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The Scavengers (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • The Scavengers (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: April 30th, 2024.
    Director: Lee Frost
    Cast: Johnathon Bliss, Maria Lease, Bruce Kimball, Uschi Digard
    Year: 1969
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Scavengers – Movie Review:

    Made just a year after the success of their earlier sexploitation/roughie/western, Hot Spur, producer Bob Cresse and director Lee Frost were back at it with The Scavengers! Set just after the close of the Civil War, we meet up with a small contingent of Confederate soldiers whose commanding officer, Captain Steve Harris (Johnathon Bliss), hasn’t told them that the war is over (and that they lost).

    They make their way to a small town where they’re expecting Union troops to pass by with a whole lot of gold, three hundred thousand dollars’ worth to be exact, that they hope to swindle but before they can get to that, they go on a bit of a rampage in town, raping, killing, drinking and stealing as they see fit. When the Confederates get their hands on the gold and find out it’s only a fraction of what they were expecting, Bliss and company ramp up their campaign of torture and sexual abuse, assuming that the gold is in the town somewhere and that if they get nasty enough with the townsfolk, someone will spill it as to where…

    Gritty and sleazy to an impressive degree (there’s a lot of rape in this movie and a fair bit of racial degradation as well in addition to a good bit of violence), The Scavengers isn’t subtle but it is better made than most will probably expect. The movie benefits from some seriously strong cinematography, both the camerawork and the lighting are frequently very impressive and do a good job not just of capturing the action and the more exploitative elements, but the tension inherent in some of the film’s situations as well. The use of music in the film is also pretty effective, with the catching opening theme song stuck in your head long after the movie has ended. Even if the film was clearly made on a low budget, something that the filmmakers have trouble hiding now and again (Bliss’ final scene with his horse being a perfect example, but we’ll avoid spoilers here!), the production values are, for the most part, pretty decent with some good costume work on display and decent period detail shown in the wardrobe, firearms and sets/locations used for the production.

    As to the performances, Johnathon Bliss is genuinely good as Captain Harris, crafting his character into the type of movie villain that you love to hate. His performance is considerably better than pretty much everyone else in the cast, and he’s convincing enough that you won’t have any problem buying him in the role. Supporting work from Maria Lease as a put upon townswoman and Wes Bishop as a soldier named Dillon is pretty decent, and hey, check out none other than buxom exploitation queen Uschi Digard in a small role as a woman of ill repute named Lucile!

    It’s also worth pointing out that Severin Films has supplied two versions of the film here – the 1:44:21 unrated version and the 1:34:20 R-rated version, the latter of which, not surprisingly, makes some pretty obvious trims to much of the stronger content in the film (the gang rape sequence is much shorter and edited completely differently, for example). The longer and stronger version is the way to go, the movie has a lot more impact in this version, but it’s great to have them both included here.

    The Scavengers – Blu-ray Review:

    The Scavengers arrives on Blu-ray from Severin Films with in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen on a region free 50GB disc taken from a new 4k restoration of the original 35mm negative. Picture quality on this release is almost shockingly good. There’s a little bit of print damage here and there but it’s all minor stuff like small white specks, nothing overly drastic at all and certainly not distracting. Colors look excellent and we get accurate looking skin tones and nice, deep black levels as well. Detail is consistently impressive throughout the presentation, though a few shots that look like inserts are softer than the rest of the material. There aren’t any compression problems to note and, all in all, this looks really impressive.

    The 24-bit DTS-HD Mono track, in the film’s native English and with optional English subtitles, sounds quite good. The track is properly balanced and, for the most part, free of any hiss or distortion. You might pick up on some minor sibilance here and there but it’s not especially bothersome and the score sounds quite good.

    The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary with Vinegar Syndrome's Joe Rubin, Severin Films' Andrew Furtado and Temple Of Schlock's Chris Poggiali that plays out over the Unrated Version. It's an interesting discussion that goes into quite a bit of detail about Bob Cresse and Lee Frost's work together, noting how ambitious the film is for a roughie, the two cuts of the movie that exist, details on the different cast members that pop up in the movie, the film's theme song and how actor Jody Berry performed it, how filmmaker Wes Bishop wound up acting in the film and how Bob Cresse acted in his work, how the success of Hot Spur led to the making of this movie, details on the production company that was behind the release, the film's distribution history, how the film works as a war movie and follows a three act structure, the film's connection to Race With The Devil, how Bliss' final scene with the horse was shot, how the movie was received upon its initial release and plenty more.

    The disc also includes two theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection options.

    Included inside the case is ‘Our Family Album’ which is a very cool hard copy replica of the film’s original promotional program that includes credits and a synopsis as well as a bunch of promotional photographs presented in an old fashioned sepia toned presentation. It’s also worth pointing out that the reverse side of the cover sleeve wrap shows off some original promotional materials.

    The Scavengers - The Final Word:

    The Scavengers is a scuzzy, sleazy, nasty low budget exploitation/western hybrid with a decent plot, a great performance from its leading actor and some pretty solid production values that still manages to pack a pretty strong punch. The Blu-ray edition from Severin Films, in conjunction with Something Weird Video, gives the production a gorgeous high definition presentation and throws in a pretty interesting commentary track as its main extra. Fans of vintage sleaze should consider this a mandatory purchase.



    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized The Scavengers Blu-ray screen caps!

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