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Boxcar Bertha (1972)

During the depression, a union leader and a young woman become criminals to exact revenge on the management of a railroad.



(book), (screenplay) (as Joyce H. Corrington) | 1 more credit »

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Complete credited cast:
Rake Brown
Von Morton
H. Buckram Sartoris
McIver #1
David Osterhout ...
McIver #2 (as David R. Osterhout)
Grahame Pratt ...
Emeric Pressburger (credit only)
'Chicken' Holleman ...
M. Powell (credit only)
Harvey Hall (as Harry Northrup)
Ann Morell ...
Tillie Parr
Marianne Dole ...
Mrs. Mailler
Joe Reynolds ...
Joe Cox


Based on "Sister of the Road," the fictionalized autobiography of radical and transient Bertha Thompson as written by physician Dr. Ben L. Reitman, 'Boxcar' Bertha Thompson, a woman labor organizer in Arkansas during the violence-filled Depression of the early '30's meets up with rabble-rousing union man 'Big' Bill Shelly and they team up to fight the corrupt railroad establishment and she is eventually sucked into a life of crime with him. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Meet Boxcar Bertha...just a little country girl with a talent for lovin', a taste for violence, and a banged-up boxcar for a boudoir. See more »


Crime | Drama | Romance


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

14 June 1972 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A lázadók ökle  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$600,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


There was a rumor that Roger Corman's wife Julie Corman obtained the film rights to the story from Bertha Thompson herself after tracking her down in a San Francisco hotel room; she never actually met Thompson--because Thompson wouldn't open the door-but that rumor wasn't true. It may haver been a pre-release publicity stunt or maybe even a trick played on the Cormans by the true owner of the story, author Ben L. Reitman; the afterword in the fourth re-issue of the book "Boxcar Bertha" explained that the book is a work of fiction, and that the character Bertha Thompson was an amalgam of at least three women that Reitman knew, but was mostly modeled on a woman named Retta Toble. See more »


The currency shown in the film is all modern, post 1960s, with modern banking money bands. See more »


Sheriff: Harvey, who is that fella son of a bitch?
Harvey Hall: How's that Sheriff? I mean, which son of a bitch?
Sheriff: You know the one I mean. The one over there shaking hands with that nigger.
Harvey Hall: That's Big Bill Shelly, notorious Bolshevik. We drug him in last evening.
Sheriff: Well, I don't know about no Bolshevik, But I know, sure enough, he's a nigger lover. Harvey, go over there and make a nigger outta that white one.
See more »


Referenced in Inside the Actors Studio: Martin Scorsese (2002) See more »


Piano Sonata no. 11 in A, K. 331, Mov. 3
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User Reviews

Scorsese's second
27 March 2002 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Martin Scorsese got hired by Roger Corman, I presume, to make this "based on true story" movie of a boxcar thief and robber named Bertha whom with some other robbers stole their way into a small piece in history but got into strife towards the end. It isn't one of his best pictures since he really was just the director and the script and the actors did more work than he needed to do on the picture. Like The Color of Money, it's a film that if he didn't direct it it wouldn't of made much of a difference in the outcome.

Still, give credit where credit is due, and those (very few I might think) that heard what Cassavettes said to Scoresese after the movie got released (he told Marty that it was a piece of s*** and to work on something better- which he did with Mean Streets) should disregard it. Overall, Boxcar Bertha is a watchable and good piece of cinema with some decent performances and an overall feel that works in it's "tradition of Bonnie & Clyde" genre. Hershey and Carradine are also good. Just don't expect anything ground-breaking, unlike the next 5 out of 6 movies Scorsese would make in the next eight years after this. B+

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