Customer Reviews: The Searchers (Widescreen Edition) [VHS]
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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!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon July 22, 2005
On this site there are over 100 fan-reviews of this movie, and many tell the plot in great detail, therefore, my reivew will be short and sweet. With the great John Ford directing, John Wayne starring, and a superb story line - all this adds up to a 5-star movie if there ever was one! You cannot go wrong buying this DVD - it delivers!

Now considered possibly the greatest weatern movie of all-time, "The Searchers" was panned by the critics of its day for being just another "ho-hum" John Wayne western. It took years, but modern critics and viewers now recognize it as an epic of western filmmaking that perhaps will never be topped. If I had to choose one movie that represented the best of the west, it is undoubtedly "The Searchers".

John Wayne gives his most intense acting performance as the dark and vengeful Ethan Edwards, who vows to kill the Commanche raiders that murdered his beloved sister-in-law, brother, and took captive two of their daughters. Wayne easily carries the film on his broad brooding shoulders, pursuing the Indians for over 5 years through summer and winter, ever relentless to see their chief, "Scar", dead, and his captive nieces rescued.

Director John Ford is at the height of his creative powers in directing this western masterpiece. He weaves so many different themes and levels of interpretation into the film, that one discovers something new with each viewing. It would take a small treatise to bring out all the subtle details.

Succinctly and to the point, "The Searchers" is a film that you will watch again and again, and love it each time a bit more. It is that absolute best in western filmmaking!

Jim Konedog Koenig
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on September 20, 2006
This is a review of the "Ultimate Collector's Edition," NOT a review of the film itself. If you're considering the purchase of a two-disc special edition, you probably already know that the film is great; you just want to know if this slick package is worth the pricetag.

In short, it's not. And let me be absolutely clear about one thing: I have known and loved this film for years. A few sequences look properly spectacular, but after watching this DVD on two separate (and high-quality) televisions, I'm amazed that all of the low-light scenes have been rendered almost completely dark. Like, too dark to tell what's even *happening*. For instance, the scene where Brad (Harry Carey, Jr.) runs off to his death, the scene where Marty's (Jeffrey Hunter's) "bride" is serving coffee along the river, and even the pre-dawn scenes leading up to the final storming of the Comanche camp, are utterly lost in the dark. By contrast, the bare-bones 1997 DVD release features noticeably richer colors in the daytime scenes and total clarity in the low-light scenes I've just mentioned. Don't waste your money on this special edition; you'll be much happier if you just shell out the $10.99 for the 1997 release.
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on January 21, 2000
As "The Searchers" approaches the half-century mark, this 1956 film may fail to conect with modern viewers. Indeed, the old fashioned acting styles are jarring and the film's racial themes seem like old business.
Nonetheless, when seen in the context of its time and to other films around it, it stands tall.
As much as any Ford film, "The Searchers" is a story about a family reunited, a theme to which Ford returned time and again. But in no other Ford film is that theme played out at such a tremendous emotional and spiritual cost.
The implication that Debbie is Ethan's daughter and not his niece comes from Ford and not Alan LeMay's original story. By giving us a date--1868--in the opening fade, then belaboring the exposition of Debbie's age, Ethan's long absence, the barely suppressed tenderness Ethan displays toward Martha and his guilty uneasiness with his brother, it is not hard to do the math. Debbie is Ethan's daughter.
As the theme of family plays out, there is repeated discussion about what constitutes blood kin, especially regarding Marty, who was once "saved" by Ethan, just as Ethan will "save" Debbie. Ethan discounts Marty's entire existence because Marty is one-eighth Cherokee.
Conversely, Ethan endures an epic search for Debbie because she is not only kin and perhaps his last remaining relative, but in fact his daughter. The thought both motivates and crazes Ethan.
Whether Ford decided to hide this dramatic construct because 1950's morality would have disapproved the overt depiction of an illegitimate child (especially in a horse opera!) or because the idea simply served to motivate Ford through the movie is unimportant.
What is as important to this film as the scenery in Monument Valley or the chaotic corniness of a pre-massacre breakfast at the Edwards place or a rough and tumble wedding sequence is that Ford could submerge information and still make it resonate through every frame of the film.
Perhaps the agonized Ethan Edwards speaks for Ford when he says, "What do you want me to do? Draw you a picture?" Ford is as important for what he doesn't show us as for what he does.
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on December 13, 2001
"The Searchers" (1956) Anamorphic Widescreen DVD version is one of the best classic westerns ever made! Ranked in the American Film Institute's (AFI) top 100 movies of the last 100 years (1998). Having the best Western Director, John Ford partnering up with his favorite cowboy star, John Wayne can only be the beginning of a grand movie. Adding Widescreen Technicolor, the colorful Panoramic Monument Valley - Utah (Ford's favorite western area to film), a fantastic musical score and top supporting cast leads us on one of the best filmed westerns ever!
Summary - Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) is returning home to his only Brother & his family. After he and a posse of Texas Rangers (Lead by Ward Bond) were decoyed away by distant marauding Indians. The actual Indian raid was on remaining defenseless families left behind. Ethan's returned to find his Brothers family massacured all but his youngest niece, Debbie (played by Lana (younger)& Natalie Wood (older). His vengence takes him on a 5 year journey to recover her. Wayne is brilliant and proves he is a great actor.
"The Searchers" is a powerful 2 hour emotional rollercoaster ride. This movie will leave you with more respect of John Wayne's ability to act, Director John Ford's genius to tell a very complex story. Leaving us forever with a Great Western Classic! Enjoy.
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on September 22, 2006
I just watched THE SEARCHERS on HD DVD and was extremely impressed. The color transfer is absolutely brilliant. The colors are vibrant and alive, and the Utah badlands where the film was shot is gloriously represented in shape, shadow, and shade. The film was originally shot in Technicolor in 1956, but I had no idea what the quality would be like until I popped the disc in and the first few frames started playing. The wide, sweeping shots through the camera lens are breath-taking, but the filtered effects to do the "night" shots hold a glow to them and sharpness of the actors' shadows that just isn't possible in true dark. Still, rather than being distracting, it's more indicative of the process that was used.

