Emperor of the North Pole (Emperor of the North)

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63%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 8

85%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 1,435
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Movie Info

In this gritty and violent period drama set in the depths of the Great Depression, Lee Marvin stars as "A No. 1", the acknowledged King of the Hoboes. A No. 1 is famous among his fellow tramps for his ability to catch a ride on any train, no matter how risky the hop or dangerous the guards. He acts as a sort of mentor for Cigaret (Keith Carradine), a young hobo who brags that some day he'll surpass A No. 1 in his accomplishments. But neither has had the courage to ride a train guarded by Shack (Ernest Borgnine), an unusually sadistic railroad cop who will brutally beat or even murder any man who tries to catch a ride on his train. A No. 1 is determined that no one, not even Cigaret, is going to deny him his title, so taking his life in his hands, he and Cigaret hop a ride on Shack's train, and they are soon bearing the full brunt of his violent nature. Emperor of the North features superb location photography by Joseph F. Biroc and a fine supporting cast, including Charles Tyner, Simon Oakland, Elisha Cook Jr., and Sid Haig.

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Critic Reviews for Emperor of the North Pole (Emperor of the North)

All Critics (8) | Top Critics (2) | Fresh (5) | Rotten (3)

  • The suspense of the film (which is so hugely violent that its PG rating is a mystery), is unrelenting and the performances first-rate.

    May 20, 2006 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…
  • The movie itself isn't sure where the basic conflict lies. Is it between Marvin and Borgnine, or between Marvin and the young punk he travels with? Even in the movie's key fight scene this confusion remains.

    October 23, 2004 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Robert Aldrich's The Emperor of the North Pole, is hard, contrived, pointless in its thesis, repulsive in its people, singularly joyless and, above all, incredible in its concoction.

    June 29, 2020 | Full Review…
  • Christopher Knopf's script is so arid, its dialogue so mountainous when silence would suffice, that we are very quickly lulled into a complete lack of interest.

    December 31, 2019 | Full Review…
  • I can't recall ever seeing Marvin better. He plays a man with no past, little future and a shaky present, his every word and gesture indicates larger reserves of feeling, held in abeyance for a better day and a world which may receive it.

    July 22, 2019 | Full Review…
  • Doesn't match the high-octane likes of such Aldrich efforts as The Dirty Dozen, The Longest Yard or even the offbeat, early-career twofer of The Big Knife and Ten Seconds to Hell, but it's a compelling piece of tough-guy strutting in a minimalist setting.

    September 26, 2015 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Emperor of the North Pole (Emperor of the North)

  • Oct 02, 2019
    How often would you watch a film about a group of homeless men riding trains? This was an incredible film and unexpected entry into my library. I only read the outline and gambled on the film after reading a comic with a similar style. Lee Marvin was an incredible actor and he is the central reason for the films success. Borgnine chews the scenery as the guard of the train. That final confrontation is well staged and very ahead of its time in terms of action stakes. This is one of the best films I have watched this year and it is from 1973. Intriguing premise and a truly original film that deserves wider recognition which I have done. If you are looking for something unique, this is your film. 02/10/2019
    Brendan N Super Reviewer
  • Aug 09, 2013
    I watched this movie because of Lance Henriksen (from Millennium (TV series), I'm trying to watch all his films and this is one of the first he was in that can be obtained. This film is one of the unsung gems of the seventies, part adventure film, part social drama, part road movie. Set during the depression when riding the rails was a way of life for desperate men (and women), the film follows three characters - Lee Marvin, as Number One, a legend among the grizzled hobos congregating along the rail lines; Ernest Borgnine as Shack, the sadistic conductor perfectly willing to do whatever necessary to keep free loaders off his trains; and a young Keith Carradine as Two-Bit, a novice full of bluster and false bravado out to make a name for himself. Marvin takes the kid under his wing; their relationship is part adversarial, as the weary elder tries to educate the fool how to survive on the line. Looming in the background is Borgnine, out to do his job at any cost. Ultimately a wager is made, and Marvin will put his life on the line to best Borgnine and show he is the Emperor of the North. At times it's a very brutal film - the final confrontation between Marvin & Borgnine is one of the toughest, nastiest fights ever photographed - but it is splendidly made and endlessly fascinating. 4 Stars 8-5-13
    Bruce B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 13, 2011
    Well executed drama with a terrific cast, directed by Richard Aldrich who helmed The Dirty Dozen and The Flight of the Phoenix, Emperor of the North Pole is a wonderful film that is a classic film. With a terrific cast, director Robert Aldrich crafts an entertaining drama\ that is set during the Great Depression, and tells the story of two hobos who hop trains. One of the hobos, A No. 1 is famous among his peers for riding any train despite the dangers he may encounter. A younger hobo, Cigaret wants to ride with A No. 1 and break his legacy as the most legendary Hobo to ride the tracks. However he's scared of a sadistic train guard by the name of shack. Emperor of the North Pole is a terrific film that is entertaining from start to finish, and there are plenty of wonderful performances as well by its cast. Brilliant filmmaking and acting, this is a film that should be seen by serious film fans, and it tells a simple, yet compelling story that relies on powerful acting and a great script to thrill the viewers. The film has minimal flaws, and there's plenty to enjoy here, and the cast, especially Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin make this a riveting drama that still is terrific to watch even today. Aldrich's directing is effective and he is able to craft such a simple story with a big score, and that's what you have here with Emperor of the North Pole. This is an enjoyable, violent, well acted film that is a classic of American cinema.
    Alex r Super Reviewer
  • Jul 19, 2011
    An engrossing melodrama skillfully directed by Robert Aldrich, set during the height of the Great Depression circa 1933 in the Pacific Northwest. It concerns a train-hopping hobo known as A-No.1, played by Lee Marvin in a superlative star performance who is legendary among the other tramps for ride on any train including Engine 19 that is Shack's freight train, he is a sadistic and murderous conductor, who is played to the hilt by Ernest Borgnine in a brilliant scene-stealing performance, completely intolerant of any hobo riding his train, he has killed several who have attempted to do so. A-No.1 become sort a mentor to a brash young hobo wanna -be named Cigaret, played wonderfully played by Keith Carradine. A-No.1 is determined to ride that train again, the other hobo's has crowned him "Emperor of the North" for accomplishing what no other tramp has ever done, it becomes a personal obsession and battle of wills between A-No.1 and the monstrous Shack, that will lead to an unforgettable climactic fight to the finish aboard Shack's train, i mean an all out brutal and bloodily brawl that involves a steel hammer, a long chain, an axe and a two by four piece of wood. taut script by Christopher Knopf and beautiful cinematography by Joseph Biroc. A unique and entertaining 70s gem. Highly Recommended.
    Danny R Super Reviewer

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