Emperor of the North

1973

Action / Adventure / Drama / Thriller

2
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 80%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 85%
IMDb Rating 7.4 10 4519

Synopsis


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February 10, 2016 at 10:53 AM

Director

Cast

Keith Carradine as Cigaret
Lance Henriksen as Railroad worker
Lee Marvin as A No. 1
720p 1080p
849.51 MB
1280*720
English
PG
23.976 fps
1hr 58 min
P/S 2 / 4
1.8 GB
1920*1080
English
PG
23.976 fps
1hr 58 min
P/S 5 / 5

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Robert J. Maxwell ([email protected]) 7 / 10

Riding the Rails

This is the kind of story that Tom Wolfe might have written. It's about what he would have called a "status-sphere" and ordinary sociologists would have called a subculture. It's about competition within a limited environment, about acquiring status, about working your way up the ladder of prestige within a particular specialized structure by means of courage, skill, and strategy. Only instead of the wild blue yonder, or landing on the heaving deck of an aircraft carrier, or NASCAR racing, the thing to be conquered here is Ernest Borgnine, the sadistic conductor who chuckles as he throws hobos off his train, sometimes to their deaths, kind of redoing his Fatso Judson number.

It's a classical subculture in that it has all the features of a closed world with its own values. Everyone seems to know everyone else. And, as in most subcultures, including those that used to be called "primitive societies," the initiate is given a new name. In other movies exploring such subcultures they may have names like "Fast Eddy," "Minnesota Fats," "Maverick," "Dragstrip," "Charlie the Gent." Here they have names like "A Number 1" (Lee Marvin), "Cigaret" (Keith Carradine), and "Shack" (Borgnine). They even had their own written language, a set of pictographs scratched into rocks or written in dirt, conveying messages like, "This family good for a free meal," or , "Work for a meal," or, "Stay away. Cops." There were small communities of hobos, often carved out of track-side garbage dumps.

Interesting cast, by the way, a lot of familiar faces in bit parts -- Simon Oakland, Elija Cook Jr.

Makeup and Wardrobe Departments have done a fine job of turning them into 'Bos. They don't look Hollywood dirty, with a few smears of mud. They just look dirty. Their clothing is filthy. All in all, a good delousing looks called for. Marvin's face, by the time this was released, looked just beat-up enough, and from life, not booze. And check out his decaying lower incisors.

The plot has to do with a duel of wits between Marvin, who is determined to demonstrate his skill at the top of the status ziggurat by riding Borgnine's train to Porland, OR. Borgnine, much to the puzzlement of the rest of the train crew, is obsessed with keeping his freight train clean of hitch-hikers. He's fiendishly clever in smoking out and hurting riders. Carradine is the kind of youth often called "callow." He brags a lot and is brave but, alas, is unable to absorb the rules of the game because he plays for reasons of self aggrandizement, not for the team. He winds up in the drink.

There's something else about this movie that may keep a viewer interested. It takes place during the depression. The trains are slow, fed by coal, and powered by steam. They rock back and forth gently, as if trying to put a passenger or a stowaway to sleep. And they travel through a sunny evergreen wilderness in the Northwest. It's the kind of scenic journey you now have to pay for if you want to make a round trip to San Juan, CO. What was in the 1930s essential to a certain kind of existence has now been vulgarized and turned into a tourist's delight.

It's a small story about small people. There is nothing epic about it. The score seems to owe something to Burt Bacharach, who was so successful a few years earlier with "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." And, for my taste, there are one or two too many choker close-ups filling the screen with monstrous teeth and sweaty flesh. But it's hard to ignore the movie. You'll probably want to find out what happens next.

Reviewed by tdemos 9 / 10

One of the great unsung films of the 1970's

The 1970's were known for gritty, sometimes violent movies about cops and criminals (You may remember classics like Serpico, The French Connection, Dog Day Afternoon, the 7 Ups, The Dirty Harry movies). There were a few exceptions dealing with depression-era subjects (Bonnie & Clyde, The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon, Days of Heaven) and this mostly unknown and unsung masterpiece with the confusing title.

I was just a teenager when this movie was released in theatres. (There were no DVD's or VHS home releases back then). I caught just a few brief commercial promos on TV advertising "Emperor of the North Pole" and from that moment, I was hooked and had to see it. Then, in the flash of a weekend passing it was gone, yanked from the schedule at the local theatre. Perhaps it was considered too brutish in its violence or perhaps the misleading title "Emperor of the North Pole" kept audiences out of the theatre. There was further confusion for years afterwards when the reissue title came out as "Emperor of the North".

I never did get to see it way back when, but it stayed in my memory and thankfully in the era of satellite dishes and 24 hour movie channels, it lives again for the world to see in all its glory.

For those who love steam engine trains, this movie, (along with "The Train" and "Danger Lights") is an absolute must see. Director Robert Aldrich having completed the acclaimed and commercially successful "The Dirty Dozen" just 6 years earlier had the resources, the artistic courage, and the benefit of working with two veteran Dirty Dozen actors (Lee Marvin & Ernest Borgnine)who just lock-on to their respective characters with perfection.