John Wayne stars as Ethan Edwards, a Confederate cavalry man returning to his brother's farm after three years of wandering. No soon is the family introduced than Ethan is called away to help track a band of Indian horse thieves. But the trail is just a ruse and the Texas Rangers end up getting back too late to save their loved ones. This starts up a manhunt for the last little girl from the family. The trail crosses thousands of miles and five years, and involves changes within the characters.

THE SEARCHERS was the 12th film John Wayne worked on with John Ford, and it stands the test of time as one of their greatest achievements.

Although the story is a slower-paced than present-day tales would be, it encompasses a lot of territory and a lot of emotion. Some of the accents(such as Ken Curtis's portrayal of Charlie McCory) were too pronounced and struck a false note. And Jeffrey Hunter's emotional outlets were sometimes too forced. The action sequences were given short shrift by today's standards as well, but on the plus side, a lot happens in the two hours of movie time.

Western fans and John Wayne fans have probably already got this one. If not, they should. But the HD DVD version is definitely a reason to start thinking about plunking down hard-earned cash to upgrade the home entertainment system.
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The impact of "The Searchers" and its influence is undisputed all you have to do is watch any of Sergio Leone's westerns or even "Silverado" (a love letter to Ford and Hawks' westerns). I'll admit I wasn't much of a John Wayne fan growing up but he gives a marvelous performance here as the hardened soldier Ethan who returns to his brother's Texas home after serving in the Civil War. When his neices Debbie & Lucy are kidnapped by the Commanche and the rest of his brother's family brutally murdered, Ethan with Martin (Jeffrey Hunter) who he rescued as a boy and Lucy's boyfriend Brad take off in pursuit in hopes of saving the girls and taking revenge.

The supporting cast includes Vera Miles ("Psycho"), Natalie Wood and Ward Bond.

Beautifully shot in Monument Valley (among other places), Ford's film looks marvelous in this digital restoration. Shot in the Vista Vision process, the print they've used here looks clean with colors that pop.

