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It has been a while since I did a movie review (or blog post in general). With the holidays, work travel, family issues and side work, it has been a tough two months yet watching The Searchers, my life is rather simple and boring in comparison. Considered to be the “Best Western” ever, John Wayne comes back from fighting in the civil war and ends up spending the next 5+ years hunting down a pack of Comanche Indians that killed his family and kidnapped his nieces.
Filmed in 1956, The Searchers follows the familiar topic of most “westerns” – namely, the struggle of living on the land and fighting off the indigenous tribes of Native Americans. Ethan Edwards (Played by John Wayne – known from any one of the 170+ movies he stared in) returns from fighting for the confederates in the Civil war as a decorated war hero looking to set up a homestead in the “wild west” of Texas. Stopping in to see his brother, wife, who apparently Ethan had feelings for, and his nieces and nephew, Ethan soon finds himself out on the open prairie hunting down someone that stole a neighbors cattle. The search, however was a trap to pull the local marshals out of the homestead. By the time Ethan gets home, his brother, sister-in-law and nephew have been murdered and his two nieces have been kidnapped. A search party is put together and so Ethan and his half-nephew Martin (an eighth Cherokee) start their five year search through the wilderness.
Often condescending to Native Americans the movie follows the [rather ignorant] mindset of Americans in the early late 1800′s and early 1900′s towards other races and cultures. I lost count of how many stereotypical scenes were put in this movie to try and paint a picture of Native Americans as a barbaric and ignorant culture of people. The only thing more brazenly awful than the racist undertones of the movie was the acting of the supporting cast. While there was a great story line and both John Wayne and Jeffrey Hunter (Martin) portrayed their parts well, I couldn’t get past the almost sophomoric filming that was all to often a part of 1940-60′s westerns.
Considered by many to be a great movie and the best western, I would have a hard time putting this in my top 25. The story was genuine and I could easily see this movie being redone by the current collection of unskilled writers of Hollywood. If you can look past the campy filming and the racist undertones, you can see the makings of a good movie. Its just unfortunate that with the advent of big budget movies, this classic looses a lot of its power because the story is overshadowed by the limited filming quality.
Other movies that deal with revenge and journeys: