The Scalphunters (1968) – Fun Western

Burt Lancaster teams up with Ossie Davis, Telly Savalas and Shelley Winters in this comedic Western directed by Sydney Pollack.

Fur Trapper Joe Bass (Lancaster) is travelling with his latest haul when he is stopped by Kiowa Indian Two Crows (Armando Silvestre) and a group of his men who “trade” Bass‘ furs for their captured slave Joseph Lee (Davis, who was nominated for a Golden Globe in this role). Highly educated and very professional, Joseph Lee and Joe Bass, who can’t even write his name, head off to get the furs back. What they don’t count on is Jim Howie (Telly Savalas) and his band of scalphunters relieving the Kiowa of both the furs and their own hair. Through circumstance, Jospeh Lee ends up with Howie and Joe Bass continues his fur-retrieval efforts alone.

scalphunters3Davis definitely deserved the Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor for this one. He is absolutely fantastic as the former house slave heading for Mexico, now claiming to have “full Indian citizenship” (He was property of the Comanches before the Kiowa got him). Watching him interact with Lancaster and Savalas is absolutely wonderful. And who better than Shelley Winters as Kate to contrast Savalas as his wife/partner. Oh what a wonderful ensemble who seem to gel so well together.


Even music, courtesy of Elmer Bernstein, adds so much character to this movie. From the opening credits (which are likewise well done), to the end, aurally, it is a pleasure, with the main theme sticking in your mind long after you’ve finished watching. In fact, the theme is one of the things I clearly remembered now after not having seen this for a good 15 years.


So, fun Western. Keep a lookout for Burt Lancaster‘s circus background coming through in a “oh really?” moment near the end.

Head on over to MovieRob for his monthly Genre Grandeur series which is the Western genre this month. I’ll be sending my Grandeur-worthy entries to him for publishing at the end of the month.





5 thoughts on “The Scalphunters (1968) – Fun Western

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  4. You must be getting really bored of my comments, because once again I haven’t seen this one. It sounds like my cup of tea. Great cast and director. Sydney Pollack was in the chair for Jeremiah Johnson which is a film I love!


    • No way! It’s absolutely problem with your comments. The best thing for me is if I can introduce someone to something they haven’t seen. Just like I love discovering new movies. Jeremiah Johnson is great!


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