When Ernie Meets Lee: Emperor of the North
Six decades ago, Ernest Borgnine had a great year. Among the six 1955 releases in which he appeared, Bad Day at Black Rock and Violent Saturday (the latter on Twilight Time DVD and Blu-ray) cast him alongside fellow up-and-coming “character heavy” Lee Marvin, and Marty won him a Best Actor Oscar®, which boosted him to leading roles and growing audience appeal. Marvin had to wait 10 years for his career-enhancing Cat Ballou Oscar® victory. When they reunited, courtesy of director Robert Aldrich, both were in-demand stars and their project was one of 1967’s top box-office blockbusters: The Dirty Dozen. It was macho, brutal and thrilling. So, in a smaller-scale but no less powerful way, is the next Marvin/Borgnine/Aldrich collaboration, Emperor of the North (1973). This gritty outdoor yarn serves the two up as bitter enemies: Marvin’s A-No.-1 is a rail-riding hobo looked up to by his fellow Depression-era castoffs (a leader not far removed from The Professionals’ Rico Fardan) while Borgnine’s Shack is a sadistic, murderous (not unlike From Here to Eternity’s Fatso Judson) conductor who’ll let nobody ride for free. With its mix of scenic grandeur and in-your-face action between two screen icons synonymous with fighting fury, it’s your train ticket to matchless excitement. Emperor of the North comes to hi-def Blu-ray from Twilight Time on September 8; pre-orders open on August 26.