An Underrated Martin Scorsese Classic (by departed07)
Before Martin Scorsese did classic work such as Goodfellas, Mean Streets, Gangs of New York, Casino, Cape Fear, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, Boxcar Bertha was his first masterpiece of crime. I consider Boxcar Bertha to be the Road to Perdition of the 70's. I comment that because these films take place in the depression era, where jobs are lost and people are finding ways to make money. in the film, Barbera Hershey and David Carradine joined together to heist money and stay together. It's a masterpiece of crime, intelligence and an unforgetable ending that will leave you breathless. <more>
Even though for a small film that isn't recognizable as it is today thanks to filmmaker Martin Scorsese, people should get a chance to see a good movie instead of these phony blockbusters that are in movie theatres now.
Fine film with a strong female lead. (by sonya90028)
Boxcar Bertha was based on the life of times of Bertha Thompson, during the depression era in the 1930s. After her pilot father is killed right before her eyes in a plane-crash, Bertha leaves the family farm, unable to support herself alone. Bertha takes to the road, and soon meets-up with Big Bill Shelly. Bill is a union organizer, who's determined to exact justice from corrupt railroad barons. Bertha and Bill fall in love, and travel together via hopping trains across the south. The two turn to criminal activities, to survive.Barbara Hershey gives a light-hearted, yet also poignant <more>
performance as Bertha. David Carradine conveys the conviction and passion, evident in Big Bill Shelly. His on-screen chemistry with Barbara Hershey, is palpable. Bernie Casey gives a strong, if understated performance as Bill's partner-in-crime, Von Morton. The morality angle of this film, like many made in the 70s, is ambiguous. The viewer knows that the characters clearly commit criminal acts. Yet there's also a sense of righteousness in their lawlessness, due to their quest to overthrow the cruel railroad men.This is one of the more interesting 70s nostalgia films, and one of the very few to revolve around a strong female character. It is a bit too slow in spots, and could've used more exciting get-a-way scenes. But it makes-up for these minor flaws, by having characters with more emotional depth, than the usual crime drama. Boxcar Bertha is a fine film, that works very well overall.
The movie is bloody, full of action, revenge, heists, double-barrel shotguns, mean and nasty bad guys, and not much different good guys. Expect more than a couple-on-the-run film, but not much more than a 1972 violence exploitation film produced by Roger Corman. The blood is firetruck red, the music is scarcely severed violin-and-banjo polka and barn dance airs, almost deafening to my Midwestern suburban/city ears. It's enjoyable enough for what it is, but the last person I would expect to have directed Boxcar Bertha is Martin Scorsese.Corman allowed Scorsese artistic free will providing <more>
blood and breasts were involved, so Scorsese grabbed this exploitation product for what he would call "director-as-smuggler" promise. His Depression-era South is a compile's outlook, essentially a 1930s William Wellman or Raoul Walsh barnstormer, with a liberal twist nonetheless, where the vagabond camps, raids, and chain gangs are specially selected for genre iconography and meticulously shot and edited bedlam.It is, moreover, a long way from John Cassavetes' tough-love decree. Indeed, it's a Scorsese piece from tip to toe, shot with a camera that hunts for the throbbing beat in every second: A card deck flipped into the air is fractured into various brisk shots, a track-dolly joins itself with a shotgun blast to an exploding chest, the furnishings in a dust-bowl bordello is out of Visconti. Modernist breakdown is hosted at the crossroads between New Hollywood agitation and How Green Was My Valley formality.The sole reason I saw this film is because of its director. I am a tremendous admirer of his, as are many, and I knew I wasn't going to think as highly of it as I think of Raging Bull, The King of Comedy, The Last Temptation of Christ, Casino, Bringing Out the Dead, The Aviator, and certainly GoodFellas or The Departed. And I didn't, even though I did like it a lot as a B- list heist-filled bloodfest, a kind of film that has many times been a head and shoulders above other choices of movies to see. Much to his credit, the fact that I was so shocked by the difference between this movie and any other movie in his filmography points even more sharply toward his talent. His films are already greatly eclectic. He made The Last Temptation of Christ, a somber and immensely personal theoretical portrait of Jesus, right before he made GoodFellas, his classic blood-and-guts, retro-pop-music, profanity-riddled Italian Mafia opus, which was promptly succeeded by a remake of Cape Fear, a dark little horror/ thriller. If someone like me, who has before seen every single one of Martin Scorsese's feature films except for this one, can see Boxcar Bertha, only his second feature, and be taken so aback at how different it is from the rest of Scorsese's work, then the final Scorsese film I've had to see is the cherry on top: It's the climactic statement reminding how great Scorsese's talent is as a film director.I'm being very careful not to give anything away, but one hint in Boxcar Bertha at what would progressively become a subtle trademark of Scorsese's comes in the breathtakingly violent climax, then followed by a clear answer to many people's questions about Scorsese's point of view of black people.
