Boxcar Bertha is an exciting, daring film set amidst a world falling apart at the very seams, a world in which four people come to lose all respect for law, order and others around them before beginning a spree of thieving and disturbing illegality. The film unfolds in the 1930s amidst Depression era America, with each of the four central characters that come to form the law-breaking quartet, of varying races; genders and classes so as to highlight an as broad-a sense as possible of whom exactly it is the nation’s Depression is affecting. One of the members, and the only female one, is the titular harmonica playing Bertha (Hershey); somebody who must suffer the witnessing of her father’s death by way of crop duster crash before going on to disturbingly fall in with the wrong crowd. It’s established that her father may have been of a disciplinarian sort, a rail road worker commenting that her father wouldn’t at all like it if he heard her using the profanities she does when he’s up there â€“ his death signals a systematic death of rules and regulations, an additional ‘freedom’ away from the straight and narrow after which all Hell in her life will break loose. The other predominant member of the troupe is the charismatic Bill Shelly (Carradine), a character we first observe giving a rousing speech to fellow rail road workers about a forming of a union, instilling certain degrees that the man is a leader and has skills in being able to talk to people, or rouse them.Following a run in with a gambler that ends in murder and the hitching up with African-American man Von Morton (Casey) as well as Northern state based businessman Rake Brown (Primus), who’s come down with a false accent and an empty wallet to find work when they meet them in the same jail cell, the group go off on an ill-gotten venture of train robberies; law dodging and in the case of Bill and Bertha: sexual relations. The film is an early piece from American film-maker Martin Scorsese, a man who later made some of his best work in the form of exploring the worlds and minds of those either on the fringes of social order and in a state of marginalisation or the criminally infused who were morally vacant and at once so scummy and so putrid that to gaze on at their plights and actions was to do so with a grotesquely pleasing sense towards the craft but the polar opposite towards the people. In relation to this, Boxcar Bertha has more fun with showing characters of a policing sort, in the form of police troopers and so forth, to be of an evil; narrow minded or even racist ilk than it is concerned with trying to have us sympathise as much as possible with the leads and their narcissistic, criminal driven existence. Shelly’s early talk from when we first see him has him speak of rising up against authoritarian figures, the company and the system and as the police net on that particular occasion closed in on the band of Unionists we see that the escapades he comes to engage in now is merely an extension of that mentality and that state of living. Shelly’s linking up with Bertha in a romantic sense is dealt with amply and pleasingly done; as established, her own ideas or sense of operating under an authoritarian figure in her father whom we’re led to assume did his best to keep her on the straight and narrow effectively has her ‘rebel’ against figures of that nature when he dies – in that there’s nobody left with any rules to feed off of. Their connection is preordained by the nature of their attitudes towards these sorts of figures, with Bertha’s in relation to her father coincidental as Shelly takes it upon him self to manifest a problem with whatever State figures see otherwise in reaction to his Union idea rallying call. Scorsese nicely documents the four of them banding together as a team, the odd leaf taken from Aurther Penn’s book in that his film Bonnie and Clyde from a few years prior to this 1972 effort managed to explore what made the group of law-breaking, bank robbing bandits tick as human beings in between all the chaos, as the media demonised them, without ever really teetering over into glamorisation. A similar sense is applied here, four Robin Hoods robbing from the rich and keeping the loot for themselves set amidst barren, desert locales as a country and its economy come apart at the core with its rotten-minded and unlikeable police force following suit. Where cheap exploitation sprinkled with sex; violence and a simple enough premise complete with little in the way of plot appeared to be the aim starting out, Scorsese and the team appear to have elevated the material into something that stands up decades on as an exciting, angry piece teetering on the brink.
Boxcar Bertha (1972) Movie Data
Boxcar Bertha (1972) is Romance Crime Drama Genres film which released in 1972. Boxcar Bertha (1972) supported by David Carradine, Barry Primus, and Barbara Hershey. This movie has 1h 28min duration and rating around 6.1 star from 6,563 movie experts. Not bad.
Boxcar Bertha (1972) Short Storyline
During the depression, a union leader and a young woman become criminals to exact revenge on the management of a railroad.
Actor Actress behind Boxcar Bertha (1972) Movie
Barbara Hershey,David Carradine,Barry Primus
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer: Ben L. Reitman
Boxcar Bertha (1972) PLOT STORY
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.
In the 1930’s American south, Bertha Thompson decides to live the life of a transient after her crop duster father dies in a crash leaving her alone in the world. She grows up quickly from the experiences she has with various people she meets while riding the rails. Ultimately, she ends up traveling with three others: “Big” Bill Shelly, a laborer who now speaks on behalf of workers’ rights and unions; Rake Brown, a gambler not averse to cheating and who carries a gun but is too scared to ever use it; and Von Morton, a harmonica playing black man who worked as her father’s mechanic. Despite their different motivations in life, the four become fiercely loyal to each other, especially Bertha and Bill, both who consider the other to be the love of their life. Besides Rake’s need to cheat to make a living, none of the four is predisposed to criminal behavior, but they end up living a life of crime out of circumstance, which included a card game gone wrong. Bill in particular feels uncomfortable with the criminal behavior in and of itself, except for the good he can do for the working class in the crimes. Even before their overtly criminal activities, they riled the police, who harassed them for riding the rails and for Bill’s “Bolshevik” talk. But they also rile a railway owner named Sartoris and the sadistic McIver brothers, who work as henchmen for both the authorities and Sartoris, as Bill’s pro-union/pro-striking diatribes are generally against the railroad. Hence, the battle between Sartoris/the McIvers and the foursome becomes a personal one on both sides.
During the Great Depression, Bertha Thompson begins riding the rails and has a series of adventures, some lighthearted and others deadly serious. She gets involved with a less than honest gambler, Rake Brown, having to shoot her way out of a game when Rake is caught cheating. She also has a stint working in a bordello. She regularly crosses paths with union organizer Big Bill Shelley who is out to get a fair shake, by legal means or otherwise, for railway workers. They become lovers and take to robbing the payroll and when necessary, Bertha even breaks him out of jail. The railroad has its own enforcers however and Bill doesn’t meet a just end however.
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