Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sydney Pollack - The Scalphunters (1968)



Description: For his third feature outing, director Sydney Pollack helmed this comedic western starring (Burt Lancaster) as fur trapper Joe Bass. While heading for the trading post for his pay after a successful hunting season, Bass runs into a band of Kiowa Indians, who offer to trade the educated slave Joseph (Ozzie Davis) for Bass's furs. Severely outnumbered, the uneducated Bass reluctantly agrees to the swap at gunpoint. Bass and Joseph then follow the Indians in hopes of retrieving the furs. Along the way, the Indians meet up with Jim Howie (Telly Savalas), who not only steals the furs from the Indians, but Joseph from Bass. From there, Jim and his mistress Kate (Shelley Winters) head for Mexico, a move that is fine with Joseph because slavery is outlawed there. But they may not make it south of the border, as the Indians have regrouped and are on their trail with plans to take back the furs.

Pauline Kael's review: A rousing comedy-Western with an amiable tone. Ossie Davis is a runaway slave who is captured by Indians and Burt Lancaster is a stubborn-minded fur trapper. Lancaster gives one of those performances of his that really work and yet are so odd that it's hard to know why they work. Ossie Davis and he play quarrelling buddies, and they're peculiarly funny together, maybe because they're both such physical performers. (At the end they fight in mud and emerge the same color.) Shelley Winters chomps on a stogie and bones up on astrology in the covered wagon she shares with her temporary sweetie, Telly Savalas. Under Sydney Pollack's direction they all perform with wit and--for these four--restraint. The movie becomes a shade idiotic near the end, but it's too enjoyable for that to matter much.

Review @ The New York Times: http://preview.tinyurl.com/p6mt6o
Write-up @ Turner Classic Movies: http://preview.tinyurl.com/ocx8y3
Review by Roger Ebert: http://preview.tinyurl.com/q3hldx


no pass


no pass