In Segerstrom’s film class, the Western Unit covered themes of genocide, westward expansion, and machismo images. This unit looks at the time period of the 1950s to the 1970s. The first film the class watched was “The Searchers” (1956), which was directed by John Ford.
The movie has been credited as not only being one of the most influential films of the genre, but it also changed expectations on what a film can show. Typically, films before this one included the stereotype of a main character who had a heart of gold. However, the way this movie portrayed certain characters really is what made the movie exceptional. For example, one of the main characters, Ethan, famously portrayed by John Wayne, is different from other western protagonists. Ethan’s personality is difficult and pessimistic and shown to be prejudiced towards Native Americans. Ethan literally cut the eyes out of an Indian in the film. The second main character is Martin, who is half native himself. Martin throughout the film is at odds with Ethan. He would object when Ethan would kill a man for money. Overall, I found the characters and their relationship with each other to be very interesting.
The film begins when Ethan’s family gets attacked by comanche tribes, sending Ethan on a three year quest to find Debbie. Throughout the film, we see fast paced gunfights with Indians.
“Notice the nature to background shots and cimoatagropy of the nature background,” says Mr. Merkovsky.
We also see a dark side come out of Ethan as we see him kill for money and cut out the eyes of Native Americans. Near the end of the film, Ethan decided that it was best to kill Debbie, his very own niece.
The way the movie portrays John Wayne’s character Ethan is shocking for a western film. Instead of a good hearted man, he is a hard, cruel, and often a heartless character. Overall, the movie is a fun classic western to watch, and if you were ever curious about looking into western films, this film is one I highly recommend to watch.