Known especially for playing the good guy, Charles Bronson became famous for portraying flawlessly Harmonica in Once Upon A Time in the West. However, he did have his fair share of villainous roles, one of them being in Gunsmoke’s episode The Killer (season 1, episode 28).
Besides this episode, the tough-guy to go to also appeared in The Lost Rifle, the 8th episode of the 4th Season in the Gunsmoke series. However, this time it isn’t very clear that his character is the negative one in the episode.
In The Killer, one of the best entries in the show, Charles Bronson is Crego, a character which is meant to be the embodiment of the cold-blooded killer, a vagrant that challenges everybody to a duel. However, he doesn’t play fair, since he only challenges those that he knows to draw their guns slower than him.
In other words, he enjoys killing but he also takes all the necessary precautions so that he isn’t the one to be killed.
In this episode, Matt Dillon is confronted with a moral dilemma, a moral dilemma for those times. From a legal point of view, Crego’s murders are all justifiable, since they are all the result of duels and since the killer is always acting in self-defense. However, Matt knows that the villain won’t stop unless he is put in the ground.
And since the law won’t help him, Matt will have to resort to the killer’s own tactics in order to see the job done.
So, in order to see the job done and Crego punished, Matt Dillon has to risk his own life. And the intensity of the final battle could make anybody jump from their seats, even after so many years. And this, in my opinion, is always a sign found in a good episode.
Even more, thinking about the Dollars trilogy and even Once Upon A Time in the West, the final act is always the one that defines how good a western is. And having the tough (although short, when compared to James Arness) Charles Bronson as a villain surely makes everything even more memorable.