directed by John Ford
USA 1956

It’s not what is said and done in John Ford’s The Searchers that makes it such an effective film. It is what is not said and done—the actions that are implied but never seen, and the dialogue that is thought but never spoken. It is about two men’s five-year search for a girl kidnapped by Comanche Indians, but it is more interested in why they are searching than who they are searching for.

Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) might be the last, traditional cowboy of the pre-Political Correctness era. John Ford attempted to paint sympathetic, more accurate portrayals on Indians in his Westerns, in a time when they were usually just used for villains and set pieces for the heroic cowboys to conquer. Ethan Edwards is such a conqueror—a hard-boiled racist and an ex-Confederate soldier who searches for his kidnapped niece Debbie with the sole intention of shooting her dead. “Living with Comanches ain't being alive,” he insists, and he sees no moral dilemma in murdering the girl in cold blood once he finds her.

Ethan’s adopted nephew, Marty (Jeffrey Hunter) is a half-breed who, after the rest of his family was killed by a Comanche raid, intends to rescue his sister from what is surely a terrible fate. Despite his uncle’s intent, Marty plans to go to great lengths to bring her back alive, because she is the only family that he has left besides this racist, bitter ex-soldier, who sees Marty as a half-breed who “ain’t no kin to me.”

The two men pursue the Comanche raiders together despite the fact that they understand that once they find them, one will probably have to kill the other in order to fulfill their intentions. Still, for now they need each other. Marty needs Ethan because no one knows the Comanche customs and travel patterns better than he does. Ethan needs Marty more than he’d like to admit—to stabilize his rage and keep him from going completely mad in his isolation.

Excerpt from Film as Art - Danal Griffin's Guide to Cinema

Posters

Theatrical Release: March 13th, 1956

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DVD Comparison: Blu-ray

Warner - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Warner (Ultimate Collector's Edition) - Region 1,4 - NTSC vs. Warner Blu-ray

Big thanks to Ole Kofoed for the Blu-ray Screen Caps!

(Warner - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. Warner (Ultimate Collector's Edition) - Region 1,4 - NTSC MIDDLE vs. Blu-ray RIGHT)

DVD Box Cover

   

The Special Edition is also available in the John Wayne-John Ford Film Collection along with Stagecoach / Fort Apache / The Long Voyage Home / The Wings of Eagles / She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and They Were Expendable

             

Distribution Warner Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC Warner Home Video - Region 1,4 - NTSC Warner Home Video - No region or standard coding
Runtime 1:58:44 1:58:40 1:58:43
Video 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 4.17 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
1.78:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.40 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
1.78:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 24-28  mb/s
1080p

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Original

Bitrate:

Ultimate Collector's Edition

Bitrate:

Blu-ray

NOT AVAILABLE YET

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), DUBs: French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono) English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), DUBs: French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono) English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), DUBs: French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
Subtitles English, Spanish, French, None English, Spanish, French, None English, English (HoH), Spanish, French, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Warner Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
 1.78:1

Edition Details:

• Warner Bros. Presents: 2 Documentary Shorts (entitles # 3 - 6:02 and # 4 - 5:55)
• Cast and Crew (text screens)
• All in the family (text screens)
• Theatrical trailer (2:52)
• Reel Recommendations

 

NOTE: Full Screen version on opposite side of disc

DVD Release Date: December, 2000

Snapper Case
Chapters: 44

Release Information:
Studio: Warner Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
 1.78:1

Edition Details:

• Disc One:
Introduction by Patrick Wayne
Commentary by Peter Bogdanovich
Theatrical Trailer
• Disc Two:
"The Searchers: An Appreciation" featurette
"A Turning of the Earth: John Ford, John Wayne and The Searchers" featurette
Behind the Cameras: Meet Jeffrey Hunter, Monument Valley, Meet Natalie Wood, Setting Up Production
Ultimate Collector's Edition includes:
Reproduction of 1956 Dell comic book
Reproduction of original 1956 Warner Bros. press book
Reproductions of filmmaker memos and correspondence
10 postcards with behind-the-scenes photos

DVD Release Date:
June 6th, 2006
3 tired digipak (holding 2 discs) with 2 more holding other supplements
Chapters: 44

Release Information:
Studio: Warner Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
 1.78:1

