This is one taut thriller.
This is one taut thriller. It begins in Chicago at night. Two detectives have arrived to escort the widow of a gangster to the D.A. in Los Angeles. The action kicks off within the first few minutes and the tension never lets up. The hit men after the widow don’t know what she looks like. Thus begins a game of cat and mouse that takes place almost entirely on a train. If you’ve never seen it, this is all the information you want.
For those unfamiliar with film noir this picture makes a great introduction. It features all of the classic elements. A man and a woman on a dangerous journey together; mistaken identities and lots of shadows. The Narrow Margin uses sound in a brilliant manner, especially the various noises of the train. The dialogue is stark and dramatic.
Charles McGraw is superb as the tough-as-nails Detective Walter Brown. His gruff speaking voice, stocky build and none to pleasing mug are just what the part called for. He barks out lines like “Shut up!” and “You’re off your stick - way off.” The rest of the cast are equally impressive.
Today’s directors could learn a thing or two by studying the work that Richard Fleischer did here. This movie is only 72 minutes long and there isn’t a wasted shot. The action is realistic and never over-the-top. It has thrills as well as heart and is cleverly shot. To the point that the train becomes another character. I realize I am gushing but I honestly can’t find fault with this picture in any way. Check it out for yourself if you don’t believe me.
Photos © Copyright RKO Radio Pictures (1952)