Westerns Movie Log Journal & Recommendations

→ in
Tools    





I finally got around to watching The Searchers (1956) last night. I watched it because a lot of you mentioned it...Some of you liked it, many didn't. I'll write up my thoughts on the movie shortly. Thanks to everyone for their input and thoughts!

The Searchers was one of my least favorite of the John Wayne movies that I watched recently. I watched it more for Jeffrey Hunter than for John Wayne, but the movie was just too violent for me.
...I watched the Searchers a few years back because I'd always heard so much about it and wanted to give westerns another chance by watching what's been reported to be one of the best! I was attracted to the plot (and hey, Natalie Wood, of course!) Yet it kind of reaffirmed by dislike of westerns.

I seem to remember it being full of plot holes...and a lot of meandering. And I seem to remember some comedy in it - yet a lot of it seemed inappropriate or out of place in a story about murder, families being slaughtered, rape and revenge...
...I'm another who didn't care for The Searchers.
I enjoyed The Searchers, but there’s a certain part in the film where it gets a little silly. Kind of drags the story down a little...
For me The Searchers has been a bit of an acquired taste. I've been watching westerns and John Wayne films all my life, but when I saw it the first few times about 10 years ago I wasn't much impressed. Part of that likely had to do with the film's glowing reputation, and not coming up to my initial expectations. It's got a different kind of character about it than a typical John Ford western, which can be quite off putting at first. A lot of the acting from various players make it quite surreal in parts.

But the last couple of times I've seen it I've just learnt to go with it and now I really enjoy it. I've found a lot of depth of feeling in the story and appreciate the photography as some of the best I've seen in a western...
My review is coming up...



"Money won is twice as sweet as money earned."






The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)

No other western film that I know of receives such mixed reviews as John Ford's 1956 epic tale of revenge and redemption. The Searchers has been called 'hokey' because of the comic elements...It's been said the movie is all 'over the place' and 'without focus'. It's been labeled 'hateful' and 'bloated'...But I liked it as it's so much more than meets the eye.

I know a film has stunning cinematography when I go looking for a lead image for my review. Often the images from movies I've watched are average and it's hard for me to find a stunning image that represents the soul of the movie, but not with The Searchers...I found so many breath taking images from the movie that it was hard to decide on just one...so I went with three! I've said this before but truly great cinematography isn't just pretty landscapes, it's knowing how to shoot those landscapes and John Ford know how to shoot a landscape! And the beauty of the film one reason I liked it.

But another reason is the dynamics between the psychological violence of Ethan (John Wayne) and Martin (Jeffery Hunter) on their epic five year man hunt. We don't see the settlers being massacred and we don't see their dead mutilated bodies, we don't need to. What we do see is John Wayne's horrified reaction to what he's witnessed. Ethan has seen something so grisly that he doesn't want the young Martin to see it. That psychological violence is much more effective than a scene of an arrow through the throat would've been. The greatest moment in the film comes with John Wayne comes back from a mountain pass after having found the oldest girl dead and violated. His reaction to Jeffery Hunter's question about what he scene in that pass is one of the most emotional powerful scenes I've watched...and we the viewer don't see a thing, only John Wayne's rage at what he saw.

Balancing this determined violence during the hunt for the younger captive girl, is the scenes of hearth and home which John Ford is so famous for. And that's why we see lighter comic elements including a wedding party. As that reminds us that life goes on at home, whilst the two men keep hunting for their adversary. They're missing out on life and love, having traded everything for vengeance.

But what truly makes The Searchers great is the redemption of John Wayne's character. At the start of the film he's so full of hatred towards Native American Indians that his plan is to find the captive settler girl and kill her. In his mind he'll be sparing her from becoming like his adversaries. It's a strong performance from John Wayne, one of his best and his character is not likable. Wayne's character is much more the protagonist than the Indian Chief Scar, than then makes the final scene so emotional rewarding.



