THE BRAVADOS—grim visaged ‘Jim Douglass’ (Gregory Peck) rides into the New Mexican border town of ‘Rio Arriba’, sees men constructing a gallows and tersely offers “You’re wasting a lot of good lumber. A tree does just as well.” More than just wryly observant, the laconic stranger has dark vengeance on his menu: he’s been pursuing the four men destined to swing, after them for raping and murdering his wife. When they manage to escape, he doggedly tracks them down.
Peck starred in the year’s hit western The Big Country, but his sturdy presence and the durable genre are the only things the 1958 productions have in common. The other is an expansive epic, while this relentlessly downbeat entry joined the year’s likewise unpleasant Man Of The West and The Left Handed Gun for a non-glee club of ‘How The West was Glum’. The cast is interesting, the acting’s fine, the music score is good and the scenery is splendid. It’s just not much fun to watch. *
Henry King had directed Peck in four winners (Twelve O’Clock High, The Gunfighter, David And Bathsheba, The Snows Of Kilimanjaro); this $2,000,000 job was based on a novel by Frank O’Rourke. John O’Hara and Richard Breen had first crack at the script, which eventually was credited to Philip Yordan.
The bad guys are ably covered by Stephen Boyd, Albert Salmi, Lee Van Cleef and Henry Silva and there’s a decent roster of supporting players. The female lead is Joan Collins, who’s okay if miscast as a Mexican-American ranch owner (‘Josefa Velarde’, complete with tony riding togs). Somehow the backcountry hamlet of ‘Rio Arriba’ rated a cathedral spacious and ornate enough for Madrid.
The score, boosted by a surging main theme, is credited to Lionel Newman but was actually co-composed by his older brother Alfred and Hugo Friedhofer. The finest aspect of the production is the stunning location shooting down in Mexico, in Michoacán, Jalisco and the Yucatán, the dramatic landscapes done justice in Leon Shamroy’s glowing cinematography.
Cogerson has the box office at $6,300,000, #40 in ’58. Filling out the cast: George Voskovec, Andrew Duggan, Herbert Rudley, Kathleen Gallant, Barry Coe, Ken Scott, Gene Evans, Joe DeRita (the same year he joined The Three Stooges as ‘Curly- Joe’), Juan Garcia. 98 minutes.
* Peck mounts up—spectacular (How The West Was Won, The Big Country, Duel In The Sun), excellent (The Gunfighter), good (Yellow Sky, Old Gringo), okay (The Bravados, Only The Valiant, The Stalking Moon), lame (Mackenna’s Gold, Shoot Out, Billy Two Hats).