The Searchers isn’t just a movie — it’s a kind of mythos that has influenced countless others that have followed it. Especially the films of screenwriter Paul Schrader. Originally a critic, Schrader penned the screenplay for Taxi Driver in one week in Los Angeles, using the yellow cab as a metaphor for urban loneliness. His model: Ford’s movie.
Both main characters — Ethan Edwards (John Wayne, in The Searchers) and Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro, in Taxi Driver) — goes out of their way for the sake of a young girl. In Ford’s film, the girl is forced into becoming an Indian. In Scorsese’s, she’s ensnared by a pimp. In The Searchers, the hero is portrayed as obsessive and possibly psychotic; by the time Bickle came around, he was just one in a long line of ’70s anti-heroes.
Schrader quilted his films with parts from an array of movies — in American Gigolo, he swiped more than one scene from Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket — but Ford’s classic was his go-to source. He used it again in 1979′s Hardcore, in which George C. Scott played the John Wayne role as a staunch Calvinist searching for his victimized daughter in the Southern California porn industry.
Schrader’s reworking was great, but it wasn’t comparable to the original.