Trapper Joe is on his way to the town with all of his gain of hides of the last winter. However a group of Indians stops him and takes all of his hides, leaving him the escaped slave Joseph instead. But Joe has no use for Joseph and is determined to get his property back and follows them. Before he can do anything, the Indians are raided themselves by a group of scalphunters under the greedy Howie. Not only the hides, but also Joseph falls into their hands. Now Joe follows them alone and tries to trick the numerical superior group out of his hides.
Sydney Pollick and Burt Lancaster together. Overlooked gold!
In the late 1960’s and the early 1970’s the United States was deeply embroiled in Viet Nam with all it’s ramifications. It was so far from “the best of times” that it was difficult to laugh at much. Also this was the period where the Western film fell out of style. It was unfortunate timing for several excellent movies, “The Scalphunters” among them. If this movie were released tomorrow it would become an unqualified hit.
Burt Lancaster is at his cynical best, poking fun at everything the Hollywood Western and Burt Lancaster ever imagined themselves to be. Ossie Davis performs the nearly impossible task of playing a highly intelligent black slave on the lam without loosing perspective on the comic genius of the script. Tully Savallas plays the odious (And we suspect odorous) oaf with style and dignity (if that’s possible) and Shelley Winters does the same for his female counterpart. And the Indians, the long-suffering, patient, bemused Indians dutifully dying and then returning to fight again just as often as the miraculous movie 6-shooters can get off 20 rounds or so.
In command of all this chaos is the unmistakably sure and steady hand of Sidny Pollick with his comic genius to rely on and a smart, literate script to form the framework. Perhaps this movie should be titled “‘The Crimson Pirate’ meets ‘Toostie'”.
If you’ve got a sense of humor and are able to suspend you disbelief for a couple of hours or so, “The Scalphunters” will give you a good evenings entertainment. If you enjoy it, try “There was a Crooked Man” with Henry Fonda and Kurt Douglas.