Synopsis by Mark Deming
In this gritty and violent period drama set in the depths of the Great Depression, Lee Marvin stars as "A No. 1", the acknowledged King of the Hoboes. A No. 1 is famous among his fellow tramps for his ability to catch a ride on any train, no matter how risky the hop or dangerous the guards. He acts as a sort of mentor for Cigaret (Keith Carradine), a young hobo who brags that some day he'll surpass A No. 1 in his accomplishments. But neither has had the courage to ride a train guarded by Shack (Ernest Borgnine), an unusually sadistic railroad cop who will brutally beat or even murder any man who tries to catch a ride on his train. A No. 1 is determined that no one, not even Cigaret, is going to deny him his title, so taking his life in his hands, he and Cigaret hop a ride on Shack's train, and they are soon bearing the full brunt of his violent nature. Emperor of the North features superb location photography by Joseph F. Biroc and a fine supporting cast, including Charles Tyner, Simon Oakland, Elisha Cook Jr., and Sid Haig.
bum, attack, bad-guy, battle [war], camp, chain, death, drifter, fame, good-guy, police, railroad, rival, train [locomotive], traveling