Lee Marvin …. A No. 1
Ernest Borgnine …. Shack
Keith Carradine …. Cigaret
20th Century Fox presents Emperor of the North. Written by Christopher Knopf Min. Running Time: 120 minutes. Rated PG
At first glance this movie is pretty silly. Borgnine is the most nortorious Railroad Man on the tracks. No bum has ever ridden his train and lived to tell about it. Marvin is A No. 1, the only bum willing to go against him. But with these great actors and a good director they pull together a pretty decent film.
Each characters introduction shows just how badass they are. Borgnine catches a bum on his train, sneaks up on him and bashes him in the head with a mallet. The bum falls under the wheels of the train and gets cut in half. Marvin is a bum along the tracks with a chicken (for some reason) three kids try to steal the chicken from him and he beats them down, with the chicken!
A No. 1 jumps on Shack’s train as it goes by and one the kids who tried to rob him, Cigaret, follows. Cigaret is a smart mouthed brat who keeps talking his way into trouble. The train stops at a station after A No. 1 starts a fire on the train. He escapes, but Cigaret is captured. A No. 1, who is now hanging out in a shantytown, learns that Cigaret is taking credit for riding Shack’s train so A No. 1 decides he’s going to ride it all the way to Portland.
A No. 1 makes it on the train just barely and is shocked to find Cigaret somehow made it on the train as well. A No. 1 is annoyed at first but they soon develop a love hate relationship, and A No. 1 teaches Cigaret what it means to be a bum. They ride a little while but eventually Shack catches them and knocks them off the train, Shack throws a hammer at Cigaret’s head. But that doesn’t stop A No. 1 and Cigaret. They jump the next train and catch up with Shack at the next station. There is some more back and forth between A No. 1 and Shack before they’re final fight on the train. It’s a slow moving movie, but it has a great ending. Seeing Borgnine and Marvin go head to head is any action film fan’s dream.
For a film that opens with the scrolling title telling us that it is 1933 during the great depression and explains the continuing battle between the Railroad Man and the bum like historical fact, there are a lot of moments in this film they a very unbelievable. Characters seems to pop right were they need to be with no explaination as to how they got there. However, the performances from Borgnine and Marvin are so fantastic that you almost don’t care.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: 7/10
TOTAL POINTS: 35/50
FINAL SCORE: 7/10
Three shots from that great final fight.
The film is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1. The transfer is really good for a film released in 1973.
This film is presented in both Stereo and Mono formats. You can also watch it in Spanish and French (both Mono).
Commentary by Noted Film Historian Dana Polan: This is pretty boring. It’s like being in a film class. You might get some interesting facts here if you’re willing to sit through it all.
Original Theatrical Trailer & 2 TV Spots