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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Scalphunters
A funny, clever film with Burt Lancaster at his very best in this western comedy. Joe Bass (Lancaster) is a trapper/frontiersman who after a winter of gathering furs is forced to "trade" them for a black slave (Ossie Davis).
The film is then centred on Bass' funny and ingenious efforts to reclaim his beaver pelts.
The exchanges between Davis' cultured slave...
Published on 12 July 2004 by sodajoe

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Scalp hunters. The wickedest, crookedest trade to ever turn a dollar."
Once quietly groundbreaking for its racial politics - Ossie Davies' escaped slave is by far smarter than any of the film's white characters, quite a bold move for a mainstream movie even in 1967 - seen today The Scalphunters is one of those films that's enjoyable but never quite as good as it could be. Former IRA gunrunner turned screenwriter William Norton's almost...
Published on 8 Jun 2007 by Trevor Willsmer


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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Scalphunters, 12 July 2004
This review is from: The Scalphunters [DVD] (DVD)
A funny, clever film with Burt Lancaster at his very best in this western comedy. Joe Bass (Lancaster) is a trapper/frontiersman who after a winter of gathering furs is forced to "trade" them for a black slave (Ossie Davis).
The film is then centred on Bass' funny and ingenious efforts to reclaim his beaver pelts.
The exchanges between Davis' cultured slave character, Joseph Lee, and the illiterate Bass are witty and sharp
with the final fight sequence being the funniest I have seen.
A fantastic movie.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Strange but Enjoyable Ride., 27 April 2009
By 
Bob Salter "Captain Spindrift" (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Scalphunters [DVD] (DVD)
It is truly amazing how many different styles and variations there are within what you might consider to be the restricted confines of the Western. But I am constantly finding new films that challenge the traditional concepts of filming in this genre. This film has as simple and loose a script as you are ever likely to come across, but it is a refreshing change for all that.

The date the film is set in is never given, but the mix of mountain man and scalphunters suggests around the 1840s although gun experts might place it later. But really all that is irrelavant anyway. Burt Lancaster at his ebullient best plays the larger than life trapper Sam Bass who is ambushed with his furs by Kiowa Indians. He is reluctantly forced to exchange them for a runaway slave played by Ossie Davis, who they had in turn captured from the Comanche. The two pair up in an uneasy alliance to try and retrieve the furs. They later watch the Indians slaughtered by Scalphunters but Bass undeterred continues to pursue his new adversaries led by the irascible Telly Savalas. We head to an all guns blazing finale.

The film was directed by Sidney Pollack in a rare foray into the Western. The film has been highlighted for being quite groundbreaking in its attitude towards issues of race which was not common at the time. This is true but the film "The Defiant Ones" starring Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier who were chained together for much of the film, had tackled those same issues ten years before. So lets look at other reasons that this film should be remembered for.

Using scalphunters, who were considered the lowest form of life in the Old West in a comedy Western does not sound like a recipe for success. But work it somehow does. The exchanges between the bigoted Lancaster and the erudite slave are lively and enjoyable. Lancaster seldom gave a bad performance and was still an athletic figure well into his fifties. Telly Savalas also adds to the comedic moments especially in his lively exchanges with the buxom Shelley Winters playing the role of a lady of easy virtue once again. All the action is filmed outdoors and sometimes it all feels pretty aimless which adds to its charm.

I enjoyed this film much more than I should have done. It is not a film you have to engage brain on, you simply sit back and enjoy the rather aimless ride. It happens to be a lot better then many pretentious films. It makes no attempt to be anything more than good genial knockabout fun, and to that end it succeeds very well. Recommended viewing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Throw you in a pigpen, and you'd come out vice-president of the hogs., 17 Oct 2012
By 
Spike Owen "John Rouse Merriott Chard" (Birmingham, England.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Scalphunters [DVD] (DVD)
The Scalphunters is directed by Sydney Pollack and adapted to screenplay by William W. Norton from the novel of the same name written by Ed Friend. It stars Burt Lancaster, Ossie Davis, Telly Savalas and Shelley Winters. A Panavision/De Luxe Colour production, music is by Elmer Bernstein and cinematography by Richard Moore and Duke Callaghan.

