on 2 February 2013
Just to add to the many articulate reviews here, but I must add that the blu ray version of this film [which I have seen many times and have on DVD] in 'The Westerns Collection' box set is probably the best looking restoration disc of an old film I have seen [although the restoration of the inferior 'Grand Prix' is also stunning].
The choreography of Ethan's brother's family as they arrive at the front of the house - a home with rich textures in and out - subtly tells us all we need to know so later - when they are dead - they seem real enough to us. The monument valley landscapes lour and glow; the framing of various characters within door frames benefits from the deep blacks achieved by this newish disc format -and enhance the sense of Ethan as a homeless, war damaged, unhappy wanderer; costumes - colours and textures - are wonderfully vivid - esxpecially those of the native Americans - and the changing seasons [the cavalry riding through a river in the snow!] seem as real to me aS 'The Hobbit''s 48f.p.s.. The cinematography is superb. The use of fast focus push to Wayne's face, is made more effective: we're care getting close to Leone's extreme close ups here and Scorses's use of a similar technique to emphasise drama and interior monologue.
Most importantly, the relationship between Ethan and Marty seems refreshed for me: Ford shows the awkward boy become a man and begin to understand Ethan's terrible intent to kill his defiled neice; Marty learns to stand up to him, and forces a changed purpose to one of rescue. Although the moment when Wayne grabs and lifts Natalie Wood is fraught with risk, the moment of compassion arrives and Debbie is returned home to love and care. Ford's values are never Ethan's. Even his representation of commanche village life suggests something of respect. The suggestion in the script that the bones of these Texan settler must be in the earth to help grow a great new nation is both romantic and moving - and, yes, a touch absurd [why are they farming in this arid if magnificent place?]. A complex and an unusual for film of its time- but a subtle one too.
on 14 June 2015
I have a few confessions to air before I try to add something to the plethora of erstwhile reviews on this film. The first is that I believe that “The Searchers” was one of the finest Westerns that ever graced the cinematic screen, right up there with “Shane”. I believe that this is the Western that John Wayne should have received an Oscar for. The other is that I have a very large collection of Westerns but this is my favourite of all time, so I’m probably a touch biased. As to this film; It is laden with wonderful pictorial story-telling and human metaphors. The whole concept of native Indians being typecast as the “baddies” was subtly challenged by Ethan’s slow emotional realisation that he may have been wrong about some of his assumptions. One of which was that his niece would be better off “dead than red”. Still a long way to go, but for 1956 this was pretty ground breaking. For me this movie is so engaging; it has moments of humour, angst, and pure hatred. As a result I have watched my old DVD on numerous occasions. I am slowly replacing all of my favourite films with Blue ray and I have now added “The Searchers” to my collection. I will come back with a review once I have had a chance to view it. Happy watching to all.
on 25 August 2015
Let me get an unkind thought out of the way: would Natalie Wood's teeth really be as white and regular as they are in this movie if she had been living out in the wild for years with the Comanches? Ah well . . . luckily, the movie prompts us to more substantive reflection too, and Wood's character, Debbie, is not so much a character (for no acting is required of her here) as an icon, the object of the search, and it's what motivates the searchers Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) and Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter) that comes to matter as much as the rigors of the search itself. The setting, ostensibly West Texas, but actually filmed largely around Monument Valley in Utah, as so many of John Ford's movies were, is 1868, and Ethan Edwards has been gone from home for eight years. What has he been doing since the end of the Civil War (in which he fought on the Confederate side)? He seems to have been a mercenary in Mexico, and it's hinted that he might even have some criminal activity in his past, but his old friend Samuel Johnson Clayton (Ward Bond) doesn't push it. What becomes clear early is that his long absence might have to do with his affections for his brother's wife, which is made clear in an understated way, and that he has returned a racist, as we would now say. Perhaps he always has been, but now the idea of miscegenation between Indian (Comanches in this part of the world) and white folks deeply disturbs him, and when his niece, Debby, is taken after an Indian attack that leaves his brother and family dead, the search for her becomes a search to purify her by killing her --- for Ethan assumes, correctly as it turns out, that Debbie has grown up to become a wife of the raiding Comanche chief, Scar. John Wayne gives a performance here that matches at least his great performance as another kind of obsessive in "Red River." We tended to think, late in Wayne's life, that he simply played versions of himself, but that does him an injustice. Parts were written for him of a certain kind, and he played them as a professional actor should, but he was capable of doing more than he was often given to do, and a movie like this shows it.
