The sparse plot concerns a hobo named A-No.1 (Marvin) who takes up the challenge to hitch a ride upon a freight train guarded by a sadistic guard named Shack (Borgnine) who takes great pleasure in killing any unwelcome riders with Carradine being a cocky (and none too bright) youngster attempting to make a name for himself. The film was originally title EMPEROR OF THE NORTH POLE which was a slang term for the best hobo in the world, which in hobo parlance equates being king to the same as ruling over a frozen wasteland. It was quickly retitled with the shorter EMPEROR OF THE NORTH.
Filmed in the Pacific Northwest and set in almost entirely in dirty train yards and strangely empty trains that travel back and forth between two points with everything seemingly just set up as props to let Marvin and Borgnine face off like gladiators. Excellent work by the two leads (with Borgnine in probably the most sadistic role of his career) and a strangely off key movie that is well worth seeking out.