Edition Details:
Introduction by Patrick Wayne
Commentary by Peter Bogdanovich
Theatrical Trailer
"The Searchers: An Appreciation" featurette
"A Turning of the Earth: John Ford, John Wayne and The Searchers" featurette
Behind the Cameras: Meet Jeffrey Hunter, Monument Valley, Meet Natalie Wood, Setting Up Production

DVD Release Date:
October 31st, 2006
Standard
Blu-ray case
Chapters: 44

 

 

Comments:

ADDITION: - Blu-ray June 2008:

NOTE: THESE BLU-RAY CAPTURES WERE RIPPED DIRECTLY FROM THE DISC! TO SEE THEM IN FULL RESOLUTION CLICK ON THE BLU-RAY CAPTURES.

Like the Ultimate Collector's Edition - we have some positives and negatives about the Blu-ray. Although it is brighter, sharper and colors are far more vibrant, it appears to more closely support the CE's flawed color scheme. This is evident right from the titles sequence.

 

 
Original DVD Release   2006 DVD Release
   
2006 Blu-ray Release

This indicates that although many were hoping for a 'fixed' restoration using a better IB print - in fact - Warner have not and probably never will. This is it for the films hampered ratio and altered color palette.

 

What is most evident in the Blu-ray is the improvement in the area of detail - at times it looks almost 3D! (opening door scene is a prime example) - and, of course, the lack of digital artifacts. I now suspect, after owning about 100 Blu-ray discs, that this latter attribute may be one of the most important factors in the desirability of new format DVDs. However, the new Blu-ray of The Searchers is not totally free of this distraction (not unlike Casablanca HD) - but I only noted two mildly noticeable instances. This is an immense improvement over the CE with all the vast mono chromatic-sky shots, terrain vistas and blanketed snow scenes. This, to me, is the biggest difference to giving the most film-like appearance possible. It no longer looks like a great DVD folks - it looks like film. The sharpness becomes an added bonus - one that can actually distract from the narrative - it is so distinct. Be careful not to swoon too much!

 

2-disc CE  

Blu-ray

In comparison the CE appears to have some minor brightness boosting affecting the color of her shawl and background sand...

The orangy / dusty-brown coloring in the CE is replaced by a more reddish image with more even whites and slightly darker blacks. I suspect that with Blu-ray's superior resolution they can get away with the flatter contrast without impinging upon the clarity.

Audio - I noted no differences from the CE in the sound quality - it is very clear and consistent.

Other minor differences with the CE - addition of English - hearing impaired (as well as standard) - subtitles on the Blu-ray and an optional Spanish DUB. We do lose all the liner notes goodies though - Reproduction of 1956 Dell comic book, Reproduction of original 1956 Warner Bros. press book, Reproductions of filmmaker memos and correspondence and 10 postcards with behind-the-scenes photos. Perhaps they couldn't fit in the smaller case. I could care less as I am not a fan of most of these repo nostalgia treats.

All digital extras appear to be the same - intro by Patrick Wayne, Bogdanovich commentary etc.

I was recommended this by a friend and although it is not one of my favorite films (or even westerns) I am thrilled that I now own it on Blu-ray. It looks stunning - detail is outstanding and the colors are... chilling. Ohh yeah - the Blu-ray is almost half the price of the CE ($36 vs. $20).  You won't ever regret owning this one. DVDBeaver guarantee.

Gary W. Tooze 

*****

On the Original vs. CE Comparison:

APOLOGIES - For some reason I have met with delay after delay to get my hands on a copy of this new John Ford / John Wayne boxset. I won't bore you with the details but we hoped to have this comparison posted 2 weeks ago.

ADDITION: Warner (Ultimate Collector's Edition) - Region 1,4 - NTSC - June 06' - I have some issues with the new release - it has color flaws but lets take it one step at a time.

The new Ultimate Collector's Edition DVD is NTSC standard coded for regions 1 + 4 making it sellable in South America as well as North America.

1) The framing - I was astounded at how much was removed from the original DVD image - mostly on the top, bottom and left edges! Using graphic programs to count pixels I estimate it to be almost 18%! This alone is a valid reason to lean towards the new issue.

 

2) Colors - here is where we require a certain amount of speculation. I've been informed by sources 'in-the-know' that the color scheme of this new release is way off - meaning it is quite different than when it was shown theatrically. Skin tones can tend to look very red/tan/yellow at times in the new Ultimate Collector's edition.

