7.3/10
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Emperor of the North (1973)

Emperor of the North Pole (original title)
In 1933, during the Depression, Shack the brutal conductor of the number 19 train has a personal vendetta against the best train hopping hobo tramp in the Northwest, A No. 1.

Director:

Robert Aldrich
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Lee Marvin ... A No. 1
Ernest Borgnine ... Shack
Keith Carradine ... Cigaret
Charles Tyner ... Cracker
Malcolm Atterbury ... Hogger
Simon Oakland ... Policeman
Harry Caesar ... Coaly
Hal Baylor ... Yardman's Helper
Matt Clark ... Yardlet
Elisha Cook Jr. ... Gray Cat (as Elisha Cook)
Joe Di Reda Joe Di Reda ... Dinger (as Joe di Reda)
Liam Dunn ... Smile
Diane Dye Diane Dye ... Girl in Water
Robert Foulk ... Conductor
Jim Goodwin Jim Goodwin ... Fakir (as James Goodwin)
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Storyline

It is during the great depression in the US, and the land is full of people who are now homeless. Those people, commonly called "hobos", are truly hated by Shack (Borgnine), a sadistical railway conductor who swore that no hobo will ride his train for free. Well, no-one but "A" Number One (Lee Marvin), who is ready to put his life at stake to become a local legend - as the first person who survived the trip on Shack's notorious train. Written by Brian Peterson calyooper@email.com

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

This movie is about one hell of a man who lived when Dillinger was slamming banks, and Roosevelt was awakening the nation. He's a hard-time fast-tracker who's been where it's mean. A grizzly with a sense of humor, an adventurer with holes in his pockets. A wandering rebel, living off the land by his wits and his fists. He goes it alone, he does what he wants - for the beautiful pure sweet hell of it. Who's going to stop him - you? Now he's taking on his biggest run. A challenge no one ever survived. That's why he has to do it! See more »


Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

24 May 1973 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Emperor of the North See more »

Filming Locations:

Buxton, Oregon, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$3,705,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (FMC Library Print)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

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

Trivia

The film cast includes three Oscar winners: Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine and Keith Carradine. See more »

Goofs

The switch is not thrown for the mail express train to pass by Shack's train as it just enters the junction. In those days, not having the switch thrown would have derailed the mail train. See more »

Quotes

Shack: There's only one 'bo that's got the stuff to try me, and you ain't even on the list.
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Alternate Versions

Originally premiered as "Emperor of the North Pole": the film was pulled from release because people thought the film was about the Arctic. It was re-released as "Emperor of the North" and given two different advertising campaigns: one with a poster playing up the comedy, another with a poster playing up the violence (The poster said "If you can ride Shack's train and live, you're...Emperor of the North!"). Neither new campaign clicked with audiences. The song "A Man and a Train" is sung in "Emperor of the North" by Marty Robbins. The poster for the original release says it is sung by Bill Medley. It is unknown what other changes, if any, were made between the two releases. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Polar Express (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

A Man and a Train
Lyrics by Hal David
Music by Frank De Vol
Sung by Marty Robbins
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Boxcar Willies
8 May 2002 | by telegonusSee all my reviews

For you teenagers out there, or parents of teenagers who have expressed a desire to run away from home and ride the rails, this movie is the perfect antidote. Anyone who sees this film you will never even consider hopping on a boxcar again. Directed by Robert Aldrich, and bearing his unmistakable anarchist's stamp, it tells the story of two hoboes, one, A-1, played by Lee Marvin, a seasoned, lone wolf, and the other, Cigaret (Keith Carradine), a young boaster who tags along for the rides, and forever tries to convince his friend and mentor that he is in the same league with him in the art of hobodom, and maybe even better. The story revolves around the attempt of both men to ride the Number 19, a train lorded over by vicious railroadman Shack (Ernest Borgnine), who is known for despising hoboes, and for attacking them with hammer and chains! Director Robert Aldrich works wonders with this tall tale, some of it based on true stories. His fondness for improbable material is evident here, as once again he shows himself fascinated by the seemingly impossible task. Aldrich has a real feeling for what one might call WASP schmaltz, and he pours it on like ketchup on a Big Mac. He obviously loves railraods, old railroad uniforms, tramps, the Pacific Northwest, junkyards and the great outdoors generally, all copiously present here, aided in no small measure by Joe Biroc's lyrical photography.

The Emperor Of the North Pole is more character study than story. Marvin's character of A-1 is independent, shrewd and ethically minded, with a great sense of style. For him, being a hobo is almost a calling, and his acceptance by his fellow tramps constitutes a kind of knighthood, a status he guards jeaously. His opposite number, Shack, is a sadistic company man who relishes lording over others with a big stick, sometimes literally. To call him a type A personality would be a gross understatement. Unlike A-1, Shack has no sense of style; indeed, he doesn't even seem to own his personality. The railroad does. Cigaret is a kid, with a big ego and even bigger mouth who loves to tell stories about his exploits, none of them true. He fools no one, least of all A-1, who tries to teach him a thing or two, with only middling success. The clashing of these three personalities constitutes the bulk of the film, and is basically what it is about.

I sense that Aldrich, and screenwriter Christopher Knopf, were aiming for a larger than life effect, and that they were trying to create a sort of Great American Myth, like Paul Bunyan or Johnny Appleseed. They only partially succeed at this. Though Knopf's dialogue is at times excellent, the movie's realism works against its mythic qualities, and there's too much swearing. There's too much of a weary, real life-battered aspect to the characters for them to rise to iconic stature. Also, Cigaret's volubility is often obnoxious, and he seems to be saying the same things, again and again; and though Carradine plays him well enough, he comes across as too middle class and at times too delicate for the role. The action scenes on the other hand, are brilliantly done, and the climactic fight at the end is well worth the wait.


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