Available on DVD !
To buy, click on link(s) below and help keep this site afloat
Always make sure of DVD-compatibility !!!
The South of the USA in the Great Depression era: after Bertha's (Barbara
Hershey) father, a pilot, is driven into a fatal accident by his boss,
Bertha goes travelling through the country, primarily on boxcars, because
she has nothing else to do and because travelling on boxcars is the
Eventually, she makes the acquaintance of 'Big' Bill Shelley (David
Carradine), a unionist who seems to stand against everything that has
killed her father, and she is immediately infatuated by the man. Soon
enough the two become lovers and he even takes her virginity ... but then
Bertha makes the acquaintance of Rake (Barry Primus), a rather clumsy
gambler. Bertha on the other hand seems to have a natural talent for
gambling, so the two become a team - but Rake's clumsiness soon enough
gets them into trouble, and eventually they find themselves on the run
because a) she has shot a man, and b) because she has learned about a plot
to assassinate Bill - who is now referred to only as a Red
officially - and sees it her duty to go to hell and back to warn him.
Eventually, Bertha and Rake manage to catch up with Bill, but it's not
long before Bill gets arrested - and Rake with him.
Later: Bertha has found out where Bill is held, and she uses her female
charms to break him, Rake and Von (Bernie Casey), a large black guy, free.
Thing is, now they're on the lam, and to even survive, they have to commit
hold-up after hold-up, and while the others, especially Bertha, find this
rather exciting, Bill still thinks of himself as nothing but a unionist
and even tries to donate his share of the loot to the union - which
wouldn't even touch it with a stick. In the media, they soon have become
public enemies, they are not only criminals, what's worse they are also Reds,
and what's still worse, since they have a black man who shares equal
rights among their ranks they are also niggerlovers (definitely not
my kind of terminology I assure you but a direct quote from the film, used
there only as a reflection of racism in 1930's America).
Bill wants their fight to get political, so before long they resort to
only hit targets directly linked to the railroad corporation run by
Sartoris (John Carradine, David's father in real life) - which goes
amazingly well for a while until they walk right into a trap set up by
Sartoris and his henchmen, and all get captured safe from Bertha, who uses
her knowledge about (travelling by) boxcars to make a getaway.
Trying to hide from the law and trying to make a living, Bertha soon
enough becomes a prostitute ...
Then though Betha meets Von once more and leans that Bill has escaped
from prison - but when she finally arrives at his hideout, Sartoris'
henchmen have already tracked him down, brutally beat him up and then nail
him to the next boxcar like a latter day Jesus. Von arrives just too late
to prevent that, but he guns down all of Sartoris' henchmen, a bit like a deus
The last scene shows the train taking off with Bill still nailed to the
boxcar (and possibly dead by now), with Bertha desperately trying to catch
up - with the train and with him.
Let me state the obvious first: Boxcar Bertha was clearly
inspired by Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde from 1967, the parallels
between the two films are too apparent and AIP wouldn't have funded
this film by then newcomer Martin Scorsese otherwise. That said though,
the similarities between the two films are actually rather fleeting, sure
they are both about lovers who have turned to a life of crime, but
Scorsese's film focusses less on obviuos action scenes, the glamour and
glossy period imagery 1930's style but more on the film's characters, its
political background and the grittier sides of the Great Depression, qutie
besides giving the film a different spin by telling it from a woman's
point of view (and Barbara Hershey does a great job in carrying the film)
- and the more mainstream action finale where Von exacts justice by
gunning down all the bad guys actually feels a bit out of place in the
True, it might not be Martin Scorsese's best film, but hey, Martin
Scorsese has made so many great films ... and this one's still
pretty good ...