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4.4 out of 5 stars141
4.4 out of 5 stars
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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
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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 ;-)
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon November 26, 2007
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.
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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
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on August 25, 2003
Noticing 106 reviews on this film, it has been well covered-and I agree with the 5 star raves and the eloquent commentaries.
A few additonal comments:Co-star Jeffery Hunter would later go on to star in the original pilot of Star Trek-only to pull out at his wife's advice-and we all know what William Shatner did with the part. Monument Valley is stunning and director John Ford photographs it so nicely that the scenery almost takes over the story! Filmakers would leave those scenics to Ford alone, out of respect as if he made the area HIS private portrait studio.
Martin Scorcesse commented that in the last shot of the last scene -John Wayne is standing on the porch (the same set as the opening shot) but this time he crosses his arm a perculiar way-which was a spontaneous gesture of respect for the Western actor Harry Cary who made that "pose" his trademark. The older woman in the scene that the camera dollys past as Wayne does this; bursts into tears, off camera. (as she saw Wayne do this.) She was Harry Cary's widow. Having heard that from Scorsese-I get chills of emotion every time I see that ending shot and Wayne's gesture of respect to one of his peers. Wayne is a class act-and he delivers his best performance in this incredibly visual film.
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on June 14, 2003
Unbelievably, I have just seen this film for the first time, which is an embarressing admission from someone who fancies themself something of a classic film buff. Westerns have never been my favorite, other than Roy Rogers shorts. I can usually watch them for about an hour, and then a dusty boredom starts to set in. But this film totally captivated me. The director Ford/star Wayne pairing was a famous collaboration, starting with "Stagecoach", another classic, in 1939. In this film, they both reach their peak. Though I grew up watching John Wayne movies, and had a kind of mildly amused understanding of his legend, I always got the impression he was just barreling his way through his roles. In this film, everything he was and represented comes together in a portrayal of steel determination, you DON'T mess with John Wayne. As the man on a mission to avenge the slaughter of his brother's family by "The Indians", and the search for his kidnapped little niece, his performance is totally enthralling. Jeffery Hunter, who was probably the prettiest of all the pretty boys (John Derek, Robert Wagner, Tony Curtis, etc....) that rose to stardom in the 1950's, convincingly plays the adopted part Indian nephew, who escaped the slaughter of Wayne's brother's family, and joins him on his search. Natalie Wood, though her role is small as the grown kidnapped "Debbie", never the less was a fitting choice for the sympathetic portrayal, as she was the 1950's girl that everyone wanted for a daughter. The supporting cast is a "Who's -Who" of great character actors. The famous cinematography totally lives up to it's legend, it's desert hues are breathtaking. And, the famous final shot, which I guess everyone in the world but myself has already seen, well, I choked watching it, not only because of the visual impact of that moment, but for the realization of the irretrievable passing of this kind of film, star, director...This is a wonderful movie experience, that has AMERICAN written all over it, and totally explains the fascination with and the exalted place in movie history of "The Duke."
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on January 24, 2003
Well, Ethan Edwards, the loser ex Confederate officer knows all about fighting, the Indians, his tricks, the territory... So, you can suppose that if somewhat bad was to happen, he will achieve a triumph over all dangers. This uses to be in vulgar movies, but "The Searchers" is by nothing vulgar. For what? Well, the answers are several, the magnificent landscapes, the actors, but I think over all it's the story with Ethan's contradictory personality. At first he rides a lot to get to the ranch of his brother Aaron, but there's the case in these house exists a conflict by nothing unknown to him because Aaron's wife loves Ethan who feels he must pay his own brother for staying at the ranch and so, after a long wandering, he has to sleep scarcely only one night in the ranch. Certainly there's an apparently external powerful reason: the cattle stolen by the Indians. The reverend wants to recruit Aaron to prosecute them, however, Ethan imposes his hard character and he goes in the place of Aaron abandoning the ranch in a first search of the comanches, I think very possibly suspecting that really these are a stratagem of Scar, the Indian chief, as his nephew Martin Pawley also fears in spite of his inexperience. This suspicion accomplish in full, and while the ranch is without defence, Aaron, Martha, his son and a few later, his daughter Lucy are horribly killed by the Indians and so it begins the main part of the movie: the searching of the only survivor, the little Debbie. This takes years to do, a lot of penalties, enemies, heat, cold, hunger... and although Ethan and Martin get to find Debbie, these are a Pyrrhic victory because the girl is yet more a Comanche squaw than a white woman. The fight isn't by far a fairplay and the hate of Ethan toward the Comanches reach peaks of madness. The very end is also discomforting, and after the terrible search, Ethan ends out and alone as he began. Nobody needs yet his abilities and he's forgotten and more than possibly, as feared as loved by all. A magnificent movie and a masterpiece of all genres.
