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The Narrow Margin

Released May 4, 1952 1h 11m Crime Drama List
100% Tomatometer 12 Reviews 88% Audience Score 1,000+ Ratings
Tense story of a tough cop attempting to transport the widow of a gangster to the trial in which she'll testify. They undertake a rail journey from Chicago to Los Angeles with their lives constantly under threat from hit men on the train, who will stop at nothing to prevent her from testifying. Read More Read Less
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Critics Reviews

View All (12) Critics Reviews
Francois Truffaut Cahiers du Cinéma The Narrow Margin... is charged with very moral nitroglycerine but confers a grace that any sweaty driver of a heavy, slow-moving vehicle might envy. May 10, 2022 Full Review Mike Massie Gone With The Twins Surprisingly, there are a few lulls, and the closing moments lack the zest seen in these edgier films noir, even though the screenplay holds more than one brilliant twist. Rated: 7/10 Aug 23, 2020 Full Review Geoffrey O'Brien The New York Review of Books Rapid, concise, and beautifully photographed, The Narrow Margin is an exercise in craft with few reverberations beyond the fascination of its technological exactness. Aug 13, 2018 Full Review David Nusair Reel Film Reviews ...a stripped-down premise that's employed to watchable yet far-from-enthralling effect... Rated: 2.5/4 Mar 21, 2018 Full Review Emanuel Levy EmanuelLevy.Com The cast may be B-level, but the sharp writing, taut direction, and production values of the Richard Fleischer's noir thriller (which is superior to the 1990 remake) are not. Rated: A- Feb 18, 2011 Full Review Fernando F. Croce CinePassion Along with Ulmer's Detour, the ultimate noir "aesthetics of hunger" manifesto Mar 14, 2010 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

View All (94) audience reviews
Steve D Not a lot new here but entertaining. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 04/06/24 Full Review Morvia 8thsin/ 3 The movie in duration in acting puts the viewer into the film as not wanting to leave the viewer while many lines are classic and not matched from any of my viewing experiences. This movie stands the test of time in my opinion as there are not any imperfections nor inconsistencies. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 05/30/24 Full Review j f RKO and Robert Fleischer make another B that bangs! Rated 5 out of 5 stars 07/21/24 Full Review Taylor L "You make me sick to my stomach." "Well use your own sink." Love a movie that takes place on a train, the confined spaces and sense of urgency are great, and The Narrow Margin is no exception. It was a relatively inexpensive film to produce, features no Hollywood royalty (Charles McGraw and Marie Windsor were classic noir regulars, but don't carry the pop-culture impact of Bogie and Bacall), and doesn't even have a real soundtrack - train noises are used in place of most of those spaces. And yet, in 71 minutes we make our way through a tight, satisfying noir-thriller screenplay that would earn writer Earl Felton an Academy Award nomination, and come out the other side satisfied. A hardboiled detective is forced into a game of cat-and-mouse with a group of mob hitmen trying to find the charge he is portecting - the venomous wife of a dead gangster, on her way to testify to a jury. There's a series of half-polite interactions and clandestine negotiations as cop and hood try to get the better of one another, without alerting anyone on the train as to what's going on. There aren't necessarily standout performances (except perhaps Peter Brocco as an in-plain-sight mobster that would rather get what he wants through payoffs instead of bullets), but everything is put together well, the tone is consistent, and the movie doesn't pad for time at all. Solid noir that falls short of being a pop culture classic, but still well worth a watch, particularly given that most TV dramas today have longer episodes for mid-season finales. I love the idea of someone getting caught with a gun on a train, but it's the 1940s so the conductor is basically just like, "Yes, and? He's allowed to have that, you can buy that at a hardware store." (3.5/5) Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 01/06/23 Full Review Audience Member I’ve always been a fan of movies that take place on a train. It feels like the passengers are in their own little world, cut off from everyone else. It tends to be a great location for a thriller because everyone is clustered so close together, which makes it nearly impossible to escape the danger, and that’s why I was so enthralled by The Narrow Margin. This film is delightful. It is about a police detective who must protect a mobster’s widow who has vital information as she travels to trial on a cross-country train. I was on edge the entire time, always worried about our hero and his mission. I think where the movie fell just short of greatness for me was in some of the actions of the characters in the film. Many of them didn’t make sense, or felt improbable. Some of that is cleared up later in the story when all the truth comes out, but there are still choices that people make that seemed illogical to me. What delighted me most in The Narrow Margin was that it surprised me more than once. There are some twists to the story that I never saw coming, and when a movie can pull the rug out from under you as well as this movie did for me, it is a cool experience. I quite like the film noir feeling in this movie, and some of the dialogue is in that classic old style to fit the genre. The actors were all excellent. Charles McGraw has a great gravelly voice that plays into the tough personality of his character. Marie Windsor is excellent as the mobster’s widow who acts spoiled and entitled. She almost feels over-the-top at times, but she has her reasons. Finally, Jacqueline White is sweet and kind, which is perfect as a counterpoint to the mobster’s widow. I had a great time with The Narrow Margin, and I’m excited to see it again now that I know everything. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 08/22/19 Full Review Audience Member When a mobster's widow decides to testify and provide names of others involved in evil deeds, she goes undercover to avoid being killed. She is being escorted across country by train in order to testify. Cop Walter Brown and his partner are assigned the task, but the mob are on their trail. The Narrow Margin is generally considered a "model" B picture; some film buffs go farther than that, labelling this 1952 RKO suspenser as the best low-budget studio production ever made. A hard-as-nails, noir-ish thriller from the often underrated Richard Fleischer. The crackling dialogue between Charles McGraw and Marie Windsor is consistently sharp. I've always considered a train as an ideal geography for suspense. A claustrophobic spot where a cat-and-mouse game seems edgier than usual, and this was no exception. The cast may be B-level, but the sharp writing, taut direction, and production values are not . Great film noir . Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 01/14/23 Full Review Read all reviews
The Narrow Margin

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Cast & Crew

On Dangerous Ground 90% 78% On Dangerous Ground Macao 44% 58% Macao The Racket 33% 44% The Racket Crossfire 88% 75% Crossfire The Big Steal 71% 64% The Big Steal Discover more movies and TV shows. View More

Movie Info

Synopsis Tense story of a tough cop attempting to transport the widow of a gangster to the trial in which she'll testify. They undertake a rail journey from Chicago to Los Angeles with their lives constantly under threat from hit men on the train, who will stop at nothing to prevent her from testifying.
Director
Richard Fleischer
Producer
Stanley Rubin
Distributor
RKO Radio Pictures
Production Co
RKO Radio Pictures Inc.
Genre
Crime, Drama
Original Language
English
Release Date (Theaters)
May 4, 1952, Original
Release Date (Streaming)
Apr 1, 2012
Runtime
1h 11m
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