Archive for February 17th, 2011

Director: Richard Fleischer

Producer: Stanley Rubin

Screenwriter: Earl Belton

Cinematographer: George E. Diskant

Studio: RKO 1952

Main Actors: Charles McGraw and Marie Windsor

Similarly to Nicholas Ray’s On Dangerous Ground, The Narrow Margin is a film separated by two halves. The first portion of the movie resides in a clearly noir world full of dark urban streets and ominously lurking shadows. Two buddy cops are assigned with protecting a mob boss’s widow, Frankie Neall (played by Marie Windsor), as she plans to testify for a scheduled grand jury. When they arrive at her apartment to chaperone Mrs. Neall on the train trip to Los Angeles, one of the policemen is shot and killed by a mobster hiding in the darkness. The surviving detective, Walter Brown (Charles McGraw), had earlier  stressed to his partner his disdain for this woman, whom he describes as “a sixty cent special.” Now, Brown must accompany her to the waiting locomotive, even though his colleague has just been cut down in the line of duty. The tension worsens as  the obviously ungrateful Mrs. Neall reveals to have little regard about the transpired events. Brown finds the price being payed to protect such a vile creature unworthy of the sacrifice his associate has made.

The bulk of the picture ensues on the train after Walter Brown has successfully transported the important witness to two adjacent secretive compartments. The film loses most of noir’s usual chiaroscuro lighting but replaces it with a dramatic tautness that arises in the more cramped environment. Nameless figures encircle the two leads and a tense cat-and-mouse game ensues. As careful as he is, Brown is spotted by one of the hoods and followed aboard. In transit, he must juggle his duty to keep self centered Mrs. Neall safe from the stalking goons, a possible budding romance, and various treacherous figures who continuously try to either bribe or kill him. (more…)

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