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on October 14, 2002
John Wayne would be the first person to admit he was not a great actor and did so on many occasions. Even his most harshest critics though will admit that in THE SEARCHERS he turned in a very fine performance. His character Ethan Edwards is not the bad guy but neither is he the good guy. He is a complex mix of emotions that Wayne finely brings out.
THE SEARCHERS is a simple tale played out against the spectacular background of the Navajo Nation's Monument Valley. It is the story of two men's 6 year search for 2 of their child relatives who are kidnapped by indians. As the story unfolds it becomes apparent that each has a different motive; one wants to rescue them and the other wants to kill them. Under John Ford's direction it is a gripping , relentless story that unfolds quite naturally. There are scenes where two of three different conversations or things are happening on screen yet Ford manages to have them understandable. The scene of the arrival of the Rangers at the Edward's Ranch at the begining of the film is a masterpiece. A dozen or so characters are flying in and out of the Edward's dining room shouting here, talking there while in the middle of this storm Wayne and the Ranger captain are having a conversation crucial to the story's plot. It should be a disaster but Ford's controlled chaos works beautifully and everthing that is going on is quite clear. He also is a deft hand at subtle humor using it to defuse a scene that may be heading towards over sentimentality. Besides Wayne and Jeffrey Hunter the cast is filled out with a wealth of actors many of whom had worked with the director over the years and formed a sort of unofficial John Ford Repertory Company. The always great Ward Bond as the Texas Ranger leader the Reverand Clayton and Hank Worden as the the slightly out of touch with reality Mose Harper are but two of many standouts.
THE SEARCHERS is Ford and Wayne at their peak and is one of the true classics of the American cinema. You have it here on a small screen but if you ever have a chance to see on the big screen do go as it is quite an eyeful.
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on July 6, 2002
There are moments in this film that are just about as perfect as anything as you will find in cinema, moments that display John Ford functioning at his highest level as a filmmaker. For instance, there is a precious moment in which a woman is affectionately stroking the coat of her brother-in-law, who has just turned up after a long absence. She is unaware that someone else, played by Ward Bond, can and at first does see her. But the moment is far too personal, and Bond resolutely averts his eyes and refuses to see what ought not to be seen by anyone. Another such instance is the final shot of the film (which I can't describe in detail without giving away the plot). As the family retreats into the house, another character is framed outside the house (as if to exclude him), isolated from the family. It is a heartbreaking shot. The shot was also a homage to the late Harry Carey, in that the character in the frame holds his arm across his chest to hold the top of his opposite arm above the elbow, a gesture that anyone from that time period would associate with Carey.
This great John Ford film comes very close to being the greatest Western ever made. In fact, with two slight alterations, it almost certainly would have been. For some reason, Ford in some of his films suffered from unaccountable lapses in casting. In this one, in the crucial role of Martin Pawley, he cast Jeffrey Hunter. In many ways, Hunter mars the film with his often-grating performance. One can only lament what the film could have been with someone like Montgomery Cliff in the same role. The other odd decision was the elevation of Ken Curtis's role as Vera Miles other suitor. Curtis, a former big band crooner who was later best known as "Festus" on GUNSMOKE, has several scenes that tend to bring down the overall quality of the film, especially a fight scene at a wedding with Jeffrey Hunter.
But these are aberrations in what is otherwise a masterpiece of the highest order. I am not a big John Wayne fan, but Wayne was not just never better than he was in this film: it is impossible to imagine anyone playing the central role of Ethan Edwards better than Wayne does. He brings a grimness and tenacity and monomania that gives the movie much of its force and tension. And although Hunter and Curtis both mar the film, most of the cast is spectacular. Sometimes it seems as if Ward Bond were in every other film made in the thirties, forties, and fifties, but he was never better than he was in the role of Reverend Captain Samuel Johnson Clayton, both minister and police depending upon the need at the time. And Hank Worden is memorable as "Old Mose," the more than a little crazed old fool who provides some of the films more memorable moments. For instance, with the Rangers entrenched on one side of a river, bracing to meet an onrushing group of Indians, Mose suddenly shouts out, "Oh Lord, for what we are about to receive, we thank thee."
They key to the film, however, apart from Ford, lies in the performance of John Wayne. This is not the simplistic Indian killer or fighter you see in most of Wayne's films. In this one, he is a man who has seen and suffered too much. Ironically, he is chasing a rogue Indian chief named Scar, so-called because of a scar running down the side of his face. But Ethan is far more scarred than the Indian is. And as his hunt for Debbie, who has been abducted by Indians, turns from weeks into months into years, he correspondingly becomes more and more obsessed, to the point of near insanity. Indeed, much of the tension of the last part of the film comes from the distrust of Ethan's sanity on the part of Martin (Jeffrey Hunter). The scene where Ethan finally determines the fate of Debbie is one of the great moments in cinema.
This is just a great film by one of the great masters of the American cinema with the greatest performance by one of our most famous stars. If that isn't enough to make someone unfamiliar with this film to see it, I don't know what would be.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon March 3, 2002
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.
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