There is something rather humorous about the fact that this film, originally firmly in the exploitation genre (this is an American-International picture, produced by Roger Corman after all), should now be released under the “Avant-Garde Cinema” label. Go figure. It is important, however, as Martin Scorsese’s 1972 directorial debut.
Clearly inspired by the success of Bonnie and Clyde, Boxcar Bertha chronicles of the adventures of Bertha Thompson (Barbara Hershey, excellent) and her quartet …f friends during the Depression. Circumstance and coincidence first bring them together, then push them to a life of crime, plundering the unscrupulous railroad and passing on the loot to the workers.
Scorsese was given a free hand, as long as he respected the basic rules of exploitation (requisite nude scenes, violence, etc.). And there are more than a few hints of the talent behind the camera. The script is a bit choppy, and Taxi Driver is still a fair bit down the road, but the performances are disarmingly natural, and there are numerous felicitous camera tricks.
The sound is the original mono, and it could be better. Clarity fluctuates several times, and there is considerable distortion when the characters yell. Granted, many of these problems might well originate with the source material.
Whatever problems the sound may have are made up for by the picture quality, which is first-rate. The print is in impeccable condition, the format is 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and the picture is razor-sharp. Well nigh perfect colours too. The film looks like it was released yesterday.
Nothing to report here except a trailer.
Perhaps of interest primarily as a historical document, Boxcar Bertha is still worth watching in its own right (with, of course, your expectations tempered). A welcome release.
Special Features List
- Theatrical Trailer