Joe Bass (Lancaster) is a fur trapper making his way home with his latest haul when he is stopped by Kiowa Indians. Taking his furs they give him as payment a well educated slave, Joseph Lee (Davis), who they had previously commandeered from a group of Comanches. With Joseph tagging along, Joe sets about pursuing the Kiowa to reclaim his furs, but the Indians fall victim to a band of ruthless Scalphunters led by Jim Howie (Savalas), who gain his furs whilst also by accident capturing Joseph. It's Joe Bass against the rest, and only Joseph knows what the Scalphunters are up against.

"Those furs and that man out there are the Scorpio satanic configuration of death for Jim Howie"

Impressively mounted by Pollack, gorgeously shot at Durango, Mexico, The Scalphunters is an interesting blend of a Western action comedy with drama and Civil Rights morality. Film is structured simply by thrusting Lancaster's ignorant and illiterate man of the wilderness together with Davis' literate but ostracised slave. Both men poles apart, but both able to benefit the other if racial barriers can be broke down. Once Joseph falls into the hands of the Scalphunters, film sees Joseph once more held captive, but by using his nous he may be able to finally gain his freedom should the group make it to Mexico.

All the time Joe Bass is tracking the group, picking them off any chance he gets, this means the banter and lively group dynamic of the Scalphunters is pleasantly interrupted by an action scene of some standing. Be it Joe Bass leaping about the rocks and causing a rock avalanche, or the Scalphunters horses going loco, film never lacks for genuine thrills. Some great stunt work in here as well. It's a fine screenplay of much intelligence, not least because it doesn't crowbar in its messages, while it also doesn't patronise the Joseph Lee character. Even as the laughs flit in and out of proceedings, the script pings with smarts as brains are afforded the black man and the ignorance to whitey.

With the cast on fine form and Bernstein scoring it with trademark robustness, it rounds out as a hugely enjoyable Western. So pick a favourite scene and a favourite character, whilst all the time acknowledging that behind the froth and machismo beats a potent thematic heart. 8/10
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Scalp hunters. The wickedest, crookedest trade to ever turn a dollar.", 8 Jun 2007
By 
Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Scalphunters [DVD] (DVD)
Once quietly groundbreaking for its racial politics - Ossie Davies' escaped slave is by far smarter than any of the film's white characters, quite a bold move for a mainstream movie even in 1967 - seen today The Scalphunters is one of those films that's enjoyable but never quite as good as it could be. Former IRA gunrunner turned screenwriter William Norton's almost Dickensian dialogue in the first third of the movie is so good that it's a shame that the plot separates Burt Lancaster and Ossie Davies for so long (though Telly Savalas and Shelley Winters bickering provides some more conventional laughs) and while it makes some smart points about racism along the way there's a feeling of the film almost running down rather than building up to a climax. Still, Elmer Bernstein's score is one of the best ever written for a Western, alternatively rousingly vivid, jauntily amusing and lyrically likeable, and the film has its charms.

