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Film / The Scavengers

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The Scavengers (1969) is a western war drama and exploitation film released in 1969, and re-released as The Grabbers in 1970. It was directed by Lee Frost and starred John Bliss.

The film takes place in the period just after the American Civil War. Renegade Confederate soldiers take over a frontier town, but after they molest a young black woman, a group of ex-slaves arm themselves and counter-attack.

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Tropes:

  • The Blade Always Lands Pointy End In: During his Leave Behind a Sword moment, Sgt. Ward makes his point by dropping Harris' sabre so it sticks into the ground a few feet away from Harris' head.
  • Career-Ending Injury: As a slave, Polie was a heavyweight boxing champion until his lung was punctured by a broken rib. After that he was transferred to the far more brutal life of a field slave.
  • Definite Article Title
  • Circling Vultures: At the start of the movie, Sgt. Ward is worried that circling buzzards might give away their position if the horse dies. At the end, buzzards land and come for Harris as he is pinned under his dead horse.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Captain Harris likes to play the part of a Southern Gentleman, but is an unrepentant racist, who sees nothing wrong with using murder and rapes as weapons to wage his unofficial war.
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  • Food Slap: As part of his torture, Captain Harris throws a cup of hot coffee in Lt. Nelson's face.
  • Forced to Watch: Captain Harris forces Lt. Nelson to watch as his troops rape Nelson's fiancee Faith.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Polie is a former heavyweight, bare knuckle boxer. During the final battle, he beats Jud (the biggest of the Rebs) to death with his bare hands.
  • Harpoon Gun: An unintentional improvised version. One of the Confederate bushwhackers is reloading his single shot rifle as Polie is charging down on him. Panicking, he lifts his rifle and fires without removing the ramrod. The ramrod fires like a spear and impales Polie through the stomach.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: According to Captain Harris, his wife, son and overseer where killed, cooked and eaten by freed slaves. Given Harris' sanity, the truthfulness of this account is dubious.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Polie is impaled through the stomach by a ramrod fried out of a black powder rifle.
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: Politically Incorrect Villain Captain Harris refuses to acknowledge Nancy (who is black) as human, and always refers to her as "it".
  • Leave Behind a Pistol: Sgt. Ward discovers that Captain has been lying to him and that the war has been over for months, and goes to the captain, who is lying pinned under his dead horse. Harris orders Ward to get the horse off him as the Circling Vultures start to land. Ward instead jams Harris' sabre into the ground a short distance from him and then walks off: leaving Harris use the sabre to either fight off the buzzards, or kill himself.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Captain Harris attempts to rape Faith, but cannot perform the deed even when she does not resist. Faith mocks him for this.
  • Mystery Meat: Best not to think about what The Remnant were eating while on the march. What is shown is inedible looking green leaves topped with an unidentifiable grey slop. Whatever it was, most of the men felt that horse meat would be a definite improvement.
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: The ex-slaves make it clear to Nancy that they are not attacking to avenge her rape, help her white friends, or even to take revenge on Confederates. It is just that have nothing better to do tomorrow than kill white men.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Even for a Confederate officer, Captain Harris is beyond the pale. He is motivated solely by hatred for the black race; always refers to Negroes as "it" rather than by their name (or even "he" or "she"), and will not stop until all Negroes in America are killed or in chains.
  • Recruiters Always Lie: In the opening, one of the troopers is singing a song about the lies he was told before joining the cavalry: primarily "the cavalry ride horses, you walk in infantry". It soon transpires that several members of the troop are walking because their horses have died.
  • The Remnant: A gang of Confederate renegades takes over a frontier town two months after the war has ended, intending to rob a Yankee gold shipment. It seems most of the men are not aware the war has ended, but their commander Captain Harris certainly knows.
  • Scary Black Man: Polie, who used to be a heavyweight boxer, is the largest and strongest of ex-slaves. His hulking form suddenly looming silently in front of her as she escapes the town is—combined with everything else that has happened to her—enough to cause Nancy to faint.
  • Shameful Strip: Harris' men slowly remove Faith's clothing in front of her fiancee preparatory to raping her.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: The Confederates shoot the lock off the strongbox they think contains the army payroll.
  • Taking Over the Town: The Confederates take over the small town of Haswell to intercept the Yankee gold shipment.
  • Taking You with Me: When Polie is shot and impaled with a ramrod, he wraps his hands around the neck of the soldier who shot him and announces "Now we're both dead!" He then strangles the soldier to death before keeling over himself.
  • A Taste of the Lash: When Jess is explaining to Nancy that there are worse things than rape, she slides her dress off her shoulders to show her the scars she received from being flogged after a slave in the cotton mill stole and the overseers randomly chose her to make an example of.
  • Weaponized Headgear: Nancy kills Cpl. Mason by luring him into an intimate embrace, then stabbing him in the neck with a hatpin.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to Marsh's whores? Harris ordered them locked in one of the upstairs rooms, and that is the last that is seen of them. After the massacre, Nelson, Faith, Nancy and the two surviving Confederates leave town, but no mention is made of the whores. Were they still locked upstairs? Did anyone ever go back for them?


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