Fortunately for Debbie, Ethan is accompanied by Martin, whom Ethan tends to look down on both for his youth and for the fact that Martin -- in effect an adoptive brother to Debbie -- is himself eighth-Indian. And when the final confrontations come, Martin rises to the occasion . . . and, eventually, Ethan does too, but when he gets Debbie back to the settlement where she grew up, he seems himself to feel that it is no place for him. The final shot is iconic, and by that time we realize that what Ford and Wayne have given us not just a stereotypical portrait of a "loner" but a nuanced account of a man who might realize that his attitudes can't survive in the nascent "civilization" that West Texas represents here -- it's a place that has a place for a person of mixed blood, like Martin, and it's a place where crazy folks like Mose Harper (Hank Worden) and "foreigners" like the Scandinavian settlers the Jorgensons, have a place too. It's to the credit of Ford and his screenwriter Frank Nugent that they allow most of our grasp of the dynamics of the settlement to be conveyed more by image and gesture than by explicit dialogue and explanation -- which would be a problem for plausibility, given that we don't seem to be among very articulate people here.
The movie was made in 1955, and it seems reasonable to assume that Ford is touching on the fears of many Southern whites especially at a time when the Civil Rights movement was taking off. Brown v. Board of Education had been decided the previous year, and Dr. King was in Montgomery around the time of the filming. Things were stirring, and Ford seems willing to keep them stirred. The odd sub-plot of Martin's comic courtship of the Jorgensons' daughter Laurie (Vera Miles, not totally convincing) interwoven with the uncomfortable comedy, if comedy it is, of Martin's acquiring an Indian wife, whom he calls "Look," in the course of the search is important. Ethan finds it humorous -- so when the Indian maiden is the ostensible sexual object, he clearly has no qualms. Laurie, on hearing about it in the labored single letter she gets from Martin, is obviously disturbed and becomes open to being courted by Charlie McCorry (Ken Curtis), a musician and a largely comic and non-sexual figure. Martin and Ethan get back on Laurie's wedding day -- and the ending of that strand of the plot devolves into "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers"-type comedy, but given what has gone before, we can't just sit back and enjoy it -- especially with Ethan and Debby in the picture. The bottom line for me is that the movie still has the power to disturb, though whether in 2015 we're disturbed in the way that the audiences were sixty years ago seems questionable. But where issues of race, justice, and empathy are concerned, any disturbance that prompts reflection is salutary. So see this if you haven't already.
GRANDIOSE! This master piece is very deservedly a LEGEND! I watched it twice a long, long time ago and recently I was delighted to see that it didn't age at all. NOT ONE BIT! Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.
Texas, 1868. Ethan Edwards (Wayne) returns after an eight-year absence to the isolated farm of his brother Aaron (Walter Coy). He fought for the South in the War Between States, but nobody knows what he did for three years after 1865... Edwards is a dangeorus and rather unpleasant man, with a lot of anger in him, both against the Yankees and the Indians, against whom he fought many times before 1861 (he even speaks fluent Comanche). His dislike for Indians extends to the mixed-blood peaople, like his adoptive nephew, Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter) who is "one eighth Cherokee". Circumstances will however force him to team with Pawley, when his nieces, teenage Lucy (Pippa Scott) and eight-year-old Debbie (played first by Lana Wood, later by her older sister Natalie Wood), are abducted by the Comanche. The search will be very long, terrible and full of most heart-breaking misery. I will say nothing more about the story.
I don't have words strong enough to praise this film. Every scene is a perfection, the scenario is excellent and all actors were guided by John Ford to give the maximum. The emotional power of "The searchers" is immense: the unsettling arrival of long-lost and quite dangeorus brother into the quiet life of a farmer family, the creeping sense of terror followed by the despair and powerless rage, the heart-breaks, disappointments and sacrifices of the long search, the pervasive feeling that those all efforts may be in vain and finally the not-so-easy-not-so-happy ending - all this will play a lot with your heart-beat.
For a film this tragic there is also a surprising amount of humour - which in no way destabilises the whole thing, but to the contrary, underlines even better the terror, the pain and the misery of this long ordeal... Many of thise humorous moments involve a slightly mentally unbalanced but very likeable (and very much liked) local character named Mose Harper (Hank Worden) as well as the very, very difficult courtship by Martin Pawley of Laurie (Vera Miles), a girl he knew since the earliest childhood.
One of the most precious things about this film is that it shows in a very realistic way the extreme cruelty of the wars waged in the Comancheria territory until the submission of the last group of warriors in 1875 - Indians attacks against whites were very deservedly called "murder raids". As for the fate of white girls and women abducted by Indians it was a very cruel one, made of rape and very harsh slavery, definitely different from all the politicall correct bull---- shown by Hollywood in films like "Dancing with wolves". This film reminds it very usefully.
Three of the actresses who played in "The Searchers" are still with us: Vera Miles, Pippa Scott and Lana Wood, as is Patrick Wayne (John Wayne's son) who plays a minor but highly entertaining, in fact comical, role of a very, very green cavalry officer...)))
