With a name like Sam Peckinpah's attached, you know you're in for a treat. Sadly, he didn't see the potential that we saw and jumped ship. The project was then picked up by Robert Aldrich who you may know from The Dirty Dozen. There's no doubt that Peckinpah would have created a bold and sadistic masterpiece, but I'd rather not chance time or fate and settle with this Western cult film of its own status.
Originally titled Emperor of the North Pole, the film was quickly re-titled after the name turned out to be synonymous with Christmas. Little did the general audience know that they were missing out on a hellacious masculine viewing experience which is above any modern language. Simply put, I've never seen a film quite like Emperor of the North. It is a deep seated film relaying historical events with the lifestyle of a hobo. This being of such critical importance as how our economy is in the middle of a meltdown situation.
Now there is a huge difference betwixt a homeless person and a hobo. A hobo (on screen) has the charisma to survive. He is armed with the will to steal and a sharp personality to boot. Homeless people are shown (and interact) as a sluggish, begging force that lacks any method of motivation. A lamprey, if you will. This film makes me appreciate the old times in which every man worked for his own, even if he had nothing to work towards. I hope if our current business climate plummets, that I'd be given the chance to hitch on trains.
Lee Marvin turns tables and heads as the legendary bum A-No. 1. This drifter is the greatest bum around. Ernest Borgnine plays Shack, a ruthless and sadistic train conductor who cherishes a threatening reputation of murdering any hobo that hitches his train without a ticket. Too bad old Shack meets his match when he crosses wits with A-No. 1.
Both Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine bring their exquisite personalities to the big screen in this film. I'd always admired Borgnine after he said the key to his long life was his frequent masturbation. It takes a gutsy character such as himself to boast something so bravado and impromptu as that. He might be a familiar face thanks to his role as Ted Denslow in BASEketball. A role that might have won his infinite favorings thanks to his ability to humor us so well. Trust me, after watching him act Shack's character, I like seeing him smile instead of snarl.
In a film that equates into a 10 minute long testosterone slinging death fest, Emperor of the North has anything that is apart of a daily breakfast. I'd like to imagine Peckinpah's credits stapled to the film, but this is a film best left untouched. A film preserved by its own natural contents, Emperor of the North is mandatory viewing for anyone interested in the history of film. Not only a rustic masterpiece, but a masterpiece with an extremely high replay value.