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Wick's Review

Created Jul 13, 2008 07:27PM PST • Edited Aug 27, 2017 12:54AM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Very Good 3.5

    The greatest Western ever? Not in my judgment. Though a darn good movie, The Searchers is too phony to make a claim for all-time honors. While dated, it remains essential viewing for Western fans, full of jaw dropping scenery, intriguing interplay, and classic cowboys and Indians horse chases.

  3. Great 4.0

    John Wayne’s performance as Ethan Edwards – the enigmatic hero who searches for and ultimately saves his kidnapped niece – ranks among his most iconic. His depiction of the raw and racist war veteran is as emotionally revealing as pre-Method acting gets.

    The other notable performance amongst the large cast is delivered by Vera Miles as the doomed settler wife and mother. Her scenes with Wayne suggest that these in-laws shared more than a platonic relationship.

    Finally, attention must be given to German-born Henry Brandon as the Comanche chief Scar. Why? Because part of the movie’s phoniness is that Indian parts were played by Europeans.

  4. Male Stars Really Great 4.5
  5. Female Stars Really Great 4.5
  6. Female Costars Perfect 5.0
  7. Male Costars OK 2.5
  8. Very Good 3.5

    Brilliantly shot and structured by John Ford, this long movie has great vitality, with a large cast that we come to know through thick and thin. Ford drops subtle clues throughout regarding off-screen events that suggest insights into the character’s motivations, e.g., the emotional tension between Wayne and Vera Miles, his sister-in-law. According to IMDB, Wayne said in 1973 that his character might have been the kidnapped girl’s father, not her uncle. Now there’s a modern twist…

  9. Direction Great 4.0
  10. Play Great 4.0
  11. Music Barely OK 2.0

    The opening songs are Confederate anthems, appropriate because Wayne’s character is a former Confederate soldier, but unattractive to even this country music fan.

  12. Visuals Perfect 5.0

    Ford expertly contrasts wide open spaces with the confines of Wild West dwellings.

    The Monument Valley settings and the cowboy and Indian horse chases virtually define the iconic Western. Unfortunately, Monument Valley is in Utah, far from the story’s Texas setting. More phoniness.

  13. Content
  14. Tame 1.5

    Produced in 1956, the movie is tame by modern standards. While the understated violence doesn’t harm the story, the lack of sexual acknowledgment does. Much is made of how a white girl changes after she is “taken” by a Comanche brave, without ever actually probing the sexual nature of the situation. Half a century later, this rings phony.

  15. Sex Innocent 1.2
  16. Violence Fierce 1.7
  17. Rudeness Polite 1.5
  18. Glib 1.6

    Ford is said to have wanted the movie to show white racism towards Indians, and therefore begin to right the wrongs of the white man’s conquest of the red. Fine idea, but the Indians are portrayed as little more than stereotypes (played by white actors to boot), and the chief racist is played by Big Chief Movie Star John Wayne himself, hardly an actor that Western audiences would root against.

    In any case, is White Man’s Guilt the right way to view the cataclysmic encounter between American settlers and native Americans? Probably not, as modernity’s conquest was inevitable, with both sides operating as they knew how at the time.

  19. Circumstantial Surreal 2.5

    Let us count a few of the phony elements:

    • White actors playing Indians
    • Utah’s Monument Valley standing in for West Texas
    • 48 year old John Wayne playing a character probably still in his twenties.
  20. Biological Glib 1.4
  21. Physical Natural 1.0


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