This is one of the very best westerns and one of the very best films ever made. I am very surprised that it wasn't nominated for any Oscars - but al least it was recognized in 1989, when "The Searchers" was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress, and selected for preservation in its National Film Registry. It certainly impressed me and I will definitely keep the DVD for another viewing.
on 14 January 2003
Ethan Edwards is a mature ex confederate soldier, a solitary man hardened in action, and I’m afraid more than possibly he’s not entirely in the side of the law –“I have some Yankee dollars recently coined”- offers Ethan to Aaron, his brother, as a pay for staying in his ranch. We don’t know how Ethan has obtained these money. He has been also fighting in Mexico and in full, he’s clearly an outsider. As the film begins it seems all Ethan wants is peace and rest, but the territory is wild and there’s “Scar”, a sort of Indian version of Ethan, as hard, somber, complex and vindictive as him. Scar, who has seen his own family destroyed by the white men, assaults and burns the ranch of Aaron and kills all the relatives of Ethan excepting the little Debbie, and so, the searching of the white girl kidnapped by the Comanches and the incessant, obsessive and sometimes morbous and irrational prosecution begins for Ethan with the paradoxical company of the young Martin Pawley, himself a semi - red skin, young and inexpert and to which Ethan hardly can be said has at first any confidence nor affection. The personages are colossal as the whole story with some drops of indispensable humor, and when the long, tremendous search is concluded, Ethan is forgotten and at the end as at the beginning, he rests out and alone. His family doesn’t need to him anymore. Simply superb movie.
on 25 September 2001
This and The Shootist are my two favourite westerns - John Wayne is very different in these two films and I think both performances are great. I disliked Wayne quite a lot until I saw these two movies, and they changed my mind fast.
The photography and editing are superb, and as always in Wayne westerns, even this darkest one, there is a golden vein of humour in it, not as much as usual in his films but it's still there.
Some of the shots in this film are astounding; the great closing scene of course, and I think the shot earlier on where the camera moves in as Wayne spins round and stares (and I mean stares!)at an 'indianised' white girl, is one of the best shots I've ever seen in any film. The intensity of that shot is unforgettable.
A really great film.
on 12 February 2009
every once in a while a film comes along that has the critics and audiences alike raving about it , the searchers is just such a film , a story of love , friendship , hate , determination , bitterness and sorrow , sacrifice and hardship with one of the golden screens greatest endings that only a master craftsmen can lead the viewer into . john wayne proves not only is he the finest actor to ever grace a horse but also that he is a very great actor , i doubt that any one other than the duke could have carried the role and the audience without let up throughout 114 minutes of superb story telling amid the wonderfull scenery of monument valley , the entire cast gives wonderfull support indeed without such stalwarts of the silver screen i suggest the film could not have had the impact upon the viewer that remains long after the film is over , to call the ford/wayne collaberations mere film making fails to do justice to the genre and spirit of the american west and the service these two greats gave to it ..... here is a film that never dates , played out by actors who can rightly be called true greats , just as the director , star and film is rightly named . great .
on 3 October 2000
THE SEARCHERS - AN EXILE The Searchers is one of the best Western movies ever made. It was made when its star, John Wayne, was in his prime and at his most authoritative, in a medium of which he was one of the most accomplished exponents. The film has all John Ford's characteristic touches, the Desert West which he made his own, and his own 'repertory company', a cast which could deliver Ford's peculiar vision. It has also the richest sub text of any of the Ford Westerns. Wayne's character, Ethan Edwards, is an outsider, a loner. This is not just in the usual cinematic sense of being unattached. Wayne is in love with his brother's wife, so he is unable to rear a frontier family and join in the society of 1870s Texas. Ethan is also a Confederate who took the Confederacy seriously, who refuses to abandon his allegiance to the South in arms. ... The South is his lost nation and he refuses to pick up any pieces. This is obsessive behaviour, a lost cause just as his search among the Comanche clans for his niece is obsessive. ... This sub text gives the movie a tragic dimension that makes it one of the greats.
As Jim pointed out in his review below, this picture was designed to be seen in widescreen, and he saw it in regular 1.33:1 ratio when playing this disc. If he'd 'flipped' the disc over, however, he would have been able to watch the widescreen 1.85:1 version, which is also included on Side B.
The regular ratio picture was cropped top and bottom to turn the picture into VistaVision, and the exquisite framing of shots show that John Ford was well aware of what would - and wouldn't - be seen in the VistaVision presentation. The depiction of the natural landscape is nothing short of superb. Indeed, a lot of fun can be had by watching the regular ratio version as all sorts of things we shouldn't see (studio lights, tops of backcloths and so on) can be glimpsed at points. Look at the 'Trivia' and 'Goofs' sections for this picture on IMDB for more details.
It's a wonderful picture presented like this, but I'm now saving up my pennies for what seems to be an exceptional Blu-ray rendering,The Searchers [Blu-ray]  ,also available on Amazon
on 13 April 2010
This film is absolutely fantastic in bluray. It really does the landscapes and costumes justice. If you like this film you'll love this fabulous rendition.