This 32-page book is printed in-house and contains a detailed semiological commentary prepared with the general reader, students and teachers in mind. 

For those who would like to use it as a teaching and learning aid in a classroom situation the film has been segmented into twelve sequences of 10 to 15 minutes duration.


(DVD Chapter 1: 7 mins) 
A Stranger Enters The Valley 
Let the film roll until Ryker’s men ride away from Starrett 
The opening scene fades in to the sound of a lush orchestral musical score. The setting is a wide green valley. 
A rider has come over a ridge and pauses for a moment to gaze over the terrain. Then an extreme long shot 
shows him crossing the screen from left to right. The third shot is of a peaceful scene on the floor of the 
valley with the encircling mountains in the background. A deer drinks from a clear stream in front of a low 
log cabin. A young boy, Joey Starrett, stalks the deer. As he raises his rifle to draw a bead on his prey the 
figure of the rider comes into Joey’s eyeline. The main musical theme plays again on the soundtrack. The 
rider’s horse whinnies and draws the deer’s attention. Joey, too, is mesmerised by the approaching stranger. 
The deer starts and runs away, as does the boy. Joe Starrett, the boy’s father, is at work on a huge tree trunk. 
His tool is the axe, and his own brute strength will get this stump shifted. Joey announces the approach of the 
rider and Joe says “Let him come!” Starrett’s wife, Marian, is introduced to us first on the soundtrack, 
singing, in the house. As in Westerns generally, the good woman’s place is in the home. Martha Edwards, in 
The Searchers, brings civilisation, good manners and a comfortable home-life to all who enter her house. 
The outside is the place of men, and the ways of men involve hardship and strife. The role of women is to act 
as homemakers, creators of havens of peace in a harsh environment. Marian plays such a role here. She 
busies herself about the house humming I will see Nelly home. She is framed in the window as she goes about 
her work in the kitchen. A potted plant sits on the window sill. The rider pauses at the water’s edge and 
seems to win Joey over with his kindly smile. Marian is framed for the third time in the window when she, 
too, spots the approaching stranger and reacts shyly. 
The rider is surprised by the presence of fences in the valley. He is heading north expecting the range to be 
open. Obviously, things are changing in this particular part of the West. The Homestead Act in the early 
1860s gave out parcels of land to settlers in areas that had previously been open range. This caused problems 
for the ranchers who had the run of the land up to that point. The fences represent the efforts of the settlers to 
tame the wilderness. The rider speaks kindly to Joey and compliments him on the way he observes the world. 
The presence of milch cows surprises him, too. He is probably used to steers and cattle raised for beef. 
Starrett tells him he will see a lot more like these and offers him a drink of water. The rider dismounts and 
his his spurs clink on the soundtrack as he walks to Starrett. The click of Joey’s rifle as he fidgets with the 
finger lever startles him and he goes for his gun. There was something very easy in his talk as he spoke to 
Joey and as he referred to the Jersey cow. His quick reaction in throwing away the metal drinking cup and the 
fact that he reaches for his gun, however, tell us that he is a man with a past that is far different from the 
simple farm-life of the Starretts. Quick cuts to Joey, Starrett and Marian emphasise their surprise at his 
reaction to what is, for them, an innocent, clicking sound. Marian, who has been framed in the window each 
time she appears in this opening scene, speaks for the first time to reprimand Joey for upsetting the stranger 
by pointing his gun at him. The main theme plays again on the soundtrack and the rider tries to pass off the 
incident by saying “You sure got me snortin’, son!” Joey tells him he just wanted him to see his rifle. As he 
does so the playful high notes of a musical theme sound. This will become Joey’s leitmotif, the musical 
theme that becomes associated with him as the film develops. 
The music changes as we hear the yells of more riders approaching. Starrett takes Joey’s rifle and tells the 
rider that his friends are a little late.  He asks what the Ryker boys are up to now. The rider has no idea what 
he is talking about and is surprised when Starrett orders him off his property. In the stand-off that follows, he 
tells Starrett that he will leave when he puts down the gun. He will not be ordered around. The tenseness in 
the atmosphere between them is reflected in the editing, a series of quick cuts, and camerawork, the medium 
distance shots. Marian watches the activity shyly from the kitchen window. Once Starrett puts the rifle aside, 
the rider departs on his own terms. Whoever this man is, he has a past that is tied up with guns and will not 
be pushed around. 
The threatening musical theme is reprised on the soundtrack. Starrett and Joey are presented to us in the 
foreground as the Ryker boys approach. In the middleground can be seen the carefully laid out plot of 
vegetables. The cowboys are portrayed as uncouth and lacking in any civility. Changes in shot distance, 
from medium shot to close-up, put us, the audience, on edge, and the quick cutting increases our sense of 
unease during the exchanges between them and Starrett. The rest of the scene has no music on the 
soundtrack. Rufus Ryker informs Starrett that he has won a major government contract to supply beef to the 
Indian reservation. A controversy ensues about what he calls “my range”and what Starrett refers to as ‘my 
place’. They cannot both be correct. ‘Squatters’ is Ryker’s word for the people Starrett calls 
‘homesteaders’. A process of change is at the nub of the film’s main conflict - that between Ryker, who has 
just got a big government beef contract to service the Indian reservation, and the homesteaders, who have 
acquired farms from that same government. Despite his bold front, Starrett cuts a pathetic figure with Joey’s 
little gun, as he faces Ryker and his men. Starrett has to resort to talking about the legal institutions of the 
state that are for the protection of all. The “time for gun-blastin’ a man off his own place is gone” in his 
opinion. A new law is in operation - one that cherishes the good, and holds that all are equal. Marian and 
the rider have been reading the situation and both come to stand by Starrett at the same moment, as he 
declares that the rule of the gun has come to an end. Marian tells Starrett that he has said enough. She will 
not have violence or talk of violence in her home. When one of Ryker’s men, his brother Morgan, asks the 
rider who he is, he declares that he is “... a friend of Starrett’s”. All three members of the family react with 
surprise. Starrett orders Ryker and his men off his claim. Their disrespect for his way of life is emphasised 
by the close-up shot of their horses’ hooves destroying the vegetables. The garden represents the efforts of 
the homesteaders to control the rough, natural environment, and bring culture to the wilderness.