While MGM/UA's US DVD includes the theatrical trailer, as usual for their back-catalogue titles, MGM/UA's Region 2 PAL DVD comes devoid of any extras but does have a decent 2.35:1 widescreen transfer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A BLACK COMEDY WESTERN:, 1 Dec 2013
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This review is from: The Scalphunters [DVD] (DVD)
Calix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker
Burt Lancaster with Shelley Winters, Telly Savalas, Ossie Davis, and a great supporting cast are fantastic in this black comedy western a film that never dates. A must see.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars very amusing western., 29 Oct 2009
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This review is from: The Scalphunters [DVD] (DVD)
lancaster ,davis and savalas excel in this wity action packed offering .when lancaster's furs gets taken by indians in exchange for a black slave he decides to go after them taking the slave with him ,when he waits to steal them back off the drunken indians the scalphunters strike and kill the indians for their scalps and they take the furs as well , so the chase begins once more . there are loads of laughs along the way from the very wity script plenty of action and a great finish to the film that will keep you smiling .the type of film that will grow on you and probably gets better on further viewings.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 29 Jun 2014
This review is from: The Scalphunters [DVD] (DVD)
love it
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5.0 out of 5 stars "You ever fight twelve drunk Indians, Joseph Lee?" "No, sir, but I'd like to see it done.", 18 Jun 2014
By 
Darth Maciek "Darth Maciek" (Darth Maciek is out there...) - See all my reviews
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This 1968 western directed by Sydney Pollack is a most excellent thing and I liked it a lot. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

Somewhere in the Wild West not very long before the War Between States a trapper named Joe Bass (Burt Lancaster) travels with a full cargo of hides, furs and pelts, when he is ambushed by a group of heavily armed hostile Indians from Kiowa tribe. Because Joe Bass always lived well with the Kiowa, their leader Two Crows (Armando Silvestre) decides that he will not be killed, but still robs him of his furs. They even give him a "payment" - a Black slave, a certain Joseph Lee (Ossie Davis), who used to live previously with the Comanches, but was then captured by the Kiowa during a raid.

Joe Bass however is not somebody to let himself be robbed so easily, so, after informing Joseph Lee that he intends to sell him later on a slave market to recover some of his losses, he goes after the Kiowa warriors to try to recover his furs, forcing the very reluctant slave to follow him. That is the beginning of a voyage through wilderness, during which the half-illiterate but tough as nails and full of common sense Bass and surprisingly well read and educated but a little fragile and sometimes just a little bit naive Lee will live lots of interesting and VERY dangerous adventures - and also discuss, bicker, argue and fight like you have no idea...)))

At one moment their way will also cross that of an extremely dangerous and terminally unpleasant desperado named Jim Howie (Telly Savalas), who is the leader of a band made of a lot of abject characters, real devil rejects spit out by hell with disgust and of a group of prostitutes, led by Kate (Shelly Winters), an absolutely horrible madam.

This film is carried mostly by the conversations and permanent conflict between Bass and Lee, but also by the incredible and absolutely ABJECT duo made by Howie and Kate - honestly, this must be one of best roles for Telly Savalas EVER and Shelley Winters is also absolutely perfect here.

This is not exactly a "classical" western, as there are elements of burlesque comedy, social drama and deliberate parody, all mixed with elements of brutality and gritty realism imported from spaghetti westerns - and yet all this mixture somehow plays very, very well indeed.

I will keep that review short as I don't want to reveal anything more about this film, so I will just say that you REALLY WANT to see this film, one of the best of Sydney Pollack. This later famous director was in this time still in the beginning of his career and "Scalphunters" was just his third film, but he was clearly already at the top of his game - barely one year later he was going to direct "They shoot horses, don't they?"...

Bottom line, this is an EXCELLENT film which I enjoyed mightily and I will absolutely keep this DVD for future viewing. ENJOY!
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5.0 out of 5 stars another Lancaster hit., 9 May 2014
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This review is from: The Scalphunters [DVD] (DVD)
I can't help it Burt Lancaster always comes up with the goods and this film is no exception, exciting, comic and full of adventure, classic western in a style followed by Clint Eastward.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Scalphunters DVD, 26 July 2013
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This review is from: The Scalphunters [DVD] (DVD)
Great Unusual Western Film staring many of the Hollywood Greats i.e. Burt Lancaster. Highly recommended for those who enjoy " A right Good Film "
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The Scalphunters [DVD]
The Scalphunters [DVD] by Sydney Pollack (DVD - 2004)
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