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4.6 out of 5 stars176
4.6 out of 5 stars
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********CONTAINS SPOILERS********

It is hard to review a film that has been examined by critics in such detail over the years. Film is a very personal thing and it is for this reason I feel I should record my thoughts. My very first memories of film were of watching "The Searchers" as a small child many years ago. In particular I recall seeing John Wayne lifting a very young Natalie Wood up in that great purging of the dark side scene at the end of the film. I was mesmerised by the scenery and the great screen prescence of John Wayne, who strode the film like a colossus. A very dark colossus it has to be said. Does it still stand up under scrutiny after all these years? The answer is a resounding yes, although I can see the small flaws now which through rose tinted spectacles I missed in the past.

My small criticisms are that I find John Ford's homespun humour has dated quite badly and secondly Ethan Edwards change of heart at the end of the film. In Alan LeMay's book he remained true to his dark character and there was no Damascus road experience. Having said this it would have made a very bleak and desolate picture indeed if the book was faithfully followed. This may have been box office suicide and too depressing for the public. But these small flaws should not detract from what is a magnificent film. The good points are legion. Wayne has never been better and Ethan Edwards is up there with Thomas Dunson from Red River. His acting is far better than in "True Grit" where he earned his long service oscar. Winton Hoch's superb cinematography has never used that magnificent canvas of Monument Valley to better effect. Lets not forget a very good musical score by Max Steiner. The character of Ethan Edwards dominates the film as Captain Ahab dominated the Pequod in Moby Dick. His character is carefully painted. Where did all that gold come from? Why has he come back? The understated affection for his brothers wife quite beautifully played in the wonderful scene with Ward Bond. One of my favourites in movie history. Yes he is a racist and a man of dubious beliefs and morals. But he arrests our attention. He commands the screen and we know he is capable of anything. Definitely Ford's and Wayne's greatest screen creation.

The story spans years and the passage of time is well conveyed. Never has landscape been used in film to such powerful effect. Man is seen to be dwarfed by the vastness of the scenery, his allotted time on earth insignificant against geological tides, and the inexorable turning of the earth. Wayne ages through the film as he does in that other great epic Red River. Yes make no mistake The Searchers is an epic in every sense. The story is conveyed over a vast canvas. The story itself is simple enough as a vengeful uncle searches the American wilderness in search of his niece kidnapped by Comanche Indians. An occurrence incidentally which was not unusual in early pioneering days. The women often becoming totally immersed in their new cultures. Not the case with Natalie Wood I noticed.

After all these years I still see a film of rare beauty and power. Deserving of a place in any top 100 film list. Yes this is a very personal film to me. Hence a more personal review which may not prove popular. But I remain true to myself. It was the catalyst that awoke a love of film for a small boy that endures to this day. Oh and that ending with Wayne the eternal outsider framed in the doorway, doomed to wander the winds forever in that mythical status he had attained. Immortalised like a hero of Homeric legend and with the same dark heart as Achilles. If ever a single scene distillated the beauty of cinema then this was the one, who could fail to be entranced.

