Sydney Pollack directed The Scalphunters in 1968 with a strong leading cast, including Burt Lancaster, Ossie Davis, Shelley Winters, Telly Savalas, and a small role with Dabney Coleman in it. And while the material probably reads very strongly on the page, the resulting film is kind of a mess, mostly in tone. It's a movie that can't really make up its mind what it wants to be about, or what kind of tone that it wants to follow through on. There are some obvious character comparisons going on between Burt Lancaster's character and Telly Savalas' character, as both men are strong-minded, bull-headed, and have fierce convictions, but both men are on different sides of the playing field and the movie plays with the idea of their moral convictions. In the middle of all of this is Ossie Davis' character, a runaway slave who wants nothing more than to get away from everyone and be free, and he must play his part with both men in order to do it. The most obvious problem with the tone of the movie is the score, which is sometimes serious, but mostly just silly and cornballish in nature. It's definitely the main aspect of the movie that gives it its identity crisis. It also doesn't help that Burt Lancaster seems to be in the wrong movie. He's meant to be playing a very simple man (more or less admitting that he can't read or write), but yet he spouts that sharp Burt Lancaster dialogue that he's well known for. On the other hand, one could argue that he's the main reason for seeing the film in the first place. And Shelley Winters, as a character at least, is even more pointless. She seems as if she's going to have some kind of an arc, but by the end of the film, she continues to be the woman she's been for the previous hour and a half. There are some good scenes to be had here and there in the movie with some nice dramatic weight to them, but they're all jumbled into a messy story that doesn't know what it wants to accomplish. By and large, a different score would definitely have helped, but a complete re-write from the very beginning (and dare I say, better direction) would have helped even more. It's not a complete waste of time, but it could have been sharper in execution.