OscarÂ(r)-winning* director Sydney Pollack delivers a "rousing good show" (The Film Daily) with this fast-paced western full of "irresistible humor" and "delightful ironies" (MotionPicture Herald). Starring OscarÂ(r) winne... more »rs** Burt Lancaster and Shelley Winters along with Telly Savalas and Ossie Davis, The Scalphunters is "a lively, ribald and unpredictable pleasure which carries the western into new country" (Los Angeles Times)! When trapper Joe Bass (Lancaster) is bushwhacked by Indians who steal his fursand leave him a runaway slave (Davis) in exchangehe's determined to get his property back. But when the Indians are attacked byoutlaws, Joe and his unwanted companion must join forces to retrieve the furs in a startling, action-packed journey of self-discovery that concludes with one of the "all-time cinematic comeuppances" (Citizen-News)!« less
"This was the movie that made me throw away my Maltin Reviews. I've always been a huge admirer of Burt Lancaster & his work & in my book this is one of his very best; it may just be his best, but how can you beat Crimson Pirate or Vera Cruz or Sweet Smell of Success or even his first - The Killers? The man was endowed with very high doses of intelligence, humor, humanity, physical presence & and a sort of 19th century stage hamminess. There used to be a saying that you could tell the type of film Lancaster was doing by his hairdo. When the hair was short, the movie was serious. When it was wavy, his tongue was filling up his cheek. It's quite wavy in Scalphunters. He's the epitome of the mountain man / trapper in this one: whiskey-drinking, bible-quoting highly-opionated & super-stubborn Joe Bass. Mark Twain would have loved this character, he's right out of Twain's imagination. It's hard to believe that Lancaster was in his mid-50's when he made this. He looks much younger & moves with the quickness & grace that made this ex-trapeze performer a legend. Ossie Davis is a perfect match for Lancaster as the extraordinarily wise & well-educated but highly wary escaped slave Joseph Lee, who must continually rein in his instinct to trump the cruder but highly canny in his own way Joe Bass. The film is an almost Shakespearean interplay of their personalities - duel & duet . The viewer is able to observe the change they continually effect upon each other. The Scalphunters themselves are a group of lowlifes led by Telly Savalas as Jim Howie (in the best role I ever saw him play in a movie), a nasty but not unwise lout who spends most of the day & night in his baggy long johns. They make their living robbing & killing & selling indian scalps to the government. I found the portrayal (& dialog) of these bushwhackers as real & accurate in every detail as anything I've ever seen on the screen, right down to Howie's astrology ("star-gazin") ex...lady-friend Kate played by Shelly Winters in her least whiny role ever.
There's plenty of tension & action in this film. It's cat vs. mice from start to finish: Lancaster vs. Indians, Lancaster vs. Scalphunters, Lancaster vs. Indians again. The performances, Sidney Pollack's direction & William Norton's writing all serve to put this film in a class with The Searchers. I believe it is to Lancaster's career what The Searchers is to John Wayne's.Definitely a magnificent achievement. A must for wide-screen DVD restoration."
Steven Hellerstedt | 10/03/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"After being coerced by a roving gang of Kiowas to trade his season's worth of hard-earned furs for a runaway slave, Joe Bass (Burt Lancaster) vows to take back what's his. Before he can get them, though, the Kiowas are slaughtered by a gang of `scalphunters' led by Jim Howie (Telly Salavas), who nips Joe Bass's furs in the bargain. With Joseph Winfield Lee (Ossie Davis) in tow, Joe Bass trails the fur and scalp-laden Jim Howie and vows yet again to reclaim his property.
