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Retromedia presents
Scalps: 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (1983)

"Enough of this scalping stuff, O.K.?"
- Louise (Carol Sue Flockhart)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: April 12, 2004

Stars: Jo Ann Robinson Roger Maycock
Other Stars: Richard Hench, Frank McDonald, Carol Sue Flockhart, Barbara Magnusson, Kirk Alyn, Forrest J. Ackerman, George Randall, Caroll Borland
Director: Fred Olen Ray

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (gore, sexuality, language)
Run Time: 01h:18m:55s
Release Date: April 13, 2004
UPC: 014381224825
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- D+CC+ B

DVD Review

Retromedia has chosen to reissue Fred Olen Ray's 1983 Native American spirit gore flick Scalps under the banner of a "25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition," and that may be something of a misnomer. While it is actually the full and uncut version, it is a choppy amalgam of assorted bits of added-on test footage and previously cut sequences that, according to the accompanying commentary track, is still not the intended director's version. The cut footage is here, but there is also a handful of questionable additions that make this print the most complete, although perhaps not the most accurate.

A group of research students heads out to the desolate California desert to dig up rocks, and are under strict orders to avoid disturbing any ancient Indian burial grounds, which of course is immediately disregarded. Despite some stern warnings from a wild-eyed old man at a roadside gas station, the group makes haste to the mysterious "black trees" and proceed to get decimated one by one, courtesy of the spirit of the deadly Black Claw, who takes over the body of one of the students.

If you're not familiar with his work, Fred Olen Ray is a real auteur of the hip and tacky sort of B-movies that are often more of an acquired taste (Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Bad Girls From Mars, Evil Toons). Production values on this one are especially rough and low-rent, and things like night-for-night and day-for-night shots within the same scene are pretty common here. The bad Black Claw latex mask looks like it cost about $3, and I'm guessing that the big money was spent on the couple of scalpings and single beheading, which actually look pretty good considering the miniscule budget. The film was met with all sorts of hastily required edits when it was released in 1983, and the inclusion of the excised footage (except for the possibility of the rape scene) here will probably have you scratching your head as to why it was ever required cut in the first place.

The few minorly salvageable moments, such as Barbara Magnusson running from impending death with a batch of arrows in her back or the blood-spewing throat slit/scalp combo that Carol Sue Flockhart endures, hint at the creepy desolation and despair that Tobe Hooper and Wes Craven created more substantively in some of their earlier works.

The problem is that the story itself is rather uneventful, and the few bits of inspired mayhem are just too few and far between to make the rest enjoyable. Even the potentially enjoyable cameos by Forrest (Famous Monsters of Filmland) J. Ackerman and Caroll (Mark of the Vampire) Borland slip by without little fanfare.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: There is a disclaimer at the start of the film that indicates this version of the film was made from a variety of video sources, in attempt to put together all of the previously cut footage. Originally shot on 16mm and then blown up to 35mm, the print has a large amount of grain, and it is very obvious when the poorly maintained "lost" footage is inserted. Colors have that faded late-1970s look, and those washed out levels fluctuate in quality from scene to scene.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The original mono track is included, and as expected it is doesn't offer much in the way of dynamic range. Voices are understandable, but the tone quality is limited by an overriding harshness. Minor hiss is evident in spots.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 6 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Fred Olen Ray, Lee Lankford
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Stills Gallery
Extras Review: Director Fred Olen Ray and producer Lee Lankford provide a new, full-length, scene-specific commentary track, and if you have ever any of Ray's other commentary tracks, you know that they are usually a fun time. The track here is one of the good ones, as he confesses that the film cost less to produce than it did to actually transfer to prints, and that for years he was perplexed when he came across people who actually liked the finished product. The mood of the track is light, sarcastic, full of odd trivia (like a weird coincidence concerning Cream's Ginger Baker), and is vastly superior to the film it accompanies.

The original 35mm trailer is included, as is an automated Stills Gallery (02m:47s). The disc is cut into 6 chapters.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

This isn't B-movie maëstro Fred Olen Ray's finest hour, and apparently he isn't too crazy about the way this 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition was put together. However, the fun commentary track from Ray and producer Lee Lankford is just about worth the price of admission alone.


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