Taut and teetering crime film set on the open road with aspirations, you feel, a little higher than to merely function as a stand alone exploitation piece. (by johnnyboyz)
Boxcar Bertha is an exciting, daring film set amidst a world falling apart at the very seams, a world in which four people come to lose all respect for law, order and others around them before beginning a spree of thieving and disturbing illegality. The film unfolds in the 1930s amidst Depression era America, with each of the four central characters that come to form the law-breaking quartet, of varying races; genders and classes so as to highlight an as broad-a sense as possible of whom exactly it is the nation's Depression is affecting. One of the members, and the only female one, is <more>
the titular harmonica playing Bertha Hershey ; somebody who must suffer the witnessing of her father's death by way of crop duster crash before going on to disturbingly fall in with the wrong crowd. It's established that her father may have been of a disciplinarian sort, a rail road worker commenting that her father wouldn't at all like it if he heard her using the profanities she does when he's up there – his death signals a systematic death of rules and regulations, an additional 'freedom' away from the straight and narrow after which all Hell in her life will break loose. The other predominant member of the troupe is the charismatic Bill Shelly Carradine , a character we first observe giving a rousing speech to fellow rail road workers about a forming of a union, instilling certain degrees that the man is a leader and has skills in being able to talk to people, or rouse them.Following a run in with a gambler that ends in murder and the hitching up with African-American man Von Morton Casey as well as Northern state based businessman Rake Brown Primus , who's come down with a false accent and an empty wallet to find work when they meet them in the same jail cell, the group go off on an ill-gotten venture of train robberies; law dodging and in the case of Bill and Bertha: sexual relations. The film is an early piece from American film-maker Martin Scorsese, a man who later made some of his best work in the form of exploring the worlds and minds of those either on the fringes of social order and in a state of marginalisation or the criminally infused who were morally vacant and at once so scummy and so putrid that to gaze on at their plights and actions was to do so with a grotesquely pleasing sense towards the craft but the polar opposite towards the people. In relation to this, Boxcar Bertha has more fun with showing characters of a policing sort, in the form of police troopers and so forth, to be of an evil; narrow minded or even racist ilk than it is concerned with trying to have us sympathise as much as possible with the leads and their narcissistic, criminal driven existence. Shelly's early talk from when we first see him has him speak of rising up against authoritarian figures, the company and the system and as the police net on that particular occasion closed in on the band of Unionists we see that the escapades he comes to engage in now is merely an extension of that mentality and that state of living. Shelly's linking up with Bertha in a romantic sense is dealt with amply and pleasingly done; as established, her own ideas or sense of operating under an authoritarian figure in her father whom we're led to assume did his best to keep her on the straight and narrow effectively has her 'rebel' against figures of that nature when he dies - in that there's nobody left with any rules to feed off of. Their connection is preordained by the nature of their attitudes towards these sorts of figures, with Bertha's in relation to her father coincidental as Shelly takes it upon him self to manifest a problem with whatever State figures see otherwise in reaction to his Union idea rallying call. Scorsese nicely documents the four of them banding together as a team, the odd leaf taken from Aurther Penn's book in that his film Bonnie and Clyde from a few years prior to this 1972 effort managed to explore what made the group of law-breaking, bank robbing bandits tick as human beings in between all the chaos, as the media demonised them, without ever really teetering over into glamorisation. A similar sense is applied here, four Robin Hoods robbing from the rich and keeping the loot for themselves set amidst barren, desert locales as a country and its economy come apart at the core with its rotten-minded and unlikeable police force following suit. Where cheap exploitation sprinkled with sex; violence and a simple enough premise complete with little in the way of plot appeared to be the aim starting out, Scorsese and the team appear to have elevated the material into something that stands up decades on as an exciting, angry piece teetering on the brink.
An excellent and exciting Depression-era winner (by Woodyanders)
Arkansas in the 1930's: Sweet, free-spirited rural farm girl turned prostitute Boxcar Bertha Thompson a marvelously lively and personable performance by the beautiful Barbara Hershey joins forces with fiery, passionate union organizer Big Bill Shelly splendidly played by David Carradine , slick con man gambler Rake Brown nicely essayed by Barry Primus and amiable Von Morton a fine Bernie Casey to steal from the rich and give back to the poor. They soon become wanted fugitives. Ably directed with tremendously fluid finesse and assurance by Martin Scorsese, with a smart, concise <more>
script by Joyce H. Corrington and John William Corrington they previously wrote the fantastic Charlton Heston end-of-the-world sci-fi doozy "The Omega Man" , frequent outbursts of thrilling action, sharp, polished cinematography by John Stephens, a tasty and vivid evocation of the Great Depression period, a couple of smoking hot sex scenes with Hershey and Carradine who were a real life couple at the time , a constant snappy pace, a flavorsome bluesy score by Thad Maxwell and Gib Guilbeau, a gritty and unsentimental depiction of the thankless outlaw lifestyle, and an uncompromisingly downbeat ending, this sturdy and stirring little winner totally hits the solid and satisfying spot. John Carradine contributes a nifty cameo as evil, crotchety railroad baron H. Buckram Sartoris while Victor Argo and David Osterhout are both memorably nasty as a couple of brutish flunkies. A real bang-up film.