Attachments
Click image for larger version

Name:	The Searchers1.png
Views:	110
Size:	301.8 KB
ID:	59576   Click image for larger version

Name:	The Searchers3.jpg
Views:	119
Size:	43.2 KB
ID:	59577   Click image for larger version

Name:	The Searchers2.jpg
Views:	115
Size:	44.0 KB
ID:	59578  






The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)

No other western film that I know of receives such mixed reviews as John Ford's 1956 epic tale of revenge and redemption. The Searchers has been called 'hokey' because of the comic elements...It's been said the movie is all 'over the place' and 'without focus'. It's been labeled 'hateful' and 'bloated'...But I liked it as it's so much more than meets the eye.

I know a film has stunning cinematography when I go looking for a lead image for my review. Often the images from movies I've watched are average and it's hard for me to find a stunning image that represents the soul of the movie, but not with The Searchers...I found so many breath taking images from the movie that it was hard to decide on just one...so I went with three! I've said this before but truly great cinematography isn't just pretty landscapes, it's knowing how to shoot those landscapes and John Ford know how to shoot a landscape! And the beauty of the film one reason I liked it.

But another reason is the dynamics between the psychological violence of Ethan (John Wayne) and Martin (Jeffery Hunter) on their epic five year man hunt. We don't see the settlers being massacred and we don't see their dead mutilated bodies, we don't need to. What we do see is John Wayne's horrified reaction to what he's witnessed. Ethan has seen something so grisly that he doesn't want the young Martin to see it. That psychological violence is much more effective than a scene of an arrow through the throat would've been. The greatest moment in the film comes with John Wayne comes back from a mountain pass after having found the oldest girl dead and violated. His reaction to Jeffery Hunter's question about what he scene in that pass is one of the most emotional powerful scenes I've watched...and we the viewer don't see a thing, only John Wayne's rage at what he saw.

Balancing this determined violence during the hunt for the younger captive girl, is the scenes of hearth and home which John Ford is so famous for. And that's why we see lighter comic elements including a wedding party. As that reminds us that life goes on at home, whilst the two men keep hunting for their adversary. They're missing out on life and love, having traded everything for vengeance.

But what truly makes The Searchers great is the redemption of John Wayne's character. At the start of the film he's so full of hatred towards Native American Indians that his plan is to find the captive settler girl and kill her. In his mind he'll be sparing her from becoming like his adversaries. It's a strong performance from John Wayne, one of his best and his character is not likable. Wayne's character is much more the protagonist than the Indian chief Scar, than then makes the final scene so emotional rewarding.



Great review. I’ll have to rewatch it sometime soon. I really enjoyed it each time I have watched it, but the wedding scene seems to be out of place with the rest of the movie. It kind of felt awkward.
That doesn’t detract in my opinion from an otherwise good movie.




Angel and the Badman (1947)

This is one of my favorite westerns and it's not the greatest film of all time, but it does a lot right and does a lot things different than the average western movie. And it's those differences that makes me appreciate, this under appreciated, John Wayne western. But it's not the Duke who makes this picture special, it's the lead actress Gail Russell.

Penny (Gail Russell) is a Quaker who lives with her mom and dad. They find a half dead, infamous gun man named Quirt Evans (John Wayne) and take him home and nurse him back to health. They do that because that is their way. And that's what makes this western special, it's the idea that there's good in all of us and doing good is in itself it's own reward. Of course Quirt doesn't believe in all this 'good doing' but the unashamed love of a young woman turns Quirt from violence to something much more peaceful.

Angel and the Badman doesn't have a lot of violence, in fact you could call it a romantic western and yet it contains some of the craziest stunts performed on film. And that's thanks to second director Yakima Canutt who directed some down right dangerous stunts including having two stunt men drive a wagon over a cliff into the water below.

But for me it's Gail Russell with her fragile beauty and inner shyness that makes Angel and the Badman special.

