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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)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$6,443
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

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 »

Goofs

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

Quotes

Brothel Client: If I give you, eh, fifteen dollars, can I stay? I don't wanna sleep alone tonight.
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

Referenced in The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014) 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

 
The film that led to Mean Streets
1 February 2008 | by MaxBorg89See all my reviews

Rumor has it Martin Scorsese showed this film, his second, to John Cassavetes, who labeled the movie "sh*t" and suggested Marty work on more personal projects in the future. This advice prompted Scorsese to direct Mean Streets, the first of his many masterpieces. Boxcar Bertha is not one of them, but it isn't as bad as Cassavetes stated, either. It's an average B-movie of the kind Roger Corman would offer to his students (Marty among them).

Plotwise this picture has a more defined structure than Who's That Knocking at My Door: the setting is small-town America, the Great Depression is far from over, and a young girl named Bertha (Barbara Hershey) joins union leader "Big Bill" (David Carradine) in a violent protest against the people who are managing a railroad. When things turn ugly, the two lovers are forced to run for their lives, while still hoping they will prevail.

Hardly an original story (it's essentially the poor man's Bonnie & Clyde), but Scorsese does his best in making it appealing to audiences, shooting in beautiful countryside locations and obtaining strong performances from Hershey (who would later play Mary Magdalene in The Last Temptation of Christ) and Carradine, most notably in a sex scene that, according to everyone involved, was not faked.

Beyond that, though, it is obvious Cassavetes had a point: there is nothing that gives Boxcar Bertha that unique Scorsese feel. He just did his job without finding anything in the script he could connect to; even the religious iconography used in the bloody climax seems to have been tucked in for no particular reason.

Still, the film is enjoyable and worth seeing, even just as the product of a young filmmaker still shaping into the master he was to become.


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