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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.


The Bravados (1958) on IMDb

Plot Overview

house on a hillRio Arriba is an out-of-the-way small town a hundred miles from Winthrop another small place where the ranch of one Jim Douglass (Gregory Peck) had been ransacked and his wife raped & killed. He's spent six months tracking the Bravados gang of four reported to have done it, but the law caught them first and they are scheduled to hang in Rio Arriba in the morning. He's a stranger to that town, who makes it across San Marcos Pass in the mountainous barrier to arrive just in time to witness justice. The Sheriff Eloy Sanchez (Herbert Rudley) has closed the border except to those supplying needed skilled labor, viz the hangman Simms (Joe DeRita) from Silver City, but Douglass is granted clemency to stay and witness the hanging.

Church serviceThe evening before the hanging the whole town attends church for the annual novena for Saint Anthony. The lightly guarded prisoners escape (with a hostage.) Douglass leads the “armed posse legally sent out to get them, dead or alive.” He also has personal motivation. He singles out confrontations individually with the “two white men, one half-breed, and an Indian.” One of them he shoots disarmed. Another he hogties and kills after the guy was out of bullets. And the remaining two he fights fair, with mixed results.


The stories of two marriageable young women emerge early on. Emma Steinmetz (Kathleen Gallant) is in love with small-town Tom (Barry Coe), and he with her, but her dad, shop­owner Gus Steinmetz (George Voskovec) has reservations because she had not known any other men but Tom. He thinks she should troll the waters of a bigger city for more intellectually stimu­lating material. What­ever. Miss Josefa Velarde (Joan Collins) has returned from husband hunting in New Orleans to manage her now deceased father's ranch, a job too much for a woman. Her father thought she was “too particular” for not having caught her a husband. Whatever.

Now that the Bravados have taken Emma hostage, her dad seems to have got his wish, but not in the way he expected or wants, so he's joined the posse in hot pursuit. For that matter the gang sorts them­selves out according to their dominant weaknesses (“Every man is entitled to one.”) Bill Zachary (Stephen Boyd)'s weakness is women. Ed Taylor (Albert Salmi)'s is cards. The half-breed Alfonso Parral (Lee Van Cleef) is “a louse.” And the Indian Leandro Lujan (Henry Silva) makes the men nervous because, “You can't figure out what's going on in the Injun's head.” If these four represent the field of selection for a woman in the early west—a rake, a louse, a gambler & an enigma—maybe it's just as well she steers clear of them.

Even Christian men in good standing often have some issue they struggle with. (Heb. 12:1-2) “Where­fore …, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, … Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” A Christian is to lay aside his besetting sin but the bad guys some­how live with theirs. If Josefa is unable to find the perfect mate for being too particular, she would do well to consider, (Eccl. 7:16) “Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?” That brings us to Jim Douglass whose marriage proposal she rejected five years ago in New Orleans, but encountering him now gives her a second opportunity. What is his singular weakness? It's that he's stopped going to church. This recent widower has gotten him­self into a funk over the loss of his wife, but a woman's gentle companion­ship draws him out of it, and back to the church where he receives counsel from the Padre (Andrew Duggan) and opportunity for prayer. This is consistent with, (1Cor. 7:13-16) “And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife. … For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband?”

Douglass received the appreciation of the whole town for bringing a measure of justice where they failed. It's as St. John of Kronstadt wrote: (52)

“He is near to his heart” is said of two persons of unequal rank, one of whom protects the other. and the one who has been honoured by the protection of the higher person, and by being near to his heart, knows this, and is reciprocally near him in his own heart.

This is exemplified by Paul asking his Corinthian church to be open to him, (2Cor. 6:11-13) “O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged. Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels. Now for a recompence in the same, (I speak as unto my children,) be ye also enlarged.”

We could look at his subsequent command, (2Cor. 6:14) “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: ...” It was given in the plural ye not to be joined up as a congregation in the aggregate with unbelievers, but individually he did not forbid a liaison so long as one keeps his head on straight. In our movie the insincere prisoners were denied their request to go to church and presumably cause a disruption. That would fit in with Paul's “not unequally yoked” criterion. But a hot­headed towns­man Quinn bran­dishing a rifle at a newly arrived Douglass was castigated by the sheriff: “Ain't we got enough trouble with­out you starting more?” And the churches have enough troubles with­out misguided parishioners forbidding mixed marriages, which Paul granted amnesty to. This evidently from a misplaced sense of loyalty to the respected authority, as in Harlan Coben, “She had loved Joe, the way loyal employees love a benefactor, and only tolerated Maya as an inter­loper. You see this some­times in loyal employees. They are more protective and snootier toward out­siders than their wealthy employers” (67).

Production Values

” (1958) was directed by Henry King. Its screenplay was written by Philip Yordan, based on a novel by Frank O'Rourke. It stars Gregory Peck, Joan Collins, and Stephen Boyd. The acting was generally good. It was filmed in Cinemascope, which produced the brilliant colors. My DVD can be flipped to display in either full­screen or wide screen. The former emphasizes the expansive vistas.

It was certified for viewing by general audiences in 1958. There's nothing in it that would offend such an audience very badly, but today's viewers seem not to like the then standard terms for our native American Indians. They've historically received a raw deal, which movie depictions haven't helped any. Gregory Peck thought that the movie was written as an attack on McCarthyism, which I'm too far removed from to comment on.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

“The Bravados” was a first class western and a little ahead of its time in its philosophical approach. If you like westerns, you'll enjoy it. If you like mysteries, you'll appreciate the way the characters get revealed a little at a time. A woman recovering from a sexual trauma might want to pass on seeing it. It could be a good date movie, or not.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Well done action flick. Suitability for children: Not rated , pre-code. Special effects: Well, at least you can't see the strings. Video Occasion: Good Date Movie. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall movie rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quotations are from the Authorized King James Version (KJV.) Pub. 1611. Rev. 1769. Software.

Coben, Harlan. Fool Me Once. Copyright © 2016. New York: DUTTON. Print.

Sergieff, Archpriest John Iliytch. My Life in Christ. or Moments of Spiritual Serenity and Contemplation, of Reverent Feeling, of Earnest Self-Amendment, and Peace in God: Extracts from the diary of St. John of Kronstadt (Arch­priest John Iliytch Sergieff). Trans­lated with the author's sanction, from the Fourth and Supplemental Edition by E.E. Goulaeff. St. Peters­burg. Jordans­ville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 2000. Print.