The Scavengers is not just another movie about the American Civil War, it’s a special one. True, it’s very low budget and that can sometimes irritate you. But if you cast away that minor irritations, there’s plenty to enjoy. The movie is about the period only months after the Civil War ended. A Southern captain never told his men that the war was over, so they go on with their killing and raping. They go to a place where the Yankees will pass with a gold transport and they wait for a chance to get the gold. They expect 300.000 dollars, but the actual amount is much less, somewhere around 2400 dollars. The captain tortures a soldier and rapes his future wife and her (black) servant till he will tell where the rest of the gold is. (Of course, it isn’t there. They only transported lots of gold during the War and the war is over now.)
The director of The Scavengers is Lee Frost (a.k.a. R.L. Frost) and his filmography reads like a marathon you wouldn’t take your family to. He directed a.o. The Black Gestapo, The Boob Tube Strikes Again, Love Camp 7 and House on Bare Mountain.
The Scavengers, one of his more underrated films, was released in the same year as The Wild Bunch and there are a few similarities. Like Peckinpah’s movie there are no real good guys and bad guys. The Southern soldiers don’t know the war is over. When you hear what happened to the captain, you’ll understand his hate for the Yankees and black people. You can’t really say the black servant is protected by her mistress and her soldier. The black people in a nearby town have some part in the story, but their intentions aren’t noble either. Which is true about most wars: it’s difficult to say who are the good guys.
Another similarity between The Scavengers and The Wild Bunch is that the slow motion technique is used in both movies. Though Sam Peckinpah gets most of the credit for this technique, it’s only fair to say that the slow motion scenes are better used in this movie. Especially in one of the rape scenes it’s very effective and quite nauseating.
Which is a nice link to my remark that there’s lot of nudity in the movie, maybe even a bit too much. With a little less naked breasts and a bit more money The Scavengers could have become a classic. Now it’s a very interesting cult movie.