Finished “The Searchers”

A flawed – but only slightly flawed – masterpiece, with emphasis on masterpiece. The romantic subplot was fine, even necessary to contrast with Ethan’s solitude; the not funny comic relief I could do without.

My other quibble (really question, actually) is this: Why did Debbie decide she wanted to go home the second time Marty meets her when she refused the first time? The impression I got is that she realized the Comanches were preparing for an attack, and didn’t want to be a part of it, but maybe I’m missing something? It seemed an odd reversal. More subtly, it could be that Scar started sleeping with her. This would make sense – it would explain her fear, then relief, upon seeing Marty standing above her instead of Scar, and her scream of terror when Scar shows up. But then again, lots of things would explain it.

At any rate, the movie is unquestionably brilliant. There are some legendary and iconic scenes, deservedly so. “Let’s go home, Debbie.” should and does stand as one of the great lines in the history of cinema. A more powerful moment has rarely been portrayed on screen.

The final shot of the movie is a beautifully tragic moment. Ethan stands in the doorway, looking at the family he helped reunite. After staring for a moment, clutching his arm, he turns away and walks off into the sunset. Nobody notices him leave. A fitting end to an absolutely sensational performance by John Wayne. That he wasn’t nominated for this but won for “True Grit” is just stunning, and not in a good way. Better late than never, I guess…

“The Searchers” is Ford’s masterpiece, and has rightfully gone down as a masterpiece not just of the western genre, but of American cinema in general.

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4 Responses to Finished “The Searchers”

  1. Off Topic: But I wanted to drop a link since I thought Malcolm would get a big kick out of the review and philosophical discussion SF Debris had in this past saturday’s review.

    • Fairly interesting. The big problem I see with the test is that an instinct for self-preservation has nothing to do with being alive or not being alive. It has to do with being designed in such a way that people don’t want expensive equipment to be destroyed.

      Here’s a good example: I am working on a computer right now. The computer luckily has working fans, so I currently do not need to worry about overheating. But say it didn’t. What happens?

      Well, when it reaches a certain temperature the computer shuts down. After a certain period of cool down, I can turn it on again, and it will work until it inevitably overheats again.

      So why does it shut down at a certain temperature? Simple: The computer has been programmed to shut down once it reaches this temperature because if it gets any hotter equipment will be damaged, and instead of simply needing new fans you’ll need a whole new computer, and you will have possibly lost important data. So the computer has an instinct for self-preservation programmed directly into it. And yet, I’ve met nobody so far who thinks my crappy two and a half year old heavily used Toshiba is alive.

      Now, the machines in the episode would not go back to mine again because they were worried they would explode, if I understood it correctly. But that means pretty much nothing except that as the complexity of their programming increased they developed a program that allows for self-preservation in certain circumstances.

      The premise is immediately faulty.

  2. Red Will Danaher says:

    “Why did Debbie decide she wanted to go home the second time Marty meets her when she refused the first time?”

    She initially rejected Ethan and Marty because she had come to believe, during the long years of waiting for rescuers who never arrived, that her family no longer cared about her. In the first encounter, though, Marty stood directly between her and gun-toting Ethan, clearly willing to die in order to protect her. In demonstrating his self-sacrificing love, he reaffirmed in her mind that she had not simply been abandoned by her family, but that she was still loved and wanted, and had been the entire time. Likewise, Ethan’s final change of heart, that made him choose not to murder her after all, was probably inspired by his witness of Marty’s selfless demonstration of love and loyalty.

    Lots of critics miss this, I think- in the conventional telling, it is Ethan’s dogged, savage, hate-fueled determination that effects a happy resolution. Marty’s determination is equally dogged, but fueled by unselfish love, not hate- he is willing to risk both his life and his one prospect at a happy marriage for the sake of his adoptive sister. Hate is a powerful motivating force, but will always fail where love succeeds. The true “critter that’ll just keep comin’ on” is not Ethan, but Marty.

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