In today’s episode Nate and Austin compare Martin Scorsese’s best and worst rated films, Goodfellas (1990) and Boxcar Bertha (1972), respectively. Nate really enjoyed the extensive use of banjo music, Austin has a whole side episode dedicated to Leo, and Brandon asks a very simple question about Boxcar Bertha: why?
Check back next Sunday at 7pm PST where we will compare Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie (2001) and Alien: Resurrection (1997), his best and worst rated films.
Also check out this interview of director Martin Scorsese discussing Goodfellas:
Boxcar Bertha Notes
PLOT: During the depression, a union leader and a young woman become criminals to exact revenge on the management of a railroad.
- Ratings: IMDb 6.1 | RT 48% C / 34% A
- Released: 1972
- Director: Martin Scorsese
- Writer(s): Ben L. Reitman (book), Joyce Hooper Corrington & John William Corrington (screenplay)
- Cinematographer: John M. Stephens (Sorcerer, Billy Jack)
- Notable actors: Barbara Hershey, David Carradine, Barry Primus, Bernie Casey, John Carradine, Victor Argo, Harry Northup
- Budget: $600 thousand
- Box office: N/A
- Fun Facts:
- After he finished this film, Martin Scorsese screened it for John Cassavetes. Cassavetes, after seeing it, hugged Scorsese and said, “Marty, you’ve just spent a whole year of your life making a piece of shit. It’s a good picture, but you’re better than the people who make this kind of movie. Don’t get hooked into the exploitation market, just try and do something different.” Scorsese’s next film was Mean Streets (1973).
- David Carradine and Barbara Hershey were a couple at the time of filming.
- Martin Scorsese personally drew about 500 storyboards for this film
- The train sequences were shot first and they took about a week. This was done to get the most complicated element of the production, working with a moving train, out of the way first.
- There was a rumor that Roger Corman’s wife Julie Corman obtained the film rights to the story from Bertha Thompson herself after tracking her down in a San Francisco hotel room; she never actually met Thompson–because Thompson wouldn’t open the door-but that rumor wasn’t true. It may haver been a pre-release publicity stunt or maybe even a trick played on the Cormans by the true owner of the story, author Ben L. Reitman; the afterword in the fourth re-issue of the book “Boxcar Bertha” explained that the book is a work of fiction, and that the character Bertha Thompson was an amalgam of at least three women that Reitman knew, but was mostly modeled on a woman named Retta Toble.
PLOT: Henry Hill and his friends work their way up through the mob hierarchy.
- Ratings: IMDb 8.7 | RT 97% C / 97% A
- Released: 1990
- Director: Martin Scorsese
- Writer(s): Nicholas Pileggi (book), Nicholas Pileggi & Martin Scorsese (screenplay)
- Cinematographer: Michael Ballhaus (The Departed, Gangs of New York)
- Notable actors: Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino, Fran Sivero, Tony Darry, Mike Starr, Frank Vincent
- Budget: $25 million
- Box office: $46.8 million
- Fun Facts:
- The now-legendary Steadicam trip through the nightclub kitchen was a happy accident. Scorsese had been denied permission to go through the front, and had to improvise an alternative.
- In a documentary entitled The Real Goodfella (2006), which aired in the UK, Henry Hill claimed that Robert De Niro would phone him seven to eight times a day to discuss certain things about Jimmy’s character, such as how Jimmy would hold his cigarette, etc.
- According to the real Henry Hill, whose life was the basis for the book and film, Joe Pesci’s portrayal of Tommy DeSimone was 90% to 99% accurate, with one notable exception; the real Tommy DeSimone was a massively built, strapping man.
- According to Nicholas Pileggi, some actual mobsters were hired as extras to lend authenticity to scenes. The mobsters gave fake Social Security numbers to Warner Bros. and it is unknown how they received their paychecks.
- Martin Scorsese first got wind of Nicholas Pileggi’s book “Wiseguy” when he was handed the galley proofs. Although Scorsese had sworn off making another gangster movie, he immediately cold-called the writer and told him, “I’ve been waiting for this book my entire life.” To which Pileggi replied, “I’ve been waiting for this phone call my entire life.”
- According to Ray Liotta, Martin Scorsese was so involved in every detail of the cast’s wardrobe that he tied Liotta’s tie himself to make sure it was accurate for the film’s setting.
- Al Pacino was offered the role of Jimmy Conway, but he turned it down due to fears of typecasting. Ironically, that same year Pacino ended up playing an even more stereotyped gangster – Big Boy Caprice in Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy (1990). He admits he regrets this decision.
- The movie’s line “As far back as I could remember I’ve always wanted to be a gangster.” was voted as the #20 of “The 100 Greatest Movie Lines” by Premiere in 2007.
- Robert De Niro wanted to use real money for the scene where Jimmy hands out money. The prop master gave De Niro 5,000 dollars of his own money. At the end of each take, no one was allowed to leave the set until all the money was returned and counted.
- After Joe Pesci’s mother saw the film, she told her son that the movie was good, then asked him if he had to curse so much.
- Ray Liotta’s mother died of cancer during filming. Liotta says that he used his anger over losing his mother for certain scenes, the pistol-whipping scene in particular.
- The studio was initially very nervous about the film, due to its extreme violence and language. The film reportedly received the worst preview response in the studio’s history. Scorsese said that “the numbers were so low it was funny.” Nevertheless, the film was released without alteration to overwhelming critical acclaim, cementing Scorsese’s reputation as America’s foremost filmmaker.
- Although Scorsese and Pileggi collaborated on the screenplay (and received Oscar nominations for doing so), much of the film’s eventual dialogue was improvised by the actors.
- The dinner scene with Tommy’s mother was almost completely improvised by the actors, including Tommy asking his mother if he could borrow her butcher’s knife and Jimmy’s “hoof” comment.
- Paul Sorvino wanted to drop out of the role of Paulie, three days before filming began, because he felt that he lacked the cold personality to play the character. He called his agent and asked to be released from the film. Sorvino’s agent told him to think about it for one day before making a final decision. That night, Sorvino looked in the mirror and was frightened by the look on his face. He realized that that look was the look he needed to play Paulie.
- Tony Darrow who plays Sonny Bunz, the owner of the Bamboo Lounge, worked in the real-life Bamboo Lounge where Henry Hill, and the people, on whom the film’s characters are based, would hang out.
Intro music: Calm The Fuck Down – Broke For Free / CC BY 3.0