Around this time of year we find ourselves doubly afflicted. Hunting season is ending, or over, and the Holidays are upon us. If you find yourself moping around the house, bored plain flat p**sless with football and praying your houseguests will develop botulism by nightfall, here is a movie that will, if it doesn’t cheer you up, at least distract you. It is, of course, a western, and I’ve alluded to it in past rants, but never given it the attention it deserves.
I’m talking about the 50th Anniversary special edition of John Ford’s 1956 masterpiece, The Searchers, which was both Ford’s and John Wayne’s greatest film. When it first ran, it was a solid commercial success, but completely ignored by the Academy Awards. Now it is universally regarded as one of the great films of all time.
The two-disc special edition, released this past summer by Warner Brothers, consists of a gorgeously restored print of the film and a second disc which is something of a marvel on its own. It contains the original trailers, promos, and most important, critical discussions of the film by such writers/directors as John Milius, Martin Scorcese, Curtis Hanson, and Peter Bogdanovich. Trust me when I say that these guys are a revelation. I’ve been watching the damned movie for half a century, and they showed me things I had never seen before. It’s like getting a new set of eyes and ears, plus an IQ boost of 50 points.
The Searchers is a western, and it is also a film about obsession and racism. But most of all it is, in the words of its own director, “…the tragedy of a loner.” When you watch it, you are in the presence of giants.