Extras include a commentary by director/writer/Ford biographer Peter Bogdonvich, as 1998 documentary on the production of the film narrated by John Millius, a new featurette on the film, an introduction by actor Patrick Wayne (who appears in the film)and vintage footage from the Warner "Behind the Cameras" TV series. We also get the theatrical trailer.

"The Searchers" is a product of its time (including the acting)so keep that in mind if you are coming to this after watching films made in the late 20th century or early 21st. It's a marvelous film, beautifully shot.
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on January 28, 2016
The Searchers (1956) stars John Wayne, who plays an ex-Confederate who sets out in search of his niece who was taken by Comaches after they murdered his family. The movie takes place in 1868. This movie also stars Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, Ward Bond, and Natalie Wood. The acting is pretty good, though a little on the hokey side. The musical score is decent. The scenery is this movie's strongest aspect.

This movie is often ranked as the greatest western of all time, with High Noon (1952) and Shane (1953) occupying the second and third spots, respectively. If somebody told me that these movies are the three greatest westerns of all time and told me to rank these movies in order from best to worst, I would rank them as follows:

1. Shane
2. The Searchers
3. High Noon

Personally, I think the greatest western of all time is Unforgiven (1992), a movie that often is ranked fourth best, so my own personal list of the greatest westerns would be quite different. Anyway, The Searchers isn't as epic as Shane. Shane is just an all around better movie, but The Searchers definitely is one of the elite westerns of all time. This movie has been highly influential to other filmmakers, even George Lucas. There are scenes in this movie that George Lucas no doubt took inspiration from when he made the Star Wars movies.

If you want to see one of the elite western classics, then see The Searchers. Highly recommended.
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on November 7, 2006
There are striking differences between 'Stagecoach' and 'The Searchers' reflecting a change more important than the mere passage of time:

- 'Stagecoach' is a classic Western... 'The Searchers' is a rich Western...

- 'Stagecoach' explores major social issues and themes... 'The Searchers' explores complex moral issues and myths concerning the frontier...

- 'Stagecoach' captures frenetic action and awe-inspiring panoramas... 'The Searchers' captures the beauty and isolating danger of the frontier...

- 'Stagecoach' is about characters of clashing social classes/values... 'The Searchers' is the complex story of a hate-ridden quest and odyssey of self-discovery...

- 'Stagecoach' shows the classic attack on the stagecoach by the rampaging Apaches... 'The Searchers' shows the Comanche attack on a home without ever showing the attack itself...

- 'Stagecoach' shows one of the most enjoyable rides in cinema history... 'The Searchers' shows the Old West as visually magnificent, but very dangerous to live in...

- 'Stagecoach' captures the untamed, rocky wilderness in Black and White... 'The Searchers' captures the vast, sprawling desert wilderness in grand Technicolor fashion...

- 'Stagecoach" is the first movie Ford filmed in Utah's Monument Valley... 'The Searchers' is the 9th time Ford shoots footage in Monument Valley...

- 'Stagecoach' holds our attention because its story is in continual change... 'The Searchers' hunts us for its unique cinematic art...

- 'Stagecoach' made John Wayne a star... 'The Searchers' stars the biggest Western star of all time the 'Duke.'

- 'Stagecoach' is a picture that excites the sight... 'The Searchers' is a film that moves the heart...

- In 'Stagecoach' Wayne shoots and kills Apaches... In 'The Searchers' he kills Comanches and even shoots two bullets at an Indian corpse...

- In 'Stagecoach' John Wayne is a charming, reluctant outlaw... In 'The Searchers' he is an embittered man, a prejudiced Indian hater...

- The essence of 'Stagecoach' is the humanity that resides in all of us... The essence of 'The Searchers' is one man's tragedy...

'The Searchers' is a stunning film with enormous scope, and breathtaking beauty, the ultimate meeting of two legends who frequently worked together--John Ford and John Wayne...

"The Searchers" brings the feeling to focus in the story of the abduction by Indians of two white girls and the long hunt for them that becomes a personal crusade...