THE SCALPHUNTERS (1968) is a comedy-western that somehow manages to makes palatable some terrible things - specifically, slavery and the harvest and sale of human scalps. It doesn't condone them, of course, but it doesn't dwell on their horrors, either. Lancaster is energetic and perfectly cast as the savvy fur trapper who is determined to get what's his back again. Salavas and Shelley Winters as his trail moll, are pretty good, as well. The heart of the thing, though, is Ossie Davis as the erudite slave who seems the only person to see the big picture, as it were. As he'd prove a couple of years later with `Jeremiah Johnson,' director Sydney Pollock is deft at handling offbeat action movies. THE SCALPHUNTERS is a fun movie that merits a strong four stars.
Entertaining Lancaster Western
Terence Allen | Atlanta, GA USA | 06/06/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In 1968, it was appropriate that a western dealt with race relations, and The Scalphunters does so with action and humor.
Burt Lancaster plays Joe Bass, a trapper who is headed towards civilization with months worth of pelts and furs. He runs smack into a tribe of Kiowas who don't appreciate Bass trespassing on their land. They take the pelts, but exchange them for a runaway slave, Joseph Lee, played by Ossie Davis, who the Kiowas had taken from the Comanches. Lancaster doesn't want Joseph, and Joseph wants to get somewhere where he can be free, but they team up to relieve the Kiowas of Bass' pelts.
Before they can spring their plan to steal back the pelts, the Kiowas are attacked and slaughtered by scalphunters, roughneck types who get paid for each Indian scalp they turn in. The scalphunters take the pelts, and that's when the real fun begins. The Scalphunters are led by Telly Savalas, who brings along his constantly complaining girlfriend, played by Shelley Winters.
The Scalphunters has humor, action, and wry commentary on the relationships and perceptions of whites, blacks, and Indians. It's good that this rarely seen film is now on DVD."
Exciting western with right blend of action/humor
T O'Brien | Chicago, Il United States | 08/09/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Scalphunters is a very enjoyable western that is not as well known as some of star Burt Lancaster's other movies, but it is more than worthwhile. Trapper Joe Bass is heading back to St. Louis with a pack mule full of beaver pelts when a group of Kiowas intervene and take his pelts, leaving him a smooth-talking, educated slave by the name of Joseph Windfield Lee. Bass unwillingly takes Lee along, but before he can get his pelts back from the Kiowas, the warriors are attacked bya group of outlaws who scalp Indians for $25 a person. Bass embarks on a journey to get his beaver pelts back, no matter what it takes. The Scalphunters is not considered a classic western, but it has everything to make it highly enjoyable. A great cast, a lively musical score from Elmer Bernstein, beautiful scenery, and the right mix of action and humor all combine to make one of Lancaster's better movies.
The four main leads to the movie set The Scalphunters apart from many other westerns. Burt Lancaster is great as Joe Bass, the trapper who will attempts to get his pelts back at all costs. Bass is similar to Lancaster's Bill Dolworth in The Professionals in that he enjoys living and will stop at nothing to keep on enjoying living. Telly Savalas is also very good as the villain, Jim Howie, the leader of the gang of scalphunters who steals Bass' pelts. Shelley Winters seems somewhat out of place as Kate, Howie's woman who wants to get out of the west and into a big city as fast as she can. Ossie Davis steals the movie as Joseph Windfield Lee, the highly educated runaway slave who becomes Joe Bass' unwilling companion. The interplay between Lancaster and Davis provide some of the movie's most hilarious moments. The DVD offers a beautiful-looking widescreen presentation and a theatrical trailer. For a lesser known but still very good western with great perfomances from Lancaster, Savalas, and Davis, check out Sydney Pollack's The Scalphunters!"
Lancaster and Savalas...what more do you need?
harry44callahan | Columbus, OH | 06/02/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you like clasic action films, you need to see this. Any action film with Burt Lancaster is worth your time. The fight scene between Lancaster and Savalas is outstanding old school western stuff. This is the type of film they don't make anymore and I'm glad to see it is now on dvd. My old vhs copy still serves me well, but I'm always looking for these type of classic 60's/70's films to make it to dvd format. This is action in the vein of Outlaw Josey Wales, Mackennas Gold, The Professionals ......excellent film."