I have been in communication with many experts on The Searchers - people who have actual 35mm prints of the film and are extremely familiar with all aspects of this classic western. Here are some anonymous quotes:

"Anyhow, I do think the color is "wrong." Which is not to say that the old color was "right." But they have really turned up the yellow, and I think too far."

"I've owned both 35mm and 16mm IB prints of the film - the first DVD, which was taken from the laserdisc transfer, obviously isn't nearly as sharp as the new transfer, but the color (especially on the laserdisc as opposed to the DVD, which had many other issues) was totally accurate on the laser transfer. At the time of the laserdisc release, I reviewed it for the Director's Guild of America magazine, not because I'm a reviewer, but because I thought it was an astounding restoration. I talked to the men who did it - they told me they timed the laser transfer to the Warners IB Tech reference prints, which was and is in excellent condition. That is why the blue of the sky is so perfect in that transfer - it takes your breath away and it's not a sickly greenish-white as in the new DVD. Just look at the shot where Wayne unsheathes his rifle before riding to the burning ranch - in the old transfer the sky is blue blue, in the new DVD it's white. Blechhh. "

"[Warner] have now admitted it, and are now fixing it, using an IB Tech print as a reference. "

"As an aside, for about ten years, in the 1980s, all the 35mm prints in distribution were ORANGE -- with green skies."

"On Gary's new page, some of the new frames don't look so bad. I don't know what is "correct," but comparing the two versions on Gary's page, I would opt for something in between the old and the new."

"Gary says there's 18 percent more picture. Well, there's probably another 18 percent where that came from. The Searchers was one of the first VistaVision pictures and was shot in the original horizontal format. Some cropping was supposed to occur; the entire camera frame wasn't supposed to be projected. I have no idea what cropping is "correct." One could find out, maybe, because there was some publicity for the industry at the time -- a card which included actual celluloid frames of the VistaVision format."

3) Detail - the new Ultimate Collector's Edition is brighter and has better sharpness. It also none of the slight damage and speckles that the original release had.

4) Extras - obviously this is an easy choice the newer release is stacked with all sorts of goodies from an excellent Bogdanovich commentary to a reprint of the original Dell comic book (whoppee!).

BOTTOM LINE: What I think - personally I am not so stridently opposed to the colors of this new DVD. But I might not put the film in my Top 10 westerns list (which would preferably include THESE), but I do think it is an important film and worthy of a strong release - one that represents the original color scheme as accurately as possible. I can see for myself that there is excessive yellow in many scenes, but if we balance that with the positives: significantly more frame information - extensive extras etc. then weighing goods vs. bads I think the new Ultimate Collector's edition is an easy choice. Will it be replaced? I don't know. Do I think it should be replaced? If it is possible to improve the accuracy of the colors - absolutely. The new release looks damn good in my opinion but not perfect and it may never be exacting enough for some of the film's more diligent followers. I, of course, hope that they are satisfied with the expected replacement, which, if it transpires - I will be surprised .      

Gary W. Tooze

 



DVD Menus

 

From the Warner HD-DVD (exact same extras and VC-1 codec as the Blu-ray)

 


(Warner - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. Warner (Ultimate Collector's Edition) - Region 1,4 - NTSC RIGHT)

 
 

 

 

Disc 2

 

Warner (Ultimate Collector's Edition) - Region 1,4 - NTSC

 


Screen Captures

 

1) Warner - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Warner (Ultimate Collector's Edition) - Region 1,4 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Warner Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


 

1) Warner - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Warner (Ultimate Collector's Edition) - Region 1,4 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Warner Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


 

1) Warner - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Warner (Ultimate Collector's Edition) - Region 1,4 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Warner Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


 

1) Warner - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Warner (Ultimate Collector's Edition) - Region 1,4 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Warner Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


 

1) Warner - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Warner (Ultimate Collector's Edition) - Region 1,4 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Warner Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


 

1) Warner - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Warner (Ultimate Collector's Edition) - Region 1,4 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Warner Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

 

DVD Box Cover

   

The Special Edition is also available in the John Wayne-John Ford Film Collection along with Stagecoach / Fort Apache / The Long Voyage Home / The Wings of Eagles / She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and They Were Expendable

             

Distribution Warner Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC Warner Home Video - Region 1,4 - NTSC Warner Home Video - No region or standard coding




 

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