This is the sort of film that to quote the great American poet Walt Whitman "contains multitudes". It has even entered popular culture with Ethan Edwards world weary catch phrase "That'll be the day", being used for a famous song written by Buddy Holly and Jerry Allison, and also forming the title for the David Essex film. One viewing is simply not enough to take in its riches. Its images will stay with you forever. It is film making that transcends its own art form. One of the truly great films of the cinematic age.
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on 7 January 2001
Very rarely do all the components of a movie come together so perfectly. Wayne working relationship with Ford was long established and both men did their best work in this film.
Ford produces two films in one; on the surface this is a simple story of a man's search for his neice, kidnapped during an Indian raid. Underneath that is the story of a loner, a racist and a confederate who has lost his place in the world. For Wayne the character of Ethan was a departure; the performance is brave and at times very unsympathetic; far more worthy on an oscar than his later turn in True Grit.
Ford films this epic in the grand manner; Monument Valley has never been better used. For the perfect example of this watch the scene where the posse is tracked by the Indians. Widescreen cinema at its best.
But perhaps it is the final shot that is the most powerful; Ethan turning away as the door shuts. A loner again finding himself outside the society he belongs to. Has there ever been a more powerful image in American cinema?
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on 16 August 2007
I first saw this movie when it was released in UK (1957?) and even at that young age, it became a firm favourite of mine.
I've had it on Beta, VHS and now DVD and still enjoy watching it.
The movie has in it the usual crowd of bit actors that Wayne travelled with over the years along with the young sisters Natalie and Lana Wood playing each other and Vera Miles, a greatly underestimated talent.
Wayne's constant rebuff of "That'll be the day!", caused Buddy Holly and the Crickets (all Texans) to write their first hit of that name after seeing the film in Lubbock, Texas.
Faults with the movie? Well, for returned Confederate soldiers, the actors sho' nuff ain't Texicans, more like "Damn' Yankees", their accents ranging from Wayne's Iowa through to Bond's Nebraska. It seems the only Southerner was Jeffery Hunter who was Louisiana boy. Also, Wayne's character turns up in 1868, three years after the war ended, carrying weapons that weren't designed until 1872, but that always was a fault in Wayn'es movies.
But probably only a Texan gun-buff (or a sad nerd like me) would notice.
Great movie, probably a masterpiece - Buy and enjoy!
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on 8 February 2010
First things first, "The Searchers" does not mean to be racist no matter what any one says and will continue to say. Those that say it obviously have not found the film's message. That's why I'm writing this.
Based upon the real life story of Cynthia Ann Parker and her uncle who searched for her for nearly twenty years, you might notice that this is probabaly the first film where white men attack an Indian encampment and we see the Indian women and children running for their lives. You also get a look at a village after the U.S. Cavalry have finished burning it to the ground and left the dead.
However in trying to highlight the racist attitudes that settlers in the 1860s-70s held for Native Americans Ford falls into the trap of making racial stereotypes. Hence the "Look" character, however many of her scenes are done exactly as they were in Alan Le May's original book (also worth a read if you're interested. You learn a bit more about Martin Pawley's backstory as well as the Ethan character) plus the over the top freed captives who "ain't white, no more, they're Comanch", In reality they would have been perfectly normal but would have rather lived with the Comanches who would have continued to treat them as human beings.
Another problem is John Wayne. Yes, it is probably his best film and he is very good in it but, in 1956 Wayne was a pillar of everything people believed to be great about the United States. He stood for decent human values. The problem is that it was and continues to be difficult for people to picture him as an anti- miscegnationist and a hate filled racist. People who hate him will cite "The Searchers" as an example of his racial beliefs and how he stands for the conquering of the West . Even though that is not what the film is about.
With "The Searchers" Ford creates a West where the people are as brutal as each other. Ethan Edwards kills and disfigures Comanches because they killed his family. Note that Scar, Ethan's alter ego kills and scalps settlers because his sons were killed by white men. The anti-miscegnation is shown to be the height of hypocrisy. Ethan notes that Scar speaks "good American for a Comanch" it's then suggested that he has been with a white woman. Scar then points out that Ethan "speaks good Comanch", has Ethan been with Indian women before? If so are his concerns about white women living with Comanche bucks hypocritical? Note as well that Brad Jorgenson is more concerned about whether Lucy, the girl he supposedly loves, has been raped or not when he learns she is dead.
This is a brilliant film and beautifully shot and hopefully you will enjoy it but please remember the time it's set in. In the 1860s and 70s Comanches did attack white settlements and take white captives as the buffalo herds were depleted and their lands were taken. White settlers treated Comanches the same way. To them the only good Indians were dead Indians. Ford's film is a picture that is trying nervously to portray the attitudes of a society engrossed in racism. It should be viewed with that understanding and hopefully you won't think it is an old, bigoted, dated, cowboys and indians saturday matinee movie.
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on 2 June 2014
After Stagecoach in 1938 Wayne was ignored by director John Ford till he saw him in Howard Hawks western Red River, 'Coach' Ford finally cast Wayne in Fort Apache, and the mould was set for a great partnership. Here it reached its pinnacle. Having personally trod the dust of Monument Valley where this movie was shot, and still occupied by the Navajo, I can confirm the rich colours of the red dust against a endless blue sky with those mighty towers of nature is as stunning in reality as on film, no wonder they magnetised film makers not only of westerns but of sci-fi. This crisp blu ray edition offers tremendous colour and picture quality. The ensemble cast are brilliant, not one out of place and headed by John Wayne who is seems part of the landscape he inhabits.
Wayne gave a deep and dark performance, and for this he should have won an Oscar.
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on 7 February 2005
This film is simply a classic in all respects. Beautifully shot and directed, you could easily get lost in what looks at first glance like a David Lean epic with tumbleweed. Yet it is one of the darkest movies of the period and contains John Wayne's finest performance by a country mile. He was never darker and never better - a really convincing performance which lifts this fine film to a level rarely reached in cinema. And as for the classic closing shot... This truly is a must buy movie!
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on 10 August 2003
The Searchers is the movie John Wayne should have won an Oscar for. His portrayel of Ethan is without doubt his finest performance in the saddle only perhaps matched by his last outing as " The Shootist". This is a story of revenge, hatred but above all,the old cliché "Love". Monument Valley is the setting and John Ford goes on a sweeping panoramic view searching venture that encapsulates all the finest moments from the great era of 50's westerns. With a great cast and and several of the old regulars, including Ward Bond & Patrick Wayne(John' son) Wayne delivers what Steven Speilberg rates as the greatest Western Movie, I agree.
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on 26 June 2007
I first saw this film as a young eighteen year-old Western aficionado on its first theatrical release to the English provinces in 1956. I came to it with great expectations fresh from reading Alan Le May's book of the same name. I came away knowing I'd seen a great film but I was disappointed on two counts first the search lasts for ten years in the book and second, Wayne's character Ethan is killed off in the penultimate battle with the Indians. In the subsequent years I've seen this film dozens of times and it never fails to amaze me that on each fresh viewing I never fail to notice something new!

