Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Overlooked Films: Boxcar Bertha

Based on a true story! It's the Great Depression. Bertha (Barbara Hershey) loses her father in a plane crash. She can't support herself on the family farm, so she hits the road. She meets a union organizer called Big Bill (David Carradine), and together they take on the railroad barons all across the south. Sort of like Bonnie and Clyde taking on the banks, with pretty much the same result.

It's a lot of fun along the way, with plenty of violence and some good performances. There's a nice confrontation scene between David Carradine and his father, John, representing the railroads. Bernie Casey is pretty good, too, and when you have Barbara Hershey in the '70s, you don't even need acting. Not that she's not good. She is.

Maybe it's set in the '30s, but Boxcar Bertha is very much a '70s movie. Dig the poster, which is as '70s as you can get in its own way. The tagline. The heavy-handed symbolism. Great stuff.

Martin Scorsese directed, so you might guess that this was before he became the "name" director he is today. You should see it just to say you've seen his exploitation flick.


  1. You have something in Barbara Hershey in every decade, both in acting and aspect, though this film does demonstrate that in both arenas better than did the previous LAST SUMMER (and one does hope it was intentional makeup rather than unintentional plastic surgery disaster that helped her in the BLACK SWAN role). One can definitely see the Baby Scorcese-ism in this Film School-influenced, relatively ambitious, impressive-cast commercial cheapie...

  2. Anonymous8:29 AM

    Barbara was extremely hot back then, a couple of years after LAST SUMMER. I always thought she was wasted herself on Carradine.

    Sad to see how badly she looks in BLACK SWAN...


  3. Steve Oerkfitz9:01 AM

    Didn't she refer to herself as Barbara Seagull for awhile during this period?

  4. Anonymous9:13 AM

    Haven't seen this one but I saw Big Bad Mama with Angie Dickinson several times on cable back in the early 80s. I think that was also a Roger Corman production.

    Dan Luft

  5. Somehow I've never seen this one, but it was already on my Netflix list, so I'll get to it eventually. I have seen BIG BAD MAMA, which Dan mentions, and it's probably worthy of one of these posts.

  6. Big Bad Mama's a stone classic, James. Just ask Jeff Meyerson.

  7. Barbara Hershey looked so bad in "Black Swan," she should sue the director. I remember in the early 1970s she went by the name Barbara Seagull for a while. I saw her on a TV show (after she changed her name back to Hershey) and she was talking about her son with David Carradine, who they had named "Free." One day he came to her and said, "What does free mean?" And she said, "It means you're free to change your name if you want to." To which he replied, "Good, from now on I want to be called Tom." And, as far as I know, he still is called Tom.