++

Attachments
Click image for larger version

Name:	64_490120_lowres.jpg
Views:	194
Size:	148.8 KB
ID:	59623  



I've only seen it once about 4 or 5 years ago so I'll try it again.
Same here. Although I have a somewhat different memory of it, Citizen's review makes me want to view it with a different eye. (I think various aspects of the plot had me analyzing the film instead of being captured by the epic vistas & cinematography.)



Same here. Although I have a somewhat different memory of it, Citizen's review makes me want to view it with a different eye. (I think various aspects of the plot had me analyzing the film instead of being captured by the epic vistas & cinematography.)
I just watched The Searchers for the second time in several days. This time I watched it with the Peter Bogdanovich commentary. I came away with a deeper understanding of the film and a new appreciation for the way it was filmed. I do have to say that the broad comedy that punctuates the tension, just doesn't work for me. Especially the character Mose (Hank Worden) who gets way too silly and does detract from the movie. Still a great film by John Ford, even with it's few foibles.



Same here. Although I have a somewhat different memory of it, Citizen's review makes me want to view it with a different eye. (I think various aspects of the plot had me analyzing the film instead of being captured by the epic vistas & cinematography.)
I just watched The Searchers for the second time in several days. This time I watched it with the Peter Bogdanovich commentary. I came away with a deeper understanding of the film and a new appreciation for the way it was filmed. I do have to say that the broad comedy that punctuates the tension, just doesn't work for me. Especially the character Mose (Hank Worden) who gets way too silly and does detract from the movie. Still a great film by John Ford, even with it's few foibles.
That’s my assessment as well. Great film, a few silly scenes, but n out enough to detract from the overall quality.



my watchlist:
Forty Guns 1957
Little Big Man 1970
Duck, You Sucker 1971
The Lusty Men 1952
El Topo 1970
Winchester ’73 1950
River of No Return 1954
A Genius, Two Friends, and an Idiot 1975
The Missing 2003
Day of the Outlaw 1959
Red River 1948
Johnny Guitar 1954
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance 1962
The Big Country 1958
The Gunfighter 1950
3 Bad Men 1926
3:10 to Yuma 1957
100 Rifles 1969
Shane 1953
The Misfits 1961
Heaven’s Gate 1980
Little Big Man 1970
Hostiles 2017
Viva Zapata! 1952
Rio Grande 1950
Four of the Apocalypse 1975
Hang 'Em High 1968
Sonny and Jed 1972
Duel in the Sun 1946
Navajo Joe 1966
Heaven’s Gate 1980

You've already seen a lot of Westerns, so here are some recommendations I couldn't find a review of in your review thread;
The Mercenary 1968
ˇThree Amigos! 1986
Extreme Prejudice 1987
Maverick 1994
Hidalgo 2004
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada 2005
Lawless 2012
__________________
My Top 250
Letterboxd profile



@John-Connor
Wow, that's some watch list you got there, and some good ones too...
Of the films on your watch list, here's what I've seen.

Forty Guns 1957
Little Big Man 1970
Winchester ’73 1950
River of No Return 1954
Day of the Outlaw 1959
Red River 1948
Johnny Guitar 1954
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance 1962
The Big Country 1958
The Gunfighter 1950
3 Bad Men 1926
3:10 to Yuma 1957
Shane 1953
The Misfits 1961
Viva Zapata! 1952
Rio Grande 1950
Hang 'Em High 1968
Duel in the Sun 1946
Heaven’s Gate 1980

I'll just say all of those are fine films. Glad to see Heaven's Gate on there, it doesn't get mentioned much. The Big Country is in my Top 10 Profile. I've been meaning to rewatched Hang 'Em High. Who Shot Liberty Valance...Johnny Guitar and Winchester '73 are uniquely cool and glad to see The Gunmen on your list.

Thanks for the recommendations I'll check these out and watch some of them.




