The DVD Journal | Quick Reviews: The Searchers: 50th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition
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The Searchers: 50th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition

Late in his career, John Ford's vision of America darkened and the fullest realization of his broodings proves to be this adaptation of Alan LeMay's novel The Searchers, released in 1956, a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination and one of the 10 best films ever made. Both book and film are about the five-plus yearlong search by Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) for the remnants of his family, killed in an Indian attack led by renegade Indian Scar (Henry Brandon). Accompanying him is Martin Pauley (Jeffrey Hunter), set to try and stop Ethan from killing young Debbie (Natalie Wood), Ethan's remaining relative, now tainted by her absorption into the tribe. The Searchers is marvelously cohesive, even while being mysterious. Edwards is an intriguing question mark, a possible deserter (for political reasons), bank robber, and murderer, whose life on the run has made him the mirror image of the Indians he hates yet understands with a preternatural affinity. Frank S. Nugent's script is cunningly and richly constructed. For example, the viewer forgets a war medal Ethan gives to Debbie in the first few minutes until it makes a startling reappearance 70 minutes later. And visually Ford famously rhymes certain images to chart the conscience of Ethan. Film buffs will be grateful to have this masterpiece at hand. Disc One of Warner's The Searchers: 50th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition is a single-sided, dual-layered disc, which offers the film in a lush anamorphic widescreen presentation (1.75:1), with Dolby Digital 1.0 audio in English and French, plus English, French, and Spanish subtitles. Supplements include an innocuous intro by Patrick Wayne (1:51), a beginner's-level commentary track by director Peter Bogdanovich, and the theatrical trailer, widescreen and enhanced (2 min.). Disc Two, also single-sided and dual-layered, has materials in both color and black and white. "The Searchers: An Appreciation," features John Milius, Martin Scorsese, and Curtis Hanson extolling the virtues and power of the film (30 min.); "A Turning of the Earth: John Ford, John Wayne, and The Searchers," narrated by Patrick Wayne and others, explores the relationship of director and actor, with precious home movie footage of them driving, flying, and drinking (33 min.); "Behind the Camera" offers four black-and-white full-frame "making-of" segments from the "Warner Bros. Presents" TV show: "Meet Jeffrey Hunter," "Monument Valley," "Meet Natalie Wood," and "Setting Up Production," with a play all option (21 min.). Finally there is a theatrical trailer for the forthcoming Brad Pitt western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Physical supplements consist of a digest-sized reproduction of the Dell Comics adaptation of the film; an exhibitor's publicity kit; 10 black-and-white on-set location photos; and two inter-office memos about the film. The whole package comes in a dual-DVD keep-case in a slipcase, plus two folding cases for the additional materials.
—D.K. Holm

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