Scalps, venganza india (1987)

Vassili Karis stars in Bruno Mattei's exploitation Italian Western. Suevia Films Spain R0 DVD

The Film

Written, directed and produced by the team behind zombie horror Hell of the Living Dead (1980), Scalps, venganza india and its partner film Bianco Apache (1986) are seemingly unconnected to the usual genre influences, being made almost a decade after the Spaghetti Western genre had run its course and during a period when the American Western was all but dormant.

The Civil War is over, but in a remote part of the Old West, a small group of Confederate soldiers wait in their fort, hoping to recoup their power and come back to fight the Union. They seek to trade with a local Comanche tribe, wanting to take horses and Yari the daughter of the chief - Black Eagle refuses to give away his daughter and the soldiers massacre the tribe, taking Yari back to Colonel Connor. On the journey she escapes and finds herself at the house of Matt (Vassili Karis), he reluctantly looks after the wounded girl and when he realises what the soldiers plan to do to her, he leads her into the hills to escape - but Connor and his men are in persuit...

The script is credited to Bruno Mattei, José María Cunillés and the American actor Richard Harrison, whose son Sebastian appeared in Bianco Apache. The storyline seems to be partly based on the earlier American film Soldier Blue (1976) and a few scenes such as Matt's fight to the death with an Indian and the duo hiding in a cave are noticably lifted from the American production. Fortunately, unlike the often tiresome persuit that forms the body of Soldier Blue, the script here is well written such that the storyline never becomes dull and there is some genuine tension over whether or not the heroes will survive.

Unlike Soldier Blue however, Scalps, like its partner film Bianco Apache, seems unwilling to try and make any political points about the American brutality towards the Native Americans. The villains of the piece are former Confederate soldiers rather than serving American soldiers and it is emphasised that even during the Civil War, they were considered excessively brutal against any opponenets, so their behaviour here is not the result of government sanctioned racism.

Behind the camera, Bruno Mattei (credited oddly as Werner Knox) does some fine work and the film is very well put together, with some effective location work in the Spanish deserts, familiar from legion of Spaghetti Westerns. The exploitation elements are far more to the fore here than in Bianco Apache with some very gory sequences including an incredibly vivid scalping and a long torture sequence - the massacre however is quite tame in comparison, particularly since the dialogue often makes reference to much more violent events that we never see. Nudity is also surprisingly tasteful with a couple of topless shots, but no nudity during the rape scenes. Luigi Ceccarelli's soundtrack has some very nice choral themes and mystical elements, although some of the riding tracks do seem to be very similar to a few classic Spaghetti Western themes.

Vassili Karis, best known for his roles in Alfonso Brescia's notoriously bad Sci-Fi series, takes the lead role of Matt and gives a strong performance opposite gorgeous Spanish actress Mapi Galán as Yari who gets a couple of disappointingly brief topless scenes. Spaghetti Western veterans Alberto Farnese (Uccidi o muori (1967)) and Charly Bravo (Captain Apache (1971)) played the villains in both of Mattei's Westerns and they give a throughly, fittingly dislikable performance here.

Bruno Mattei's second and final western borrows a lot of ideas from Soldier Blue but makes much better use of them, making an enjoyable storyline. While not quite as frequent as some might expect from the director, the exploitation elements are very noticable here and with a powerfully vivid scalping, the film must rank among the goriest of Westerns. A fascinating curio for Western fans and recommended to fans of Euro-cult cinema and Bruno Mattei films in general.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Vassili Karis - a Euro-cult regular who appeared in Alfonso Brescia's sci-fi including Beast in Space (1980)
Directed by anyone interesting? Bruno Mattei - an Italian film-maker often ranked as the least of the Euro-cult directors, responsible for Rats - Notte di terrore (1984), Zombi 3 (1988) and the recent straight-to-video horror Zombi: La creazione (2007)
Any gore or violence ? A couple of very gory effects including a very vivid scalping.
Any sex or nudity? A couple of brief, tasteful sex and topless shots - some rape scenes, but no nudity and they are very brief.
Who is it for? Very interesting for Western fans and certainly of interest to fans of Mattei.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.66:1. Not anamorphically enhanced. Colour.
Good colours and strong detail very little grain and damage.
Audio English, Spanish and Italian audio - all sound fine.
Subtitles Spanish
Extras This disc includes:
  • Theatrical trailer - English and Spanish audio, widescreen VHS quality.
  • Filmographies of the lead cast - film listing only.
  • Crew listing.
  • Picture gallery - 12 manually scrolling publicity stills.
  • Bonus trailers for 'Crimen en familia' (1985), 'El Lute: Camina o revienta' (1987), 'El Lute II: mañana seré libre' (1988), 'All Tied Up' (1993), 'Marquise' (1997) and 'White Apache' (1986). All trailers in Spanish only.
Region Region 0 (ALL) - PAL
Other regions? Released by X-rated Kult in Germany as Es geht um deinen Skalp, Amigo with German and English audio.
Cuts? Cut status unconfirmed. English language print.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 24th July 2009.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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