her. While everyone in town attends church, the outlaws escape after attacking the sheriff and his deputy. They kidnap a local woman named Emma (Kathleen Galant) and they head towards Mexico. Jim joins a small gang to track them down and bring them to justice. He cares more about his own revenge.
The Bravados is an excellent film. While the film is a Western, it is unique in its approach with an ending that holds moral and philosophical weight. Not often do I watch a film that leaves me pondering a moral quandary without preaching to me. The Bravados allows the viewers to ponder justice and revenge in a direct contrast to one another in a way which few films have attempted, much less achieved. I was very impressed by the film and it is not one I will soon forget.
The film is helped along by the great Gregory Peck. As anybody who has grown up watching To Kill a Mockingbird can attest, he was a national treasure. He brings a lot of nuance to the role and after watching the film I can’t imagine the role being played by anybody else. The film also has some amazing supporting actors including a young Lee Van Cleef and Henry Silva. Joan Collins is okay in the film, but she was never really my cup of tea.
The writing for the film is very strong with a screenplay by the great Philip Yordan based on a book by Frank O’Rourke. The film was capably directed by Henry King, one of the best contracted directors from Twentieth Century Fox. The movie was shot in CinemaScope and looks glorious. Cinematographer Leon Shamroy excelled in this film. I love their decision to shoot day for night throughout the film making the film one of the bluest Westerns ever made. The music by Lester Newman is also very good.
Video: How’s it look?
Twilight Time have provided an absolutely gorgeous transfer of the film. Twentieth Century Fox supplied a beautiful MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer of the film in 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The film was shot in CinemaScope and it looks beautiful in high definition. As mentioned above, a decent amount of the film was shot in day for night, making the film unnaturally blue for long periods. This makes the film even more visually interesting than many Westerns from the period. This film visually re ids me of the great release that Twilight Time did of The Man from Laramie a couple years ago. This gets my highest marks.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Twilight Time has provided a surprisingly robust DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track. Obviously, some purists will hesitate to enjoy the film in anything but Mono, but I personally enjoyed how much the surround track elevated the music of Lester Newman and helped to accentuate the few shootouts in the film. Fans should be very pleased to see that Twilight Time have provided three different tracks for the purists out there.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- MovieTone Pieces
- Isolated Score
- Theatrical Trailer
The Bottom Line
The Bravados is a powerful film. It is rare that a Western should pose such a moral quandary to the audience. With Gregory Peck in the lead role, I had expected a good film, but this was really a great film. The transfer is flawless and the surround track is wonderful. Highly recommended.