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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Now THIS is what Blu Rays were invented for!!, 27 Aug 2012
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This review is from: The Searchers [Blu-ray] [1956] [Region Free] (Blu-ray)
The Searchers is in my opinion the greatest 'Western' ever made, although I have to admit that 'True Grit' True Grit (1969) [Blu-ray][Region Free] is the one I watch most often!

The film was directed by the peerless John Ford in 1956 and was based on a novel written by Alan Le May in 1954.

The film starts in 1868 in the wilderness of west Texas and stars John Wayne as a middle-aged Civil War veteran who returns from the American Civil War to the home of his brother; for me he gives the finest performance of his career in this film, yes True Grit's 'Rooster Cogburn' is probably a more memorable character, but if anyone ever suggests that 'The Duke' could not act then they should look no further than his incredibly powerful portrayal of the violent and racist Ethan Edwards in 'The Searchers'.

From the moment Ethan comes through the door it is clear he is not your typical John Wayne character; in this film Ethan is a man who does some heroic acts, but at the same time he is deeply troubled and bigoted, he is also racist and violent but the fact that through Wayne's performance we the viewer still perhaps admire his determination is testament to both the acting and the writing.

He tells his brothers family he is finished fighting and has returned to set up a home for himself.

Almost the next day news reaches the homestead that their neighbour has had cattle stolen, and when the Rev. Capt. Samuel Johnson Clayton (the brilliant Ward Bond) and a party of fellow Rangers arrive at the door they take Ethan and the families adopted son Martin Pawley (played to perfection by Jeffrey Hunter, an actor who many will recognise from Star Trek's orignial pilot episode 'The Cage') out to follow the trail of the thiefs. It is not until they are quite some distance from home when they discover that the theft was in fact a clever ploy by Comanche Indians to draw the men away from their families. The party then turn and head for home as quickly as possible, but on arriving there they are met with the most horrendous of scenes, the home burned down, the parents and son murdered (and in the wifes case raped) and the two daughters (Debbie and Lucy) abducted.

What follows is a quest by Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) and Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter) to find the girls.

Soon on in the journey they discover the body of the older of the two girls, Lucy; she has been brutally raped and murdered.

They then continue searching for the next few years to find the other daughter Debbie; the two men travel through terrible weather and hostile terrain, all along putting any thoughts of personal comforts to one side, in a relentless mission to discover just what has happened to her.

They eventually find Debbie, now an adolescent (and played by the beautiful Natalie Wood), and seemingly living amongst the Indians as one of their own. What follows is a long and difficult rescue mission, and the doubts remain that even if they can rescue Debbie will she remember them or even want to go with them.

The film is most famous for its photography of the location, Monument Valley; it is utterly stunning and no film has captured it so perfectly before or since. The soundtrack is very typical of 'Westerns' of the era, this is not necessarily a bad thing, its atmospheric, it just isn't anything special.

Watching the film now it is very difficult to understand how it didn't even receive any Academy Award nominations; but it is fair to say that the films real strength is its ability to appeal to audiences over half a century after its release. It has received far more recognition in modern times; the AFI (American Film Institute)named it the 12th 'Greatest American Movie of all time' in 2007 and 'The Greatest American Western of all time' in 2008.

As recently as 2012 the film magazine 'Sight & Sound' ranked it as the 7th best film of all time.

This REGION FREE Blu Ray edition is absolutely superb and although I have seen this film many time throughout my life, televison through to DVD (via VHS), it has never looked so gorgeous nor have I enjoyed it just quite so much.

The level of detail is stunning, the textures of the land and the fabrics worn are truly bought to life like never before; the colours are amazing, particulary so with the desert and the skyline during a setting sun. The shots that particularly stood out for me were the two iconic 'door frame' images that bookend the film, they are just amazing and the contrast between the blackness and the colour is simply astonishing.

I think the very reason why I enjoyed my initial Blu Ray viewing so much was due to the level of detail that high definition offers; despite countless screenings throughout the years I was still able to discover a huge number of previously unnoticed nuanced visuals.

The main feature is presented in 1080p High Definition 16x9 (1.85:1), has Dolby Digital sound 1.0 in English, French and German, and it also has subtitles in those languages.

There are some excellent Special Features including a commentary by Peter Bogdanovich (the Director, and also a Biographer of John Ford), a new featurette 'The Searchers: An Appreciation' and the original theatrical trailer. However, the best extras as far as I am concerned are the fascinating 30 minute documentary 'A Turning of the Earth: John Ford, John Wayne and The Searchers' narrated by John Milius, and the original black and white 'Behind the Cameras' segments; these are quite hilarious and offer a truly fascinating insight into the American movie business in the 1950's!

Overall I consider this Blu Ray as an essential purchase for anyone who considers themselves a fan of films; regardless of whether you already own it on DVD (as I do) this is totally worth purchasing, for me it is the most worthwhile use of high definition I have seen to date!
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 24 Sep 2012 02:55:56 BDT
Pablo Leone says:
wonderful review,thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Sep 2012 03:21:34 BDT
IOWBOY says:
You are most welcome Pablo, thanks for taking the time to read it!

It is such a wonderful film, and the Blu-Ray is so beautiful, that I felt it deserved the best review I could write.

If you have found it helpful please could you give me a vote?!

Thanks again.

Posted on 16 Oct 2012 23:03:45 BDT
DCGUY says:
I just saw this move from beginning to end on TV for the first time (yes, I guess I am over 50 years late). I just ordered the Ultimate Collector's DVD version of the movie with the extras. I also have a Zone free Blu-ray player so I am tempted to buy the Blu-ray version of the movie and it only sells for under $5.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Oct 2012 23:22:50 BDT
IOWBOY says:
Hello DCGUY,

I highly recommend the Blu-ray version over DVD.

The DVD version does look good, but the film comes to life in High Definition.

The clarity of image and the richness of the colours is simply incredible, particularly so considering the films age.

I have always loved the film, since watching it when little with my beloved Grandad, but I have never seen look as beautiful and majestic as it does on this Blu-ray.

I truly think that it is still one of the most visually stunning films ever made.

Posted on 18 Oct 2012 03:00:56 BDT
DCGUY says:
I guess for just a few bucks, it would be good to get it in Blu-ray as well. Since there is only one disk on the Blu-ray package, I guess it has less material than the DVD set.
Seeing it on a wide screen HDTV was great even though it was shown in 1080i format by the local PBS station. I am adding this movie to my most favorite movie list (currently have 11 on the list).

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Oct 2012 11:06:46 BDT
IOWBOY says:
Hello again DCGUY,

The Blu-ray disc has ALL the extras from the special edition DVD, although it is just a single disc the massively increased storage capacity of Blu-ray allows for plenty of room on top of a film!

Great to hear you like it so much, what are your other ten?!

Another truly fantastic western is:

Man Who Shot Liberty Valance [DVD] [1962]

I don't think its out on Blu-ray yet, but is a simply fantastic film IMO, almost (but not quite!) up there with 'The Searchers'.
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