on January 10, 2010
I saw this with my friends when I was a kid - we went around quoting Old Mose, whom we all loved - "Thank you for those kind words." - it did not matter he was somewhat crazed; that made him all the more sympathetic and loveable. I don't know how much we liked the movie otherwise because it is not totally action-packed. Having seen it now, as an adult, I see that John Ford (and, perhaps John Wayne) had other concerns: racism, sexism, political intransigence, the concept of family, and the loner. This movie, set in Texas but obviously filmed (beautifully) in Monument Valley, is more about character. And the possibility of change. And, perhaps, the impossibility of change; or, the shattering of growth by an overwhelming sense of loss (Wayne's character: the war, and the woman). Ford is a master director - I recommend watching the Special Feature in which the movie is explained, showing all the incredible framing of shots, the backlighting, the pacing of shots.... Aw, just watch it and forget any prejudices you have against John Wayne. It is a beauty.The Searchers
on January 27, 2003
A fantastic movie and a true classic - and certainly one that really shines when presented in its true widescreen aspect ratio. That said, SHAME on Warner Brothers for butchering this issue with a "imitation" widescreen format (hence my 1-star rating). The packaging claims both Standard format and "matted" widescreen are on the dvd - the latter (at least for WB) means that they take the (already width-cropped) standard screen version and simply [take] huge strips off of the top and bottom of the picture to make the shape approximately 1:85:1 (so an HDTV format screen is filled, no doubt). The result is that when watching this "widescreen" version, one is seeing far less picture than even in the Standard format! I have verified this by comparing the two dvd sides (one standard, the other "widescreen") to one another and to a true widescreen tape that I have. Those reviewers that have been raving about this widescreen presentation, have a look at the standard format side of the disk to see more of the movie ;-)
This film, directed by the legendary John Ford, and starring John Wayne in the leading role is a western that has achieved mythic proportions. Touted as one of the greatest westerns ever filmed, it is, I will grant you, an entertaining film. In it, John Wayne plays the anti-hero, Ethan Edwards, an ex-confederate soldier, who goes to Texas in 1868 to visit his brother and his family on their ranch in Texas. While visiting, a report of marauding Indians in adjacent land draws out the Texas Rangers and Ethan, who joins them. When they discover that a decoy has been used to lure them away from the settlement, they hurry back, only to find that Ethan's family was masacred and his two nieces gone, taken captive by Comanche Indians.
Ethan goes to the rescue, joined by Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter), a friend of the family who is himself part Indian. After a while, they discover that only the younger niece, Debbie, has survived. Their quest to bring Debbie back, or so Martin thinks, takes place over a period of five years. At some point along the way, Ethan's relentless quest for Debbie seems to undergo a transition from rescue mission to execution squad in the belief that it is better to be dead than to have "gone Injun".
The film suffers somewhat from revisionist history and its own stereotypic portrayal of Indians. They are portrayed as either savages or buffoons fit only to be the butt of jokes. Moreover, the character of Ethan is an enigma, as he changes from heartbroken uncle to death squad killer in his relentless search for his surviving niece. Ethan embodies hatred and racism, concepts that are tantalizingly laid out but never fully examined or explored, which is why Ethan remains an enigma.
Debbie, played as a child by Lana Wood and as a teenager by Lana's older sister, Natalie Wood, is a symbol around which Ethan's character gets its raison d'etre. It is she who gives him the will to go on, whether it be for the right or wrong reasons is another issue. Natalie Wood is lovely as the older Debbie, though the makeup has to go, as it serves to take away from the rusticity of the film and jerk the viewer back to Hollywood. This was typical of films in those days. No matter what the situation, the women were always in full makeup.
Still, notwithstanding some of the film's political incorrectness and incongruent production values, it is still an entertaining film and about as good as westerns get. John Wayne is memorable as Ethan Edwards. Handsome Jeffrey Hunter gives an excellent performance as Martin Pawley. Ward Bond, as captain of the Texas Rangers, is terrific. The rest of the supporting cast give performances that vary in quality. Still, this film remains the quintessential western flick and one worth watching.
