Boxcar Bertha

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Boxcar Bertha
Boxcar Bertha (1972).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMartin Scorsese
Produced byRoger Corman
Screenplay byJoyce H. Corrington
John William Corrington
Based onSister of the Road
by Ben L. Reitman
StarringBarbara Hershey
David Carradine
Barry Primus
Bernie Casey
John Carradine
Music byGib Guilbeau
Thad Maxwell
CinematographyJohn Stephens
Edited byBuzz Feitshans
Distributed byAmerican International Pictures
Release date
  • June 14, 1972 (1972-06-14)
Running time
87 minutes
CountryUnited States

Boxcar Bertha is a low budget 1972 American romantic crime drama film directed by Martin Scorsese.[1] 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.[2][3] It was Scorsese's second feature film.


The film tells the story of Boxcar Bertha Thompson and "Big" Bill Shelly, 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.[4] 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. The engine is currently at the Blacklands Railroad yard in Sulphur Springs Texas, 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.[5]

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."[6]


Boxcar Bertha received mixed reviews from critics. It holds a rating of 48% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 21 reviews.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Boxcar Bertha". Turner Classic Movies. United States: Turner Broadcasting System. Retrieved March 5, 2018.
  2. ^ Ben L. Reitman (1937). Sister of the Road. New York City: The Macaulay Company. ASIN B0008581E4.
  3. ^ Thompson, Howard (August 18, 1972). "The Screen: 'Boxcar Bertha' Tops Local Double Bill". The New York Times.
  4. ^ Chris Nashawaty, Crab Monsters, Teenage Cavemen and Candy Stripe Nurses - Roger Corman: King of the B Movie, Abrams, 2013 p 120
  5. ^ Gary A. Smith, The American International Pictures Video Guide, McFarland 2009 p 33
  6. ^ "THEATRE". Tharunka. 27, (13). New South Wales, Australia. 12 October 1981. p. 28. Retrieved 27 April 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  7. ^ "Boxcar Bertha (1972)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 14 June 2018.

External links[edit]