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Emperor of the North

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Product Details

  • Actors: Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Keith Carradine, Charles Tyner, Malcolm Atterbury
  • Directors: Robert Aldrich
  • Writers: Christopher Knopf, Jack London
  • Producers: Kenneth Hyman, Stanley Hough
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), French (Dolby Digital 1.0), Spanish (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: June 6, 2006
  • Run Time: 118 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (158 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,109 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Emperor of the North" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Commentary by film historian Dana Polan
  • TV Spots and Trailer

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

A legendary depression-era hobo and his young accomplice battle a sadistic railroad worker in a determined bid to hitch a ride.


Emperor of the North, a vivid Depression-era drama, opens with a friendly, down-home song that doesn't prepare the audience for what follows: The brutal killing of a train-hopping bum at the hands of a cruel conductor named Shack (Ernest Borgnine, Marty, The Poseidon Adventure). A hobo called A-No. 1 (Lee Marvin, Cat Ballou, The Big Heat) rises to the challenge of catching a ride on Shack's train--but his heels are dogged by a tenderfoot (Keith Carradine, Deadwood, Nashville), whose inexperience may get them both killed. Director Robert Aldrich (The Dirty Dozen, Kiss Me Deadly) has a sure feel for male behavior driven by pride, boredom, and desperation. The swagger gets a little overblown at times, but more often Emperor of the North has a gritty realism, peppered with flashes of sardonic humor and surprising compassion. Aldrich has a gift for a loose yet always watchable story, filled with engaging bit parts and offbeat incidents that flesh out the world and make the main storyline all the more compelling. Marvin and Borgnine--craggy-faced character actors deluxe--are in excellent form, but Carradine steals the movie with his bitter, callow arrogance. (Originally titled Emperor of the North Pole, a bit of hobo lingo.) --Bret Fetzer

Customer Reviews

Great, very great movie and performance.
Sonny Naclerio
If you like the oldies, you will like this movie.
M. Bachtel
I Been Wanting This Movie For A Long Time.
John J. Marco

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

137 of 149 people found the following review helpful By Theodore R. Hazen on March 26, 2006
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
EMPEROR OF THE NORTH POLE is my favorite movies, and LEE MARVIN is one of my favorite actors. I have been waiting for years for this movie to come out on DVD. I hope the DVD includes features such as the movie trailer, and the "making of feature" (which I have seen for sale separately on video tape), and a photo gallery.

Why is this my favorite movie? I grew up where the real A-No.1 hung out, where his 12 books on being a hobo were published, and where he finally settled down, and died. A-No.1 was a real life folk hero featured in a college class on American Folklore. A-No.1 a.k.a. LEON RAY LIVINGSTON (1872-1944) was born in San Francisco, and at the young age of 11 young LEON RAY LIVINGSTON ran away from home and took to the rails. He had a done something, he couldn't recall exactly what it was, and feared that his parents would punish him, and rather than face his father he ran away being inspired by the song, "THE BIG ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN." My great grandfather (The Jew) lived in a rooming house in Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania, where A-No.1 would stay when he was in town, and where A-No.1 would meet his future wife. My mother's father (Steve German) rode the rails when he first came to this country in 1910. My great uncle Henry L. spent most of his life living as a hermit in tar paper shacks and hollowed out earth mounds. When the Gypsies came to town, I would go with him to listen to the music around the campfire at night. As a young kid I (Grahamqckr) had to ride the rails as well. It will remain the happiest time of my life being chased by railroad dicks though train yards. And I worked in a flour mill where the owner Harry Moffatt remembered seeing A-No.1 when he would come into town. A-No.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By J. Terry on April 10, 2006
Format: DVD
If you're a working railroader or just a railfan, Emperor of the North deserves to be in your DVD collection. There is no better film out there about steam railroading, period. The opening scenes of No. 19 steaming through Oregon's scenic Doe River Valley are alone enough to recommend this DVD - rarely has a steam locomotive been captured so well on celluloid. Sure, the acting can get a little corny at times, but the train scenes more than make up for this.

FYI: the film was shot on the Oregon Pacific & Eastern out of Cottage Grove, Oregon. The "main" locomotive, No. 19, is a 2-8-2 Mikado type built by Baldwin in 1915 for the Caddo & Choctaw, and it later spent time on the McCloud River and the Yreka Western before being moved to the OP&E in 1971. For the movie, No. 19 was given a different tender and a basic black paint job lacking the fancy silver trim that it normally wore. Its main duty on the OP&E was to haul the Saturday-Sunday tourist train between the Village Green Station at Cottage Grove to Culp Creek, which it did from 1971-1988. There are some fantastic close-up scenes of No. 19 in Emperor of the North, and Malcom Atterbury is perfectly cast as "Hogger," No. 19's faithful engineer.

The other engine seen in the movie is 2-8-0 No. 5 from the Magma Arizona, an American Locomotive Company product of 1922. If you look carefully you'll see that it wore three numbers in Emperor of the North - #4, #27, and #5. Both of these engines still exist. No. 19 is at Yreka, California on the Yreka Western where it is being repaired to haul tourist trains again, and No. 5 is on display at a railroad museum in Galveston, Texas.

Unfortunately, the railroad as seen in the movie no longer exists.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Larry Neal Poole on March 30, 2006
Format: DVD
I am indebted to Messrs. Eckman and Hazen for their excellent reviews of the finest movie ever made of the romance of the rails. I have admired this movie ever since it was first released in 1973, and have seen it on TV a number of times. Like them, I have always wondered why it took so long to see it on DVD, and I rejoice that it will be available soon and at such an unbelieveably low price. My regard for it is such that I have checked on it's availability on DVD every month for the past 5 years and came away disappointed.

Mr. Hazen's detailed and fascinating review is a treasure house of hobo lore, and I am indebted to him for his list of Leon Ray Livingston's books, the model for Lee Marvin's A-No.1 movie character. I printed his review and am keeping it for future reference. Being the voracious reader I have always been, I look forward to reading these books, and to receiving the DVD in June.

At the age of 69, I was priviledged to see the last great days of the steam era and it's rag-tag denizens. "Emperor of the North" is a wonderful window into that fascinating and unique time. Borgnine, Marvin and Carradine are supurb in their roles. The cinematography, character development and screenplay cannot be faulted. The fine supporting cast includes the underrated character actor Simon Oakland as the cop who pursues Cigaret(Carradine)into the hobo camp and is forced to immitate a howling dog by it's bemused residents.

Buy this movie! You won't be disappointed.
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