The overlooked Scorsese films….

The overlooked Scorsese films

Widely regarded as America’s greatest living director Martin Scorsese has the most impressive back catalogue of films that have includes more than its fair share of bona fide classics including Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and of course Goodfellas which often duels with The Godfather as the greatest mafia movie ever made. But we thought we’d take a look at those overlooked Scorsese films that are often forgotten starting with……

Boxcar Bertha (1972)

This was Scorsese’s first feature film made for a bargain basement $600K for Roger Corman. With a cast that included Barbara Hershey and David & John Carradine it’s a story set during the great depression where a union leader and a woman become criminals in order to exact revenge on the management of a railroad. Hershey and David Carradine were a couple at the time and shooting the sex scenes  the couple said they shot the scenes ‘ without having to fake anything.”  It’s far from a good film and earned a meagre $6k at the box office. When Scorsese showed it to John Cassavettes he was told, ‘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.” He took his words to heart and the following year he made Mean Streets with fledgling actor Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel. If nothing else Boxcar Bertha featured the first of several infrequent cameos Scorsese would make throughout his own films……

Alice doesn’t live here anymore (1974)

With the acclaim of Mean Streets Scorsese went on to make Alice doesn’t live here anymore about a recently widowed woman on the road with her precocious young son determined to make a life for herself as a singer.  With Ellen Burstyn now a hot property after the monumental success of The Exorcist and starring opposite Kris Kristofferson the film had good reviews and it would win Burstyn a Best Actress Oscar and BAFTA with Scorsese earning his first Best Director BAFTA nomination. Scorsese was now attracting critical acclaim for his work and his next film Taxi Driver would confirm his arrival as major artist.


The Last Waltz (1977)

After the success of Taxi Driver he would leave narrative films behind to make the documentary The Last Waltz about the final performance of The Band but would also include Muddy Waters Neil Young, Eric Clapton and Robbie Robertson who would later in his career provide the score for Killers of the Flower Moon. It’s a documentary record full of great performances and iconic moments and remains a highly regarded music documentary despite making barely any money on release


Kundun (1997)

Scorsese , himself a devout Catholic had always been interested in spirituality and his reputation meant that he had the clout to make very personal films of which Kundun was undoubtedly one. Written by Melissa Matheson, who had E.T. to her credit, the film followed the 14th Dalia lama from childhood to adulthood while facing up to Chinese oppression. It was a deeply personal project for Scorsese whose mother passed away during production but it was undoubtedly of niche appeal and the film costing $28m only made $5.6m worldwide.


Bringing out the Dead (1999)

This saw the director reunite with his Taxi Driver screenwriter Paul Schrader with a story of an exhausted ambulance paramedic haunted by the patients he failed to save and battles to hold onto his sanity over three increasingly troubled night shifts. It starred Nicholas Cage who had been on a roll of successful films throughout the nineties that included his oscar winning turn in Leaving Las Vegas and then a trio of classic actioners The Rock, Con Air and Face Off and the opportunity for him to work with Scorsese was a chance that any actor would leap at. But for Scorsese it was not an enjoyable shoot with most of it shot over 65 nights in a cold New York winter. The film was not a success earning less than $7m off its $16m budget and earned no Oscar nominations whatsoever. Bringing out the Dead is perhaps the most overlooked Scorsese films


Silence (2016)

Silence had long been a passion project for Scorsese and had been working on the film for years. It was perhaps the culmination of his exploration of Catholicism with a story set in the 17th century where two Jesuit  priests travel to japan in an effort to locate their mentor who is rumoured to have committed apostasy (the total rejection of Christianity by a baptized person who, having at one time professed the Christian faith, publicly rejects it). Much like Kundun this was very much a niche film but with a starry cast that included Adam Driver, Andrew Garfield and Liam Neeson . It was a sincere exploration of faith , a theme that ran through many of his films but audiences were not so enamoured with the films  box office earnings of only £23m on a rumoured $50m budget. The academy recognised the film only for its cinematography with Rodrigo Prieto receiving an Oscar nomination but losing to ‘La La Land’. Silence is reviewed HERE

So those are the overlooked Scorsese films….

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