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The Narrow Margin


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Product Details

  • Actors: Charles McGraw, Marie Windsor, Jacqueline White, Gordon Gebert, Queenie Leonard
  • Directors: Richard Fleischer
  • Writers: Earl Felton, Jack Leonard, Martin Goldsmith
  • Producers: Stanley Rubin
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Turner Home Ent
  • DVD Release Date: July 5, 2005
  • Run Time: 71 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00097DY1G
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #182,413 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Narrow Margin" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Theatrical trailer

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Pack your bags for one of movie history's greatest trips, a nifty film noir thriller that Time deemed "worthy of being bracketed in the select group of train thrillers headed by Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes." The tracks run direct from Chicago to L.A. The OscarO-nominated* story, directed by Richard Fleischer (The Boston Strangler) and scripted by his frequent collaborator Earl Felton, zigzags with surprise turns. Film noir favorite Charles McGraw plays a cop guarding a gangster's moll (fellow genre icon Marie Windsor) as she travels west to testify before a grand jury. Also riding the Pullmans: determined hitmen who know the moll is on the train?but don't know what she looks like. All aboard!

Amazon.com

This gem of a B-picture from RKO is the kind of trim, beautifully paced movie people have in mind when asking, "Why don't they make 'em like that anymore?" Two cops have to guard a gangster's widow against assassination as she rides the Golden West Limited sleeper train from Chicago to give evidence in L.A. Soon there's only one cop (gravel-voiced Charles McGraw, usually cast as a villain), and he's finding the sharp-tongued widow (Marie Windsor in excelsis) as obnoxious as she is endangered. Nothing goes quite as you'd expect in this exemplary train thriller, which rattles and rocks toward its destination without a music track or a wasted moment. The bad guys include a most distinctive, elegantly garbed hitman (Gordon Gebert); a soft-spoken, "Be reasonable, Sergeant" negotiator (the vulpine Peter Brocco); and possibly the fat man (Paul Maxey) who keeps blocking up the train corridor at just the wrong time. Detour writer Martin Goldsmith worked on the story, which was nominated for an Academy Award, and George E. Diskant's black-and-white cinematography is as sharp as the work he was doing for Nicholas Ray around the same time. Director Richard Fleischer went on to bigger things--but he never made a better movie. --Richard T. Jameson

Customer Reviews

Early noir and one if the best examples if