on October 13, 2007
this is one of many John Ford/John Wayne collaborations.it certainly has a very epic scope to it,and it looks very beautiful.it also has a good story to it.John Wayne is a very charismatic presence,and the rest of the cast is also very good.this is a very character driven movie,yet there is still some decent action.i also thought the dialogue is very good in this one.i didn't enjoy this movie as well as Stagecoach(another Ford/Wayne picture).but then again,its' not the same kind of movie.true,the are both westerns,but Stagecoach has a much smaller scope to it.it's almost quaint,and i don't mean that in a bad way.The Searchers is a sweeping,grand epic.as for the bonus materials,they are pretty impressive.there are three documentaries included.also in the set is a reproduction of the original 1956 Dell comic book,behind the scenes photos,a reproductions of both the original 1956 press book and filmmaker memos and correspondence.to me the movie itself is a 3/5,but when you factor in the bonus materials,i give this edition of The Searchers a 3.5/5
on June 14, 2004
Ethan Edwards, (John Wayne), finds his way home after the civil war to his brothers homestead. Some cattle are rustled and he and a few men track them only to discover it's a Comanche trick to lure them away while they kill out the folks left behind which is Ethan's brother, wife, and kids. They arrive back too late, all are dead except Ethan's niece who was taken captive. Ethan sets out to find his niece accompanied by Martin Pauley, (Jeffrey Hunter), who Ethan found as a baby years earlier after another Indian raid. Ethan loved his brother's wife which is clear in the book by Lemay but very lightly alluded to in the film. This helps to explain his rage because everything he cared for in the world is gone. He will pursue the Comanche that have his niece until hell freezes over. Along the way he finds that he is still a human being. This film is widely considered the greatest western of all time and a favorite film of Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg if that means anything to you, I thought I would toss it in anyway.
on June 10, 2004
John Ford was a master craftsman of the American cinema. Though he dabbled in melodrama and action during his directorial career, his everlasting contribution to the movies remains in those galvanic distillations of the old west put forth by an unparalleled series of legendary films. "The Searchers" ranks among his most finely wrought and meticulously hand crafted projects. Indeed it seems to be the film in which the culmination of Ford's own commitment to the power, beauty and frailty of the western frontier tragically come together in a revisionist perspective that exposes both its grandeur and its flaws. The film stars the iconic John Wayne as Ethan Edwards - a strangely majestic antihero who vows bloody revenge after his cousin and family are slaughtered by marauding Comanches. But Ethan's search for his surviving niece (Natalie Wood) becomes a sinister and all-consuming obsession when he learns that she - having been abducted while still a child - has now adopted the ways of her captors and, at least in Ethan's mind, has become one of them. The film tackles racism in the form of Ethan's distrust of one time family friend (Jeffrey Hunter) who is part Cherokee and the sweep and spectacle of Death Valley has never been quite so poignantly captured on film.
THE TRANSFER: While Warner Home Video has made "The Searchers" available in anamorphic widescreen in a print that is light years ahead of anything the film has looked like before for the home film enthusiast, compared to more current DVD releases, the visual splendor of the transfer falls short of expectations. Though colors are rich there's something of a muddiness and lack of balance to them in many of the indoor scenes. Also, several scenes appear to be suffering slightly from color shrinkage, creating a slightly out of focus image quality that is distracting. Age related artifacts are present but do not distract so much as the digital anomalies of pixelization and edge enhancement which greatly plague the background information in most of the long shots. A slight shimmering is inherent in all of the scenes. Black and contrast levels can be solid at times, while sometimes appearing slightly pasty. Ditto for the unnatural flesh tones which are either overly pink or a ruddy orange. The audio has been remastered and delivers a nice expansive presentation which is in keeping with the vintage of the original sound elements.
EXTRAS: Not this time around. Sadly, this film deserves a documentary.
BOTTOM LINE: "The Searchers" is a masterful western, on par with "Stagecoach" and "High Noon". Definitely one to add to your film library.
on May 24, 2004
Even if you've never seen John Ford's THE SEARCHERS, you will have, undoubtedly, seen a film that owes it's 'style' to the film. DANCES WITH WOLVES, THE OUTLAW JOSIE WALES, UNFORGIVEN, JEREMIAH JOHNSON, and OPEN RANGE are just a few westerns that have 'borrowed' from it, but THE SEARCHERS' impact transcends the genre, itself; STAR WARS, THE ENGLISH PATIENT, THE LAST SAMURAI, even THE LORD OF THE RINGS have elements that can be traced back to Ford's 1956 'intimate' epic. When you add the fact that THE SEARCHERS also contains John Wayne's greatest performance to the film's merits, it becomes easy to see why it is on the short list of the greatest motion pictures ever made.
The plot is deceptively simple; after a Comanche raiding party massacres a family, taking the youngest daughter prisoner, her uncle, Ethan Edwards (Wayne), and adopted brother, Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter), begin a long quest to try and rescue her. Over the course of years, a rich tapestry of characters and events unfold, as the nature of the pair's motives are revealed, and bigoted, bitter Edwards emerges as a twisted man bent on killing the 'tainted' white girl. Only Pawley's love of his 'sister' and determination to protect her stands in his way, making the film's climax, and Wayne's portrayal of Edwards, an unforgettable experience.
With all of Ford's unique 'touches' clearly in evidence (the doorways 'framing' the film's opening and conclusion, with a cave opening serving the same function at the film's climax; the extensive use of Monument Valley; and the nearly lurid palette of color highlighting key moments) and his reliance on his 'stock' company of players (Wayne, Ward Bond, John Qualen, Olive Carey, Harry Carey, Jr, Hank Worden, and Ken Curtis), the film marks the emergence of the 'mature' Ford, no longer deifying the innocence of the era, but dealing with it in human terms, where 'white men' were as capable of savagery as Indians, frequently with less justification.
