Boxcar Bertha

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Boxcar Bertha
Boxcar Bertha (1972).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Produced by Roger Corman
Screenplay by Joyce H. Corrington
John William Corrington
Based on Sister of the Road
by Ben L. Reitman
Starring Barbara Hershey
David Carradine
Barry Primus
Bernie Casey
John Carradine
Music by Gib Guilbeau
Thad Maxwell
Cinematography John Stephens
Edited by Buzz Feitshans
Distributed by American International Pictures
Release date
  • June 14, 1972 (1972-06-14)
Running time
88 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $600,000

Boxcar Bertha is a 1972 American romantic crime drama film directed by Martin Scorsese. It is a loose adaptation of Sister of the Road, a pseudo-autobiographical account of the fictional character Bertha Thompson, written by Ben L. Reitman.[1] It was Scorsese's second feature film.


The film tells the story of Bertha Thompson (played by Barbara Hershey) and "Big" Bill Shelly (played by David Carradine), two train robbers and lovers who are caught up in the plight of railroad workers in the American South. When Bertha is implicated in the murder of a wealthy gambler, the pair become fugitives.



After the success of Bloody Mama, Roger Corman wanted to make another female gangster film. Julie Corman researched female gangsters and came across the story of Boxcar Bertha. Martin Scorsese was hired to direct on the strength of his first feature. He was given the lead actors, including Barbara Hershey, David Carradine, and Barry Primus, and a shooting schedule of 24 days in Arkansas.[2] The Reader Railroad was used for the train scenes.

The locomotive in those scenes was 1920 Baldwin 2-6-2 #108, who later saw service on the Conway Scenic Railroad in the late 1970s. It's currently at the Blacklands Railroad awaiting restoration. Locomotive #1702, a USATC S160 2-8-0 built by Baldwin in 1942, was also seen in the film as well. The locomotive is now operational at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.

Scorsese makes a cameo in the film as one of Bertha's clients during the brothel montage.[3]

Hershey later called the film "a lot of fun even though it's terribly crippled by Roger Corman and the violence and sex. But between the actors and Marty Scorsese the director, we had a lot of fun. We really had characters down but one tends to not see all that, because you end up seeing all the blood and sex."[4]


Boxcar Bertha received mixed reviews from critics. It holds a rating of 48% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 21 reviews.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Thompson, Howard (August 18, 1972). "The Screen: 'Boxcar Bertha' Tops Local Double Bill". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ Chris Nashawaty, Crab Monsters, Teenage Cavemen and Candy Stripe Nurses - Roger Corman: King of the B Movie, Abrams, 2013 p 120
  3. ^ Gary A. Smith, The American International Pictures Video Guide, McFarland 2009 p 33
  4. ^ "THEATRE". Tharunka. 27, (13). New South Wales, Australia. 12 October 1981. p. 28. Retrieved 27 April 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 

External links[edit]