Tag Archives: 1972

Boxcar Bertha (1972) Review

Time: 88 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Barbara Hershey as Boxcar Bertha
David Carradine as Big Bill Shelly
Barry Primus as Rake Brown
Bernie Casey as Von Morton
John Carradine as H. Buckram Sartoris
Director: Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese’s second feature loosely adapts the autobiography of Bertha Thompson, portraying the adventures of the Depression-era criminal following the death of her father. Bertha (Barbara Hershey) joins union organizer “Big” Bill Shelly (David Carradine) in fighting anti-union forces after an unexpected murder drives them to a life of robbing trains. The atmospheric tale depicts their life on the lam, doing whatever is necessary to survive.

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After Who’s that Knocking at My Door, Martin Scorsese’s next film would be an exploitation movie of all things, and produced by Roger Corman. While he’s definitely advanced as a director and there are some good parts to it, Boxcar Bertha is ultimately just another exploitation movie that’s not the best showcase for his talents.

I will preface this by saying that my review is looking at it many years after I saw this movie, so I’m going back and reminding myself of what the movie is. My memory of the movie isn’t all that great. The ‘plot’ is really nothing special and it’s rather uninteresting really. More than likely a big part of it is due to the fact that this was an exploitation movie, and it needed to rely on sex and violence, and those only served to distract and heavily affect the pacing. For my problems with the movie, I do feel like removing a lot of those elements would’ve improved the movie quite a lot. With that said, I can’t say for certain that Scorsese not making this an exploitation movie would’ve made this actually good. The highlight of the entire movie was the last 10 minutes, Scorsese took the plot to a dark and violent place, and not the over the top exploitation route either. So I guess if you stuck around for the whole movie, you are rewarded by a good point to end it off on.

A lot of the cast is quite talented and it still comes across in the movie, but there’s only so much that they can do with the material that they are given. The characters aren’t exactly delved into a lot. Barbara Hershey is the highlight performance as Bertha, and she worked well with David Carradine as the lead couple of the movie. Some of the other supporting actors like Barry Primus and Bernie Casey also work. Nothing to really say about the rest of the cast.

Martin Scorsese’s direction sure has improved since his last movie, but it doesn’t really feel like one of his movies at the same time. It feels like a Roger Corman movie delivered with the talent of a director of Martin Scorsese’s calibre at that time. You can really see from Boxcar Bertha that he had more skill than this movie deserved. A lot of the violence and sex are straight out of a B movie. As I said earlier though, the latter portion does feel like it was directed by Scorsese and that was quite good.

I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a bad movie, but Boxcar Bertha is really nothing special. I like some of the acting, and Scorsese’s direction really shines through from time to time, but otherwise it’s just another exploitation movie. It’s one of my least favourites of his movies, if not my least favourite. The best thing to come out of this was the fact that after director John Cassavetes saw a screening of this movie, he told Scorsese to direct something much better, and indeed a year later he would come out with Mean Streets, which was basically his breakout movie. I’d basically say if you’re a Scorsese completionist or if you’re into exploitation movies then check it out. Otherwise this isn’t essential viewing by any means.

The Godfather (1972)

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The Godfather

Time: 175 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence
Cast:
Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone
Al Pacino as Michael Corleone
James Caan as Sonny Corleone
Richard Castellano as Clemenza
Robert Duvall as Tom Hagan
Sterling Hayden as Capt. McCluskey
John Marley as Jack Woltz
Richard Conte as Barzini
Diane Keaton as Kay Adams
Director: Francis Ford Coppola

“Don” Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) is the head of the Corleone Mafia Family. His younger son Michael (Al Pacino) has returned from the war and is the only family member not involved with the mafia. Things however change when the family is threatened by a rival. The film is based on the bestselling novel by Mario Puzo.

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The Godfather is one of cinemas all time classics but you’ve probably heard this many times before. It is a brilliant crime drama that doesn’t just focus on the crime business but also on the characters occupying it. It has great acting, well written dialogue, developed characters and an atmosphere that really invested me in the story.

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Pacing-wise, this movie does take its time, it took a second viewing for me to really like this movie because of how uninterested and slightly bored I was the first time I watched it – especially in the middle section. On the second viewing I noticed how the pacing is actually well set up; it starts out slow as the events unravel over time. Also great is the fact that the characters are contrasted and are really well developed. Interestingly, some of the characters are sympathetic and relatable, despite this technically being a gangster movie. There are so many characters that it is kind of hard keeping track of everyone; fortunately for most people including myself, I managed to keep track of the main characters.

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The best thing about the movie is the acting. Marlon Brando manages to personify Vito Corleone strongly and turns in one of those rare performances where they are a presence, even when they aren’t on screen. He is very subtle in his role as well as making him feel genuine and realistic. He also manages to act older than he does, which is helped with the great makeup. Al Pacino is also worth mentioning as he is the character that arguably goes through the most change throughout the story; his character’s transformation is so great because Pacino manages to make the changes very subtle. Other performances from actors like James Caan, and Robert Duvall are also great.

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The cinematography is also well done; it is beautifully photographed and is well suited to the era; a great example is the opening which is about a few minutes of a man – over those minutes the shot is being zoomed out. The lighting is also great; the opening again is a good example of this. The movie was also well edited, the best example of the scene is the baptism scene; while a baptism is happening a lot of events are happening at the same time and are fit in well – in my opinion it is the best scene in the movie. Another thing worth mentioning is the score by Nino Rota. Every time one of the songs from that core was playing I felt the presence of the godfather – that’s how the score is to me.

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If I was advising someone to watch the movie, the first thing I’d suggest that they should walk into the movie without the ‘greatest movie of all time’ hype as it may affect your first viewing – that happened with me. Just go into the movie expecting it to be good without expectations that would possibly end up disappointing the movie for you. For me, although it is a gangster movie I don’t usually view it as that – I view it as a complex family drama. Even as a gangster movie, I still prefer Goodfellas or Casino but there is no denying how much of an impact The Godfather has made on cinema. Overall the movie is a masterpiece and a great example of how great movies can be.