John Ford and John Wayne collaborated on several films most of them westerns. Although this was their first Western for six years since they completed the last of the Cavalry Trilogy RIO GRANDE (1950). As with the trilogy, Ford once again choose to shoot the most of the film in Monument Valley Utah, when using this his favourite location Ford became an acclaimed visual poet of the West. With Ford's "Western Director" to Wayne's "Western Star" they were unequalled in the making of Westerns producing an outstanding body of work between 1939 and 1962! Although THE SEARCHERS remained totally unrecognised by The Academy Awards for 1956. Fifty-odd years later it still stands at the top of the many peoples list as the greatest Western of all time. Also appearing in most if not all of The Greatest 100 Movies Of All Time Lists.

Three years after the Civil War Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) a dark brooding mysterious character returns home to his brother Aaron (Walter Coy) homestead. Ethan takes his brother place on a posse led by Texas Ranger Rev. Capt. Samuel Johnston Clayton (Ward Bond) on the trail of a raiding party, coming across some slaughtered cattle they realise they've been lured away whilst the main Indian party attacked either the Edwards or Jorgensen Homesteads.

The main body of the posse head back towards Jorgensen's place whilst Ethan along with Mose Harper (Hank Worden) rest their horses before heading back to the Edwards homestead, meanwhile Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter) who had raised by the Edwards as their own raced on ahead against Ethan's advice. Arriving back at the smoking Edwards homestead their worse fears are founded, the two girls Lucy (Pippa Scott) and young Debbie (Lana Wood) have been taken captive and the rest killed. After the burial of his family a demented Ethan sets out after the Indians with a posse led by Captain Clayton. Following a skirmish with the Indians at the river, Clayton elects to take the wounded back home.

Ethan reckons on going on alone but Martin and Brad Jorgensen (Harry Carey Jr.) insist on going too, not least because they fear what Ethan might do the girls. So the three (later two) searchers set out on the trail of the Indians for five long years a couple of trips back to the Jorgensen homestead when the trail was lost and twice pointed in the right direction by Shakespearian Fool Mose Harper, that leads to a band of Comanche led by a chief called Scar (Henry Brandon). At the camp they discover the older Debbie (Natalie Wood) dressed as an Indian girl of marriageable age. Will Ethan carry out his threat to kill her or will Martin be able to stop him?

John Ford was the master of conveying terrible events to his audience through suggested violence, like the returning posse coming across the burnt out homestead with Martha's dress laying on the ground outside indicating the horrors that lay inside. Again when Ethan returns to Martin and Brad from finding Lucy's remains we just see the haunted look on his face as he plunges his knife in the earth to remove the Indian blood from the blade, all powerful stuff but left to our own imagination!

And not only suggested violence but also suggested love too, hardly a word pass between Ethan and Martha but the viewer is left with little doubt of a passed tender relationship between the two. The long narrative is held together by a couple of visits back to the Jorgensen Homestead and a letter from Martin to Laurie, read out to one and all! Ford's ending of the film has turned out in the end to be one of the most iconic endings in movie history. How could I have been so presumptuous as to think anything else?

This Two-Disc Special Edition includes new digital transfer from restored Vista Vision Picture with an introduction by Co-Star Patrick Wayne. Plus: The Searchers: An Appreciation and other extras. Don't miss John Ford's Masterpiece all at a bargain price from Amazon. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
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VINE VOICEon 6 April 2012
A brilliant Western with all the right ingredients, wonderful scenery that ranges from snowy mountains to pointing outcrop fingers in remote desert wildernesses, a chase after a band of murdering Indians that lasts five years, and taciturn heroes that never give up the quest for revenge after some of their relatives are brutally murdered and some kidnapped. Add lots of horses, spurs, chaps and the cavalry, an unforgettable recurring image of a far plain shot from various interiors - homesteads, caves - and in spite of its length, The Searchers achieves classic Western status. A film absolutely made for John Wayne, with his cynical, loner demeanour. Constant flashes of humour weave through what would otherwise be unmitigated despair.
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on 17 August 2014
One of the most iconic films ever. Watch out for camera work undertaken in this film that crop up time and again across all film genres. The most notable being the open and closing door shot - Spielberg used exactly the same shot for one of the most evocative elements in "Saving Pte Ryan", when the mother is informed of the loss of her sons and collapses on the front porch.

Da Duke is excellent, indeed not bettered until "The Shootist". Elements may be slightly dated but pale into insignificance against the broad paintbrush effect of this film.

A "must have" in any real man's film collection! Question - in the film - is Debbie actually Da Duke's secret daughter by his brother's wife?
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