Tuesday, 10 April 2012
Ossie Davies and Burt Lancaster star in Sidney Pollack's comedy/western, The Scalphunters. Lancaster's mountain man trapper is forced to hand over his furs in exchange for an erudite slave by a bunch of Indians and kicks off a action filled cross country romp to retrieve them. The two leads are admirable and handle the intelligent, witty script with brio and it's all beautifully paced with the lulls in action providing room for the snappy banter. A brilliant little gem that's got a whole lot more than to it than just shootouts and spurs.
Sidney Pollack's next feature, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, released the following year, received a whole sackful of awards and rightly so as it's a vicious depiction of the American dream in all it's brutal greed and ignominy. An ensemble cast including Jane Fonda, Susannah York & Bruce Dern compete in a epic dance marathon run by a merciless, cynical MC. The desperate characters are lured by the chance of a big pay out but still yearn and pander for pennies thrown by the ever present audience. This is intense stuff with 'big' performances all round, some superb cinematography that enriches the insanity and as the contestants are thinned out the atmosphere spirals deeper and deeper into the gloom towards a stunning climax.