Martin Scorsese interviews his mother and father about their life in New York City and the family history back in Sicily. These are two people who have lived together for a long time and ... See full summary »
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
Bertha frees Bill Shelley from the prison gang by faking a punctured tire. The wheel with the flat is left at the side of the road. In the following car chase, the wheel is initially missing from the car. Later the tire is clearly seen fixed to the rear of the car. When the car is being destroyed, the spare tire is gone again. See more »
The worlds of Corman and Scorsese collide, and the results? Pretty damn good!
Roger Corman's indirect influence on the 70s movie renaissance is often overlooked. Many of that decade's key players served their apprenticeships on Corman's quickies. Directors like Coppola, Bogdanovich, Bartel and Demme, and actors like Nicholson, Hopper, Fonda, Dern, Stanton, and even De Niro.
Add Martin Scorsese to that list. 'Boxcar Bertha', his movie directly before the breakthrough 'Mean Streets', may not display his talent in full, but it is a surprisingly well shot and acted, and is an above average b-grade movie with a lot of entertainment value.
Like similar Corman productions from this period ('Bloody Mama', 'Dillinger', 'Big Bad Mama') it is a Depression era look at flamboyant criminals. An exploitation movie for sure, but exploitation with style and class. Barbara Hershey (who would reunite with Scorsese in seriously underrated 'The Last Temptation Of Christ') plays the title role, but the real star of the movie is her then real life partner David Carradine ('Kung Fu', 'Death Race 2000'), who gives a strong, charismatic performance. The supporting cast includes blaxploitation legend Bernie Casey ('Cleopatra Jones',etc.), Carradine's veteran character actor father John, and Scorsese/Ferrara regular Victor Argo ('Taxi Driver', 'King Of New York').
'Boxcar Bertha' is by no means one of Scorsese's greatest achievements, but it is nothing to be embarrassed about either. Check it out sometime. It's much better than you would think.
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