Joe Bass (Burt Lancaster), an American fur trapper, is making his way back home with a full cargo of hides when he encounters a group of Kiowa Indians led by Two Crows (Armando Silvestre), who insist on taking his furs. As “payment” they offer him a slave, Joseph Lee (Ossie Davis), who they had previously taken from a group of Comanches. Reluctantly, realising he cannot fight them, Bass agrees to the trade. Bass is slightly bemused by his new companion, who is a well-educated and refined house slave, unused to the ways of the West. Bass orders him to help him recover the furs from the Kiowa. Lee only agrees to help if Bass agrees to take him to Mexico where slavery is outlawed. As Lee and Bass sneak upon the Kiowa, they watch them being ambushed by a group of scalphunters, white Americans and Mexicans who were offered a bounty by the government for each Native scalp they brought in. These scalphunters, led by Jim Howie (Telly Savalas), kill the Kiowas and also steal the furs which Bass had hoped to recover. He and Lee are then forced to track the party, hoping to take back the furs…

“The Scalphunters” is a 1968 American Western film directed by Sydney Pollack, with the score written by Elmer Bernstein. Ossie Davis was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the film. “The Scalphunters” is not an ordinary western, despite the fact that it has the basic elements drawn from a classic western tale. The characters has however several layers (compared to the usual stereotypical western character) and the storyline touches difficult topics such as slavery, race relations, injustices against native Americans and still manages to have a lot of humour in it without becoming patronising. Burt Lancaster is perfect as the antihero Joe Bass and the same goes for Ossie Davis. And there´s great dynamics between them both. The story is entertaining, the performances excellent, the cinematography beautiful and the scenery magnificent. (Three and a half out of 5)

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