To wrap up my month of Western movie recommendations, I decided to suggest one of BAM’s favorites: the 1968 film “The Scalphunters.” Burt Lancaster, Telly Savalas, Ossie Davis, Shelley Winters, and Dabney Coleman star in this movie, which was directed by Sydney Pollack. Maybe that’s why this film is so different.
The film is about a white trapper (Lancaster) who is forced by a group of crafty Indians to swap his whole winter’s worth of trapped furs for an escaped slave (Davis). The two of them spend the rest of the movie attempting to get the furs back, first from the Indians and then from the murderous band of “Scalphunters” that gain them through despicable means.
The movie is part comedy and part social commentary. The discussions between Davis and Lancaster are a fascinating example. Contrary to the viewer’s expectations, it is the slave who is educated and refined and the trapper who is illiterate and uncouth. The uneasy bond that forms between them is fun to watch.
It’s an unusual Western, but if you like a movie that make you think, then you need to see “The Scalphunters.”