Not only is this a classic Dumbest Possible Action trope in an action film, but one of many implausibilities in the plot. If the Comanches are so close to the white men’s camp, they could easily swoop in and finish them, and the film, right there. Another major gaffe comes before that, when Ethan and Mose ride back to the Edwards homestead after figuring out they were lured away. Martin is on foot, the home miles away, and he has no horse and screams after them as they leave him behind. Seconds later, we see Ethan and Mose ride up on horseback to see the burnt home. Mere seconds behind them is Martin, either the swiftest human being in human history and able to sustain the pace of a horse over a marathon-like distance, or having been given a ride by one of the other men, then booted off before getting home. But why would that happen?
The two disk DVD, part of an eight film John Wayne/John Ford Film Collection by Warner Brothers, is a great package. The film, on disk one, is in its original 1.75:1 aspect ratio, and restored to its VistaVision glory. It sometimes looks (save for its stars' haircuts and clothes) like it could have been filmed this year.
It comes with a two minute introduction by Patrick Wayne, son of the star, who had a small role late in the film, the theatrical trailer, and an audio commentary by America’s most famous former filmmaker, Peter Bogdanovich. Unfortunately, Bogdanovich has never been a good commenter on films. He repeats the claim about Ethan’s love for his sister-in-law, but never provides anything but the same old ambiguous looks and camera angles. He pauses too much, seems bored throughout the film, and imparts little information that the bonus features on the second disk do not detail better.
That disk has the documentary The Searchers: An Appreciation, a featurette called A Turning Of The Earth: John Ford, John Wayne And The Searchers, plus a kitschy four-part black and white television promo, hosted by Gig Young, called Behind the Cameras: Meet Jeffrey Hunter, Monument Valley, Meet Natalie Wood, and Setting Up Production. There is also a theatrical trailer for the Brad Pitt film The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford.
All in all, my dad was right about John Wayne and his films, if for the wrong reason of a personal distaste. The Searchers is certainly not a great film nor a masterpiece. But it is an entertaining film, and a well made western. But the western is one of those genres, like the romance (now chick flick), that even if done well, has so much baggage and reliance on the expected that to reach greatness it has to embody and critique itself and its society and era. The Searchers fails in those larger goals, and even in many minor ways.