6.1/10
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45 user 44 critic

Boxcar Bertha (1972)

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

Director:

Martin Scorsese

Writers:

Ben L. Reitman (book), Joyce Hooper Corrington (screenplay) (as Joyce H. Corrington) | 1 more credit »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Barbara Hershey ... Boxcar Bertha
David Carradine ... Big Bill Shelly
Barry Primus ... Rake Brown
Bernie Casey ... Von Morton
John Carradine ... H. Buckram Sartoris
Victor Argo ... McIver #1
David Osterhout David Osterhout ... McIver #2 (as David R. Osterhout)
Grahame Pratt Grahame Pratt ... Emeric Pressburger (credit only)
'Chicken' Holleman 'Chicken' Holleman ... M. Powell (credit only)
Harry Northup ... Harvey Hall (as Harry Northrup)
Ann Morell Ann Morell ... Tillie Parr
Marianne Dole Marianne Dole ... Mrs. Mailler
Joe Reynolds Joe Reynolds ... Joe Cox
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

Bertha Loved Lovin'...But There Was More Money in ROBBIN' TRAINS! See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Romance

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

14 June 1972 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Die Faust der Rebellen See more »

Filming Locations:

Camden, Arkansas, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$600,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)| Mono (Ryder Sound Services)

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The biplane at the beginning of the film is a Boeing PT-17 "Stearman", registration N60601. Over 10,000 Stearmans were made, primarily for use as military trainers. As for this aircraft, it was last owned by an agricultural firm in North Dakota and its registration expired in 2017. See more »

Goofs

The back door of the railroad president's private car has a connecting diaphragm for passing between train cars, indicating that the back platform is an add-on. See more »

Quotes

Rake Brown: Hey, who is that? Hey, what is this?
Boxcar Bertha: [Cradled in Bill's arms] This is Bill. I've known him awhile.
Rake Brown: Well, you've known me awhile, too, Toots.
Boxcar Bertha: It's not the same. Not at all.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening Statement: The following events are adapted from the true experiences of Boxcar Bertha Thompson, as related in the book "Sister of the Road" See more »

Connections

Featured in The Directors: The Films of Martin Scorsese (2000) See more »

Soundtracks

Piano Sonata no. 11 in A, K. 331, Mov. 3
(uncredited)
Written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Early Scorsese is powerful but crude, with the intricate subtleties often escaping him...
3 May 2008 | by moonspinner55See all my reviews

Director Martin Scorsese stages some beautifully choreographed violence in "Boxcar Bertha", his first studio film, but he had yet to break through to his actors, and much of the picture is stilted or awkward. Barbara Hershey plays Bertha Thompson, a teenage orphan in Depression-scarred Arkansas who falls in league (and in love) with a union organizer; they're joined by a black harmonica player and a Yankee card-shark to take revenge on the railroad company by robbing the trains. Adapted from Ben L. Reitman's book "Sister of the Road", Scorsese as a filmmaker is a bit misplaced within this milieu--the 1930s doesn't seem to be his thing--and while the film has atmosphere, it lacks visual assurance and nuance. Similarly, Hershey doesn't seem to connect with the Depression, either; with her dreamy eyes, flowing chestnut hair and penchant for throwing her lines away blithely, she's more like a Boxcar Hippie. Still, Scorsese uses her well at certain moments, particularly early on when she's shooting craps around a campfire, correcting a friend about her surname, or staring out a rain-soaked window. She also looks great chasing after locomotives, and the train sequences are all well-filmed. The finale, a slaughter out in the middle of nowhere, packs a visual wallop. It seems certain the youthful director saved his creative juices for this sequence, and his cinematic prowess suddenly flairs up. Visceral and expressive, this showdown turns the story around from mere exploits of low-class gangsters into something far more profound: a sorrowful human tragedy soaked in consequence and fate. **1/2 from ****


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