The casting of this movie, (especially the minor roles of all the bo's and the railroad men) is superb. The cinematography is also fantastic and not only captures the beauty of Oregon, but a sense of the time and place of a depression-era story. Even the changing Oregon weather (alternating rainy-foggy days, with bright sunshine, is depicted accurately). The viewer can actually feel the cold of the soaking rain as the two hobos ride the passenger car. The frequent violence is brutal but a necessary part of the tale.

As for the story itself, the hobo's speak their own language in a kind of closed-society lyrical tongue that seems to be partially inspired by the depression era paintings of Thomas Hart Benton. It's not Shakespeare, but half the fun is trying to figure out what they are saying.

The music track, although it mostly works for the movie, seems oddly out-of-place with the period depicted, as it has a definite 1960's elevator-beautiful music component, at times. Not that this takes away anything from the movie, however. Similar, out-of-the-era music exists in great movies like, The Sting, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Ryan's Daughter.

Even the effects soundtrack is a masterpiece of tight editing that greatly adds to the enjoyment of the movie. Listen to the whistle blowing of the opposing "mail train" slowly growing in intensity during the scene where the two trains are highballing it to a full head-on crash. Certainly one of the most frightening moments of any "train" picture. This is film-making at its best.

Also appreciated... a subtle moment when a passenger train is pulling into the station and the viewer hears (but does not see) what might be typical comments from the passengers from a 1930's-era train. "The train only stops for a few minutes"..."I think I'll buy a newspaper", etc.

Emperor of the North Pole is great movie and an absolute must see if you are a fan of vintage railroading, Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Aldrich, or Keith Carradine. You won't be disappointed!

Reviewed by Robert J. Maxwell ([email protected]) 7 / 10

One of the Best Photographed Movies Ever

This is the kind of story that Tom Wolfe might have written. It's about what he would have called a "status-sphere" and ordinary sociologists would have called a subculture. It's about competition within a limited environment, about acquiring status, about working your way up the ladder of prestige within a particular specialized structure by means of courage, skill, and strategy. Only instead of the wild blue yonder, or landing on the heaving deck of an aircraft carrier, or NASCAR racing, the thing to be conquered here is Ernest Borgnine, the sadistic conductor who chuckles as he throws hobos off his train, sometimes to their deaths, kind of redoing his Fatso Judson number.

It's a classical subculture in that it has all the features of a closed world with its own values. Everyone seems to know everyone else. And, as in most subcultures, including those that used to be called "primitive societies," the initiate is given a new name. In other movies exploring such subcultures they may have names like "Fast Eddy," "Minnesota Fats," "Maverick," "Dragstrip," "Charlie the Gent." Here they have names like "A Number 1" (Lee Marvin), "Cigaret" (Keith Carradine), and "Shack" (Borgnine). They even had their own written language, a set of pictographs scratched into rocks or written in dirt, conveying messages like, "This family good for a free meal," or , "Work for a meal," or, "Stay away. Cops." There were small communities of hobos, often carved out of track-side garbage dumps.

Interesting cast, by the way, a lot of familiar faces in bit parts -- Simon Oakland, Elija Cook Jr.

Makeup and Wardrobe Departments have done a fine job of turning them into 'Bos. They don't look Hollywood dirty, with a few smears of mud. They just look dirty. Their clothing is filthy. All in all, a good delousing looks called for. Marvin's face, by the time this was released, looked just beat-up enough, and from life, not booze. And check out his decaying lower incisors.

The plot has to do with a duel of wits between Marvin, who is determined to demonstrate his skill at the top of the status ziggurat by riding Borgnine's train to Porland, OR. Borgnine, much to the puzzlement of the rest of the train crew, is obsessed with keeping his freight train clean of hitch-hikers. He's fiendishly clever in smoking out and hurting riders. Carradine is the kind of youth often called "callow." He brags a lot and is brave but, alas, is unable to absorb the rules of the game because he plays for reasons of self aggrandizement, not for the team. He winds up in the drink.

There's something else about this movie that may keep a viewer interested. It takes place during the depression. The trains are slow, fed by coal, and powered by steam. They rock back and forth gently, as if trying to put a passenger or a stowaway to sleep. And they travel through a sunny evergreen wilderness in the Northwest. It's the kind of scenic journey you now have to pay for if you want to make a round trip to San Juan, CO. What was in the 1930s essential to a certain kind of existence has now been vulgarized and turned into a tourist's delight.

It's a small story about small people. There is nothing epic about it. The score seems to owe something to Burt Bacharach, who was so successful a few years earlier with "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." And, for my taste, there are one or two too many choker close-ups filling the screen with monstrous teeth and sweaty flesh. But it's hard to ignore the movie. You'll probably want to find out what happens next.

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