High Plains Drifter (1973)

Clint Eastwood's second directed film and the first western that he ever directed. And it's a good one too! Eastwood the director takes the spaghetti western to a new level by telling a tale of a mysterious man returned to an evil town on the shores of a desolate high plains lake. His sole mission is payback.

The lake is Lake Mono in California and Eastwood built an actual town on it's shores. By doing so he has a realistic shooting location complete with actual buildings that he was able to film inside of. Add to that an eagle eye for cinematography...along with the trademark Eastwood western character who says little but means a lot...and you get one helluva a unique western. Did I mention the town gets painted red and renamed Hell! Why yes it does!

Great supporting cast, cool idea, great location and Eastwood's steady directorial hand.



Attachments
Click image for larger version

Name:	9084_5.jpg
Views:	78
Size:	69.2 KB
ID:	59678  




North to Alaska (1960)
Recommend by @gbgoodies

North to Alaska is the perfect film for people who don't like John Wayne and don't like westerns. It's a light heartened comedy set at the start of the 20th century during the Alaskan gold rush. Besides The Duke, it features British born Stewart Granger who's a hoot as a fellow gold miner, and 1960s teen singing sensation Fabian, and French model turned serious actress Capucine. Oh and there's a cute dog too. I liked the cabin setting up in the mountains and it was fun! Not deep but it's not meant to be a deep western.



Attachments
Click image for larger version

Name:	Screenshot from 2020-01-16 19-21-38.png
Views:	78
Size:	329.3 KB
ID:	59679  



@John-Connor, I've been watching a bunch of westerns recently for the Westerns List, and these are the movies from your list that I've seen and I'd recommend:

Winchester ’73 (1950)
Red River (1948)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
The Gunfighter (1950)
3:10 to Yuma (1957)
Shane (1953)



In addition, these are a few movies that haven't been mentioned that I would recommend:
The Rawhide Years (1956)
The Bravados (1958)
Warlock (1959)
A Big Hand for the Little Lady (1966)
The Electric Horseman (1979)

If you like western comedies, here are a few more recommendations:
Alias Jesse James (1959)
Support Your Local Sheriff (1969)
Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971)
The Frisco Kid (1979)
City Slickers (1991)

And if you like western musicals, here are a few more recommendations:
Oklahoma! (1955)
Annie Get Your Gun (1950)
Calamity Jane (1953)


.
__________________
If I answer a game thread correctly, just skip my turn and continue with the game.
OPEN FLOOR.




North to Alaska (1960)
Recommend by @gbgoodies

North to Alaska is the perfect film for people who don't like John Wayne and don't like westerns. It's a light heartened comedy set at the start of the 20th century during the Alaskan gold rush. Besides The Duke, it features British born Stewart Granger who's a hoot as a fellow gold miner, and 1960s teen singing sensation Fabian, and French model turned serious actress Capucine. Oh and there's a cute dog too. I liked the cabin setting up in the mountains and it was fun! Not deep but it's not meant to be a deep western.




I'm glad you enjoyed North to Alaska. There are a lot of good western movies, but I prefer this type of light western more than the heavy dramas where a bunch of people get killed.



I'm glad you enjoyed North to Alaska. There are a lot of good western movies, but I prefer this type of light western more than the heavy dramas where a bunch of people get killed.
Have you seen Silverado (1985)? I just watched that tonight and I thought it was pretty darn good and might make my countdown list. Kevin Kline was great in it and it had an all star cast. But what I liked was it had lots of little moments that I've never seen in a western before...but there was also a lot of shooting, but that was not so violent as it was like something you would see in Indian Jones type movie. In fact it reminded me of Indian Jones, probably because it was made in the mid 1980s when that style of film making was popular.



Have you seen Silverado (1985)? I just watched that tonight and I thought it was pretty darn good and might make my countdown list. Kevin Kline was great in it and it had an all star cast. But what I liked was it had lots of little moments that I've never seen in a western before...but there was also a lot of shooting, but that was not so violent as it was like something you would see in Indian Jones type movie. In fact it reminded me of Indian Jones, probably because it was made in the mid 1980s when that style of film making was popular.

