Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Western #1 - The Searcher (1956)

The Searchers is another John Wayne movie, I had it from a very good source that it was awful. It turns out that after all those years it's not, really. It's a fun, engaging movie. It's apparently often considered one of the best movies ever made though, and I don't see that. It's about racism, the darkness within (this seems to be a very common Western motif) and Monument Valley, and while I do think it's a strong movie, I don't find anything about it stunning of anything.

There are a couple of things that bother me about this movie: First, even though it's about how racism is bad, it has the most ridiculous portrayals of Mexicans and Native Americans in the entire list. It's not even the oldest. All of the Mexicans wear sombreros all the time, and the main Native American is played by a German guy. It's awful.

Second, the tone of this movie is very confusing to me. It really suffers from mood whiplash in a bad way to me. There's so much silly content in this movie that makes the serious stuff seem kind of strange. Honestly I think most of the silliness is stronger than the seriousness. Maybe it's because I didn't connect with John Wayne enough, but silly characters like Laurie and Charlie were some of the best parts of the movie. This actually isn't bad, because silliness has just as much merit as anything else, but it isn't what other people remember about the movie, which is strange to me.

And lastly, Scar is a really stupid name for your villain. When I hear Scar I think this:

 I know it's not The Searchers' fault they named a lion that, but my point is that Scar is a very cartoony villain name.

I do really like this movie though. John Wayne is great, there are a lot of characters I really like - Laurie, Martin, Laurie's dad, Charlie, the list goes on. The characters are really an extremely strong point in this movie. I like the plot with Debbie and her assimilation, and I like the shot of the desert through the door. It's interesting to me that three movies in this genre, The Searchers, Unforgiven and Shane, make the point that violent, dark men can't be a part of regular society with everyone else, even if they try to reform. Actually, Butch Cassidy sort of has that too. Notably, Red River has the opposite message, for reform. Interesting.

My favorite part of this movie is the clip they play in The Great Movie Ride in Disney World - "No you don't Ethan! ETHAN, NO YOU DON'T!" It's great.

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