Featuring 18-year old Natalie Wood in one of her first 'adult' roles, the sparkling Vera Miles as Pawley's love interest, Wayne's son Patrick in comic relief, and the harmonies of the Sons of the Pioneers accenting Max Steiner's rich score, THE SEARCHERS is a timeless movie experience that becomes richer with each viewing.
It is truly a masterpiece!
on May 3, 2004
Ethan Edwards, an ex confederate is to his own way, an outlaw. But I'd really like to make a crossroad in the analysis. Doesn't Ethan belong to the dinasty of the mytical hero? In the purest sense of the term. His origin is not very clear. And suddenly he appears, so he leaves at the end. In this sense his efforts for searching his kidnapped niece are an epic fight against all the obstacles.
And the turning point that makes that film so extraordinary, is the decission which prevails when he finally finds Debby and almost kills her. In this sense it's a personal choice. Through all his trip he has established his own code. He kills Putterman because it has to be done, and forget all the ethical reasons.
But when he goes to rescue her with the group, and finally saves her, you notice he isn't very satissfied with the result.
At last, all the people experiences a happy ending, but he doesn't seem to be very convinced with himself. And that's why he made a decision politically right.
John Ford was the western's director per excellence. The film has unforgettable moments, the use of the objective, the travellings and the fantastic landscape in Texas support this jewel. If not for The wild bunch this film would be the greatest western movie, but a second place is not a trageddy.
In addition you can find in Ethan a close affinity with the beliefs of Pike in the wild bunch. Doesn't it tell you anything?
You must have this DVD in your collection. It's a must. Believe me.
on December 6, 2003
John Wayne plays the anti-hero Ethan Edwards who returns undefeated and unrepentant three years after the defeat of the Confederacy to the family ranch in Texas. Soon after his arrival the ranch is raided by Commanches, the family murdered and Ethans young niece is kidnapped. The rest of the movie portrays Ethans five-year quest for his niece.
In a real sense, Ethans search for his niece is reminisence of Melvilles Moby Dick. The relentless pursuit of the white whale represents not only Ahabs vengeance against the animal for taking his leg, but also an attempt to pursue and defeat the God who allowed this misfortune to happen. Thus, Ahab abandons all reason in his monomaniacal thirst for revenge. The chase becomes more than a whaling story for in killing Moby Dick Ahab is avenging himself against God; but in the end Ahab and his crew perishes before the White God. Compare this to Ethans monomaniacal pursuit to kill Scarface, the chief who lead the raiding party that killed Ethans family and to rescue his niece. Ethan abandons reason and gives into blind hatred- shooting the eyes out of a dead Indian, taking parting shots at retreating Indians when everyone else has stopped firing, killing the buffalo so Indian families will starve and threatening to kill his own niece who has been defiled by the Indians. This is more than a search and rescue mission- it is Ethans attempt to come to grips with the defeat of the Confederacy, to gain victory where he has only known defeat. It is more than a story of vengeance. It is a story of a man facing his prejudice and blind hatred of the Indians. Ethan does not directly battle God, but he battles the inner demons that plague him. In the end, unlike Ahab, he finds redemption. He rescues his niece and as the family enters the home to celebrate the reunion, Ethan turns and leaves. He is alone, but he is at peace with himself.
on October 17, 2003
Let me be the first to say that I am by no means a fan of the western. I find them to be generally cliched and conventional, and rarely original. However, The Searchers is one of the greatest movies of all time and it avoids all the western cliches, telling an emotionally resonant story amid the backdrop of the uncivilized west without a single duel on an abandoned road. As a result, it has been proclaimed the King of the Westerns for years, a judgment with which I must agree.
The plot is legendary. John Wayne gives a great performance as Ethan Edwards, ex-Johnnie Reb and newly returned to live quietly with his brother's family when Commanche warriors kill them all and take off his niece to be raised among them. Edwards then begins his obsessive search along with sidekick Martin (Jeffrey Hunter) to kill his niece, figuring her to be better off. The frank examination of racism in this film was unusual for the genre and time period, and the depth of the characters and their respective arcs make this film one of the greatest ever made.
Unfortunately, the film is flawed. When watching it it is impossible to forget that this is a fifties-era western because of the presence of cowboy music and the cartoon-like introduction. Not that I favor changing it, but it sort of takes one out of the movie. I guess my beef is that it is a film of its times, rather than transcending it completely. Aside from this there is very little wrong with the film and it has aged well.
In short, this is a movie that belongs in the collection of anyone who loves a great film, even if you, like me, don't like the western in general. Its complexity and excitement make it still interesting and exhilarating today.