The remarkably assured feature debut by Peckinpah introduces the murky moral issues that would characterize his subsequent Westerns. After he accidentally kills a young boy in a shoot-out, an ex-soldier (Brian Keith) consumed by hatred for the man who wounded him years earlier escorts the child’s widowed mother (Maureen O’Hara) through perilous Apache territory en route to bury the boy—a fraught relationship rendered with acute psychological complexity. Beautifully shot with a carefully controlled color palette and striking compositions that emphasize the otherworldly landscape of the Southwest, The Deadly Companions is also notable as the rare Peckinpah film to feature a strong-willed, richly realized central female character, as embodied by O’Hara’s defiant pioneer woman.