"The Searchers" is about just such a raid and the terrible obsession of a man who seeks not only to rescue captives but to exact fearful vengeance...

John Wayne comes riding back from Confederate service in the Civil War, three years after it's over, to the Texan ranch he co-owns with his brother (Walter Coy). There's bitterness and mystery about the man... There are gold double eagles in his saddle-bags and there's a clammed up look in his eyes that says whatever he's done, or whatever he's been through, he's telling nothing... It's obvious, though, that he's glad to be home, that he's quite fond of his brother's wife (Dorothy Jordan), but he hates the fact that they've adopted a Cherokee half-breed (Jeffrey Hunter) into the family...

When Ward Bond, a preacher-cum-Rangers' captain, drops in to form a posse, Wayne goes along with him, only to find later that they've been decoyed away by Comanches... He gets back to learn that his brother, his wife, and their son have been killed and their two daughters have been abducted...

As always, certain words, sequences, images stay in the mind and evoke an emotional response:

- The wind sweeping across the landscape and through a frontier woman's black hair...

- The homecoming of a lean ex-Confederate soldier (against a bright sky) approaching a solitary house...

- The sad reflective look of a loner, sitting on the porch with only a dog for company...

- A married woman seen, by a Captain/Reverend, taking out and gently caressing her brother-in-law's cape in a manner that betrays her love for him...

- The ride of the posse through the grandeur of Monument Valley, Utah...

- White men riding scared through a valley while marauding Indians surround them between two parallel lines...

- The anguish face of a man agonizingly realizing that his brother's family could be the target of a Comanche murder raid...

- A shadow covering a ten year old girl, and the shocking view of an Indian standing menacingly before her...

- The catchphrase, 'That'll be the day!'

- A long view of a two searchers riding along a ridge in front of a sunset...

- The passionate frenzy of an avenging man, shooting wildly at a herd of buffalo...

- The 7th Cavalry riding beautiful horses in lines, galloping through an icy river, and carrying colorful flags against the white of the snow...

- Dignified women line up on one side, and their well-behaved men on the other, to the tune of "Shall We Gather at the River."

- The old man Mose, peacefully sitting, on the porch, in the family's rocking chair...

'The Searchers' is a big motion picture that cries 'wilderness' and the images sustain it... The eye is constantly filled with space, and isolation... It is perhaps the first film to clearly investigate the emotional bases for the racial tensions between Indians and whites, and shows a shocking massacre of a Comanche village...

John Ford was certainly a fantasist that has meditated on the West for a long period of years and has created an imaginary West that is uniquely his own... Ford was a folk artist, a master storyteller, a poet of the moving image..
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VINE VOICEon September 12, 2005
John Ford seemed to be able to get the most out of John Wayne and this film really shows just how good an actor Wayne could be. This is the epic western tale of survival in a hostile land. John Wayne plays Ethan Edwards, an outsider, who comes back to his brother's ranch several years after the Civil War. Ethan was on the 'lost cause' side of the conflict. As a Confederate war veteran, he tries to find his place once again in this reconstruction phase of his life...he has been lost and wandering for several years. Once back home with his brother, he starts to slowly unwind. This conflicted character soon find himself with Marty (Jeff Hunter), and the Texas Rangers..lead by Ward Bond..chasing stolen cattle only to find themselves fooled by the Commache..(who are on a raiding party). Upon returning to the ranch, Commaches have massacred the brother, wife and stolen Lucy and Debbie..the two daughters. This leads to the downs and ups of them searching all over the territory for the stolen daughters.

Watch this film for the cinematography as well as the fine acting by John Wayne. As the movie opens the film starts inside the cabin home and as the door opens we are sweeped into the Monument Valley vistas. All throughout the film, Ford used the landscape as another actor. When the movie closes, the camera pulls back into the same cabin view, just in reverse. With everyone going back to loved ones, the door closes leaving Ethan..much as he started...outside the door and homeless...clutching just himself.

This is a great movie especially for those who want to learn more about the art and technique of movie making. Well worth adding to any collection.
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