Through the history of film there have been a few classic pairings of director and actor that have produced some out and out great films - Anthony Mann/James Stewart, John Huston/Humphrey Bogart, John Ford/John Wayne for example. I would humbly add Henry King/Gregory Peck to that list.
Though (as far as I know) they only made three films together, The Gunfighter, Twelve O'Clock High and Bravados, all three stand as some of the best work in the canon of either man, and all three were great movies that had that extra something that set them apart from the herd.
The Gunfighter is a tale of a hardened old west gunslinger, Jimmy Ringo. Once a hot headed young blood, he is older, wiser, and weary of the life he has chosen. Weary of being challenged in every town by some young squirt who wants to make a name for himself by beating the fastest gun in the West. After being forced to kill again in self defence he heads for a town where he hopes he can find salvation. Soon the entire town is on tenterhooks as his very presence in the saloon brings the entire community to a halt. What follows is a great tale as Ringo tries to keep out of trouble and make amends with his estranged wife.
Peck excels as Ringo, a man with a dubious past but now trying to do the right thing. He brings a gravity to the character, and turns him from being a mere archetypal gunslinger into a very real human. His quiet dignity as he faces all that he is trying to escape is the best part of the film.
Also of note is Millard Mitchell as an ex member of Ringo's gang, now sheriff of the town. He understands just how things are going to play out, and with out fear or favour does his best to keep the town in control and keep both Ringo and any ambitious young guns alive. The finale, where Ringo lays a heavy doom on one of the young squirts and the Sheriff sees it through is one of the best endings of any film. Mitchell plays it through with a commanding, authoritative yet understanding air.
This is a film that had a wide impact - I recall hearing (though this might be pure hog's wash) that Ringo Starr of Beatles fame took his name from Peck's character here. And Bob Dylan even wrote a song about his experience of going to see the movie (Brownsville Girl) in which he compared his own place in the music industry to that of Jimmy Ringo in the old west - THE man that anyone wanting to make a name for themselves has to shoot down.
This Studio Classics release from Fox is pretty good, with an excellent transfer and picture quality. I have been impressed with all the DVD's I have had from this range. Highly recommended purchase to those who like action and a bit of thought provoking. 5 stars.