BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review
- Published Date
- by Loron Hays
Originally paired at the drive-in with 1,000 Convicts and a Woman, director Martin Scorsese scored a significant victory for producer Roger Corman with Boxcar Bertha, his take on the Great Depression’s many ravages upon the downtrodden. Yes, even the great Martin Scorsese owes a debt of gratitude to the beloved team of Roger and Julie Corman.
It was Scorsese’s second film and, while certainly not punctuated with his usual visual city flair (his next film would establish that), the exploitation classic was surprisingly applauded by critics and championed by a wildly approving audience; a sign of the economic times I’m sure. In 1972, it was THE big surprise at the drive-in and, quite honestly, the film STILL carries an impressive impact as witnessed by Twilight Time’s HD transfer.
The b-movie, full of hillbilly tunes and all things south by southwest, is ultimately about the doomed relationship between Bertha (Barbara Hershey) and Big Bill Shelley (David Carradine) as they try to wrestle the railroad away from the cruel business tycoons who squash and exploit the American worker. I’m sure many applauded the film’s swagger and attitude toward authority. The duo’s many criminal dealings – alongside Rake Brown (Barry Primus) and Von Morton (Bernie Casey) – puts them in many an interesting situation throughout the crushed south.
They make an art of getting in and out of trouble throughout the movie but, when Bertha is wanted for the murder if a renowned gambler, the gang hits the dusty trails for good. And a trail of the dead follows them.
Filmed in Reader, Arkansas in just under 25 days, Boxcar Bertha remains as explosive as a stick of dynamite. Sure, Corman was trying to capitalize on the success of Big Bad Mama, but the celebrated BANG on the set of this low budget affair granted this flick a longevity at the drive-in (and beyond) that was unexpected at the time.
To be one of those lucky bastards blown away by the on-screen ferocity of Hershey in the title role would be, for me, a drive-in dream come true. Hershey’s sexy as fuck and equally as wild. She plays the character of Bertha with a wide-eyed appeal that is both expressive and delicious. Carradine, in his role as the union organizer gone rogue, is also strong; the two together kick up enough dust and trouble to make the story of Bonnie and Clyde feel like little more than a footnote.
Co-starring Victor Argo, David R. Osterhout, Harry Northrup, Ann Morell, Marianne Dole & Joe Reynolds, Boxcar Bertha is one hell of a train hopping ride upon the rails. Sure, there is a sloppiness in its delivery and, yes, more time probably could have been spent on getting certain establishing shots. No one will suggest otherwise. Just ask Scorsese. But those criticisms lessen the feral quality of this spirited romp.
As far as guerilla styled movie shoots go, though, the desire and desperation fueling this gassed-up criminal crucifixion make this Depression Era tale a solid addition to any b-movie lover’s library. Boxcar Bertha delivers the goods.
MPAA Rating: R.
Runtime: 88 mins
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer: Joyce Hooper Corrington
Cast: Barbara Hershey, David Carradine, Barry Primus
Genre: Crime | Drama
Tagline: Bertha Loved Lovin'...But There Was More Money in ROBBIN' TRAINS!
Memorable Movie Quote: "I'll at least light a fire for you. You probably don't even have any matches. Do you?"
Theatrical Distributor: American International Pictures (AIP)
Release Date: June 14, 1972
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: October 11, 2016
Synopsis: During the depression, a union leader and a young woman become criminals to exact revenge on the management of a railroad.
Home Video Distributor: Twilight Time
Available on Blu-ray - October 11, 2016
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Region A
Twilight Time presents Boxcar Bertha on 1080p with groovy results. The image is crisper than previously scene and far grittier. You can even taste the dirt. Framed in 1.85:1, the transfer is accurate when it comes to clothing and skin tones. Some scenes are a bit problematic considering the age of the film, but nothing that detracts from the sheer joy of its HD presentation. The sound is presented in a clear English 1.0 DTS-HD MA track that makes riding the rails feel oh so very lively.
You get an isolated score by composers Gib Gilbeau and Thad Maxwell, plus a trailer.