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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Scalphunters [Blu-ray]

 

(Sydney Pollack, 1968)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Norlan Productions

Video: Kino Lorber

 

Disc:

Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:43:34.708

Disc Size: 21,706,136,978 bytes

Feature Size: 21,087,479,808 bytes

Video Bitrate: 23.99 Mbps

Chapters: 8

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: July 22nd, 2014

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.39:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 1671 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1671 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)

 

Subtitles:

English, None

 

Extras:

• Trailer (3:13)

 

Bitrate:

 

 

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.

 

 

The Film:

An amiable enough liberal comedy Western, with colour-coded cultural conflict worked through an ironic circular plot. Lancaster's trapper is forcibly traded an ex-slave (Davis) for his pelts by an Indian band, after which the pair set off in uneasy alliance and in pursuit as the pelts are in turn appropriated by a gang of scalphunters. William Norton's script glosses both the racial antagonism and interdependence with a thankfully light hand; Pollack gets in some backwoods practice for the later mythologisation of Jeremiah Johnson.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

Director Sydney Pollack once remarked that one cannot claim to be a "real movie director" in Hollywood until one has a Western under his belt. He had a chance to prove his mettle with The Scalphunters (1968), a Western action-comedy with social-commentary overtones that fit the context of the times well, as well as meshing with the progressive politics of its two principals and Pollack himself.

Lancaster plays Joe Bass, an ignorant white trapper in the Old West whose furs are hijacked by a band of Kiowa Indians. The Kiowas trade a freed slave, Joseph Lee (Davis), for the furs but are soon attacked by a band of scalphunters led by Jim Howie (Savalas). Lee joins Howie's band with the idea of a subterfuge to reclaim the furs, but is caught and held captive by the scalphunters. Eventually the Kiowas track down Howie and his crew, and Bass and Lee are reunited by the film's climax.

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Sydney Pollack's exceptional western The Scalphunters has made it to Blu-ray from the Kino Lorber label.  Unfortunately, the source seems to have some inconsistencies that are noticeable in the 1080P viewing presentation. Most of the Blu-ray looks fine - not 'standout' quality but a notch or two above SD. But on a few occasions, briefly, contrast and color look... misaligned. I don't know if most would consider it a deal-breaker - it probably depends on how picky you are. Without some form of costly restoration this won't be fixed anytime soon. This Blu-ray is quite tame - visually speaking - but I see a bit of depth and texture that are pleasing. It looks a shade brittle but I don't see egregious digital enhancements. Single-layered, middling bitrate - it is what it is. I don't mean to be too harsh - check out the screen captures to get an idea.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

The DTS-HD Master 2.0 audio track at 1671 kbps isn't overwhelming but seems to handle effects with some minor punch. Iconic Elmer Bernstein's (Hud, To Kill a Mockingbird, Summer and Smoke, The Man With the Golden Arm) score gains benefit from the uncompressed transfer. It's quite a nice score. There are optional English subtitles offered and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.

 

Extras :

Only a trailer - a shame because it is a very above-average western.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
I enjoyed this... a lot. The Scalphunters is a very remarkable western. Despite the a/v inconsistencies in the Kino/Lorber Blu-ray, I would still encourage fans of the genre to indulge. The price seems okay - even for the, essentially, bare-bones disc. It squeaks into the recommended category mostly based on the strength of the film. 

Gary Tooze

July 9th, 2014

 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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