Boxcar Bertha

Critics Consensus

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Total Count: 21


Audience Score

User Ratings: 5,433
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Movie Info

Produced by Roger Corman and directed by Martin Scorsese, Boxcar Bertha is a Bonnie and Clyde-like yarn set during the Depression. The title character, played by Barbara Hershey, links up with union organizer David Carradine (Hershey's real-life lover at the time) after the death of her father. Running afoul of anti-union forces, Bertha and Carradine are forced into a life of crime. Whereas Bonnie and Clyde robbed banks, Boxcar Bertha's specialty is trains. A story of this nature can only end in tragedy, and wait until you see Carradine's symbolic demise! For the record, there really was a Boxcar Bertha Thompson, and it is her autobiography, Sister of the Road, that serves as the basis for Joyce and John Corrington's screenplay.

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Barbara Hershey
as Boxcar Bertha
David Carradine
as Big Bill Shelly
Barry Primus
as Rake Brown
Bernie Casey
as Von Morton
John Carradine
as H. Buckram Sartoris
Grahame Pratt
as Emeric Pressburger
Harry Northrup
as Harvey Hall
Ann Morell
as Tillie
Marianne Dole
as Mrs. Mailer
Joe Reynolds
as Joe Dreft
"Chicken" Holleman
as Michael Powell
Victor Argo
as The McIver
Gayne Rescher
as Brothel Client [uncredited]
Martin Scorsese
as Brothel Client
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News & Interviews for Boxcar Bertha

Critic Reviews for Boxcar Bertha

All Critics (21) | Top Critics (4)

  • The Roger Corman production, shot on an austere budget in Arkansas area, is routinely directed by Martin Scorsese.

    Mar 31, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • While there is a striking similarity [to Bonnie and Clyde] in general content, background, fine color photography and even the use of hillbilly music, the new, more modest film stands curiously on its own.

    May 9, 2005 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • Scorsese remains one of the bright young hopes of American movies.

    Oct 23, 2004 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • 'Promising juvenilia' is about the most one can say for it.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…
  • [Martin] Scorsese was anxious to show his chops on a real Hollywood feature and does so admirably (if impersonally) with rough-and-ready style on a mix of true story and exploitation drama.

    Jan 13, 2017 | Full Review…
  • Lots of violence, typical of the Corman exploitation mill, but the film still shows the budding talent of Scorsese in his use of moving-camera and period detail.

    Mar 31, 2008 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Boxcar Bertha

  • Dec 01, 2016
    Martin Scorsese is one of the greatest directors of all time, but it wasn't always that way. Back in the early 1970's he was still finding his way and trying some techniques out. While Boxcar Bertha is nowhere near the quality of Scorsese's later efforts, you can tell there was talent there, just waiting to be exploited. Boxcar Bertha tells the fictional account of two lovers, a union leader and a loner, who find pleasure taking up crime to seek vengeance on what railroad management has done to them. David Carradine and Barbara Hershey star, as Scorsese directs his second feature length film. With plenty of similarities to Badlands or even Bonnie and Clyde, it's hard to figure out exactly what this film has to offer. In reality, it doesn't bring anything new to the genre, nor is the acting all that impressive. With that said, because of where Scorsese is today, it's worth watching. There are plenty of intriguing shots used by the famed director that he would use later on, or even just certain transitions from scene to scene. As a film geek, that was interesting to see. But as far as the film itself, I don't know that you would get anything out of this story. Just go watch Badlands again. That's a much more fascinating take on two young people taking up murder and crime in the west. +Scorsese trying things out -Nothing new added to this style of a story -Acting is sub-par 4.6/10
    Thomas D Super Reviewer
  • Oct 26, 2013
    Before Boxcar Bertha, Martin Scorsese had directed one feature film and a few shorts. Roger Corman offered him the chance to direct this film, one of the first crime dramas from Scorsese. This feature can viewed as an exercise in style for Scorsese as he was finding his groove that would later make him famous. This is a well executed gangster film that is very entertaining from beginning to end. Scorsese shows a knack for creating an engaging picture, and it is a very well directed movie that is elevated by its cast. Scorsese would go on to make several cinematic classics, but with Boxcar Bertha he really delivered something that showcased Scorsese's talents as an upcoming director. The film may be unfocused compared to his other works, but it does boast some early trademarks that would make Martin Scorse such a legendary figure in the cinematic medium. The story, I thought was quite good here, and it should a director that was just bursting with confidence and skill in order to create a memorable movie. Boxcar Bertha is not Scorsese's best of course, but it is a necessary film in his career, one that he needed to make to give himself an understanding of the gangster genre, which would be prominent in his works such as Mean Streets, Goodfellas and Casino. As a second full length feature, this is a terrific picture that needs to be seen by any Scorsese fan. The cast do some fine work here and even if it's not a standout gangster film, it's still fairly important in the career of Martin Scorsese, as he would follow up this picture with the phenomenal Mean Streets and three years later bring us the iconic Taxi Driver. Boxcar Bertha shows the viewer a director who was just getting started, and even with its imperfections, you can see where Scorsese was headed with his later work.
    Alex r Super Reviewer
  • Nov 12, 2012
    Really, really raw--scatterbrained at best--but man, Scorsese makes a directorial introduction
    Jeff L Super Reviewer
  • Aug 16, 2012
    Obviously not Scorsese's best but packs a thrill ride of fun. It should be fun, it's exploitation. I see a lot of similarities to Gangs of New York. Especially in the directing style. This wasn't directed as good as I hoped it would have. But it was directed to be nothing but mindless fun. Everything from the dialogue to the violence was fun enough to keep me interested. This had Scorsese's trademarks such as over the top violence. It gets very violent especially towards the end. But the flaw in directing comes from the structure of the film. It's all over the place and it wasn't very organized. Just like Gangs of New York. The writing wasn't so great either. The story seemed week and rushed. There wasn't much to build up the plot. The acting not so great either. Nothing to special but it's not like they where all armatures. I did like the casting although there chemistry wasn't so great and it shows. But not by the main characters as much as the supporting characters. The production values weren't so great but I'll tell you the truth that I did like them. The blood looked so fake but I sometimes like it when it looks fake. I did like the choice in scenery. It gave it an authentic fell of the depression era. If you are a Scorsese fan then I guarantee you will like this even though it's not so great.
    Eduardo T Super Reviewer

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