Yes, I watched Silverado a few weeks ago. I thought it was good, and I'm considering it for my list, but it probably won't make my final list. There wasn't anything wrong with the movie. There are just too many movies that will probably land above it on my list.

BTW, I think Kevin Kline is great in everything he's in.



I think True Grit (1969) is the only western I've watched since the announcement of the countdown. Highly recommend it if you haven't seen it, especially since you're already on a John Wayne trip. Much of the great dialogue in the 2010 remake, which I'd ignorantly attributed to the Coen Bros, was lifted directly from the original. The original also features a stronger, more satisfying ending. Gonna watch the sequel (Rooster Cogburn) soon.

High Plains Drifter is awesome with its subtle supernatural approach. Pale Rider and Two Mules for Sister Sara are good, although less memorable. Nice write-up on The Searchers. From my experience, it's a film that grows stronger and more impressive with each viewing. I was initially underwhelmed, but I now think it deserves its reputation as one of the finest westerns ever made. The Quick and the Dead was one of the few westerns I liked as a kid but it didn't hold up well for me when I returned to it as an adult. Still a fun flick. Never would've expected you to love it so much.

Buster Scruggs, Ulzana's Raid and Angel and the Badman are three westerns you've watched that I'll definitely be checking out.
__________________



...Buster Scruggs, Ulzana's Raid and Angel and the Badman are three westerns you've watched that I'll definitely be checking out.
After you watch Angel and the Badman and are smitten with Gail Russell, read her biography. I thought she was very special in the few films I've seen her in. She has this fragile shyness that makes her very enduring....But what a sad life she had.




The Shootist (1975)

John Wayne's last movie and he plays an aging gunfighter, otherwise known as a shootist. He's come to the town of Carson City to live out his last days, as he's dying of an illness with only weeks left to live. He winds up in a boarding house run by a windowed woman (Lauren Bacall) and her teenage son (Ron Howard) who admires the gunfight escapes of J.B. Books.

This is a hard film to watch for me, knowing that it was The Duke's last western and last film. He would die a few years after the film and wasn't well during the making of the movie. He has a real look of anguish in his eyes. I don't think I've seen those eyes of his tell more about the man than they do here. Wayne gives a damn honest performance...Anybody who says the man couldn't act don't know squat. Wayne does more here with a turn of the head and movement of his eyes, than most actors can do with pages of dialogue. It's a good story and fitting for John Wayne as the movie functions as both a sendoff and a memento of his long film career.

John Wayne admired director Don Siegel's past films but was critical of the way he directed The Shootist. Wayne told the director he needed to shoot more visually epic. I must say before I even read about Wayne and is comments to the director I was thinking that the film itself is directed and shot like a TV movie, with many closeups and mid range shots. And like a lot of TV at the time the lighting is flat and studio looking.

While the film's visuals aren't exciting, it's the story of an old west legend fading into history that makes the film. That and John Wayne's from the heart performance.

+
Attachments
Click image for larger version

Name:	rueducine.com-le-dernier-des-geants-photo.jpg
Views:	58
Size:	69.6 KB
ID:	59728  




Silverado (1985)

I thought this was pretty darn good and might make my countdown list. Kevin Kline was great in it and it had an all star cast. But what I liked was it had lots of little moments that I've never seen in a western before...but there was also a lot of shooting, but that was not so violent as it was like something you would see in Indian Jones type movie. In fact it reminded me of Indian Jones, probably because it was made in the mid 1980s when that style of film making was popular.

Note: after writing this I looked up Silverado and found the director/writer Lawrence Kasdan had indeed wrote the screenplay for Indian Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark (1985)...no wonder Silverado felt familiar.

++
Attachments
Click image for larger version

Name:	1*gsCUkiq9VXN3hQN0nMA8KQ.jpeg
Views:	59
Size:	50.2 KB
ID:	59729