Searchers, The (1956)

Still lookin...
Still lookin...

Genre: Adventure Western

Starring: John Wayne (The Longest DayRio Bravo), Jeffrey Hunter (A Kiss Before DyingKing of Kings)

Directed By: John Ford (Judge PriestThe Grapes Of Wrath)

Overview: After a Comanche raid has claimed the lives of those dear to him, Ethan Edwards devotes years to the search of the nomadic tribe that killed them in hopes to rescue his two kidnapped nieces.

While reviewing my last Wayne Western, I commented on how, in this day and age, the Western needed some darkness to truly appeal to me. While putting The Searchers Blu-Ray disk into my player, I expected to be graced with a feature film directed by Kurosawa's favorite filmmaker, John Ford, as well as enjoy the cinema of the 50s. Nothing more.

What a surprise it was to find a strong streak of darkness in the protagonist Ethan Edwards, played by John Wayne.

The Searchers is a story about a man of many secrets. Subtext screams early on about his contempt for the law, about his hatred towards the Comanche, and not necessarily only those who killed his family. With early acts such as shooting fleeing Indians in the back, we know that the search Ethan has embarked upon is not one that will end quietly or bloodlessly.

One must remember of course that this is a 50s Western and as such, audiences should not enter expecting nihilistic behaviour, but there are indeed a few perverse twists and turns - rich streaks of the inhuman that go against what John Wayne is used to portraying, and certainly a refreshing change from the happy-go-lucky pioneering spirit common of this era's Westerns.

The Searchers is a film that surprises in its storytelling because it is a film that delves far more into the nuances of the rugged environment these men live in, giving a deeper reality to the tale... even though some of the Indians are painted white guys.

Still lookin...
Still lookin...

Performance: 8 Cinematography: 9 Script: 8 Plot: 8 Mood: 8

Overall Rating: 82% (Don't Look Any Further)

And another one down on many a list of famous classics, The Searchers is one of those films that just somehow completely missed my radar.

I should be ashamed... well, I'm not anymore.

One more drop in the culture bucket.

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Were you as impressed as I was with the HD transfer? I had seen this many times on standard DVD, and my new HD-DVD of it nearly melted me eyes. 

 One of my favorite lines is Lars Jorgenson's explanation for his wife's eloquent speech on the future of America, in his heavy Swedish or something accent: "Ya know she was a school teacher..."

Well I saw it on Blu-Ray, so obviously I was definitely blown away by the quality. In fact is was so clear that the day for night effects were glaringly obvious :P

Did you catch the homage to Harry Carey Sr. where Wayne; in the final scene, filmed through the open door, walks away holding his left elbow in his right hand?

According to Wayne, both he and Carey's widow Olive (who costarred in the  film as Mrs Jorgenson) wept when the scene was finished 

Wayne has been quoted as saying that Harry Carey " was the greatest Western actor of all time"

When the Duke put aside his jingoistic and zenophobic traits his humanity showed through.  He was my childhood favorite.

I return to Chishom, the Shootist, the Searchers and others on occasion.  Unfortunatly the High and the Mighty just doesn't hold the mysticism it did when I was young.  I should have left it as a once seen.  Maybe I'll come back to it a third time.

What a hero.


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