Movie review: "Emperor of the North" (1973)
Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Keith Carradine
Director: Robert Aldrich
"Emperor of the North" is an heroic film. They don't make too many like this one.
If you plan to watch it, do yourself a favor: plan to watch it twice.
Watch it once so you get the picture: a tramp named A No. 1 (Marvin) is a devil-may-care legendary figure in the hobo camps. He teaches a thing or three to the inexperienced Cigaret (Carradine). He challenges the thuggish railroad policeman, Shack (Borgnine), there's a supremely brutal fight on a rolling flatcar, the best 'bo wins, he finally rides Shack's "No. 19" to Portland, and, you guessed it, A No. 1 is the king of the road.
Sounds like a few of the "B" movies you've seen over the years?
All routinely imaginable stuff, but Marvin's imperial performance stirs the imagination.
Watch it again. Watch Mr. Marvin show you everything you ever wanted to know about classic heroism of the spirit. See him surpassing his impoverished circumstances to enjoy a rich life, embracing independence, rugged optimism, casually competent leadership, generous mentoring, and the dauntless strength of a Viking in mortal combat.
Finally, A No. 1 abandons the feckless Cigaret. "You had the juice, kid, but you didn't have the heart!"
A No. 1 rides off, northward, soaring, in high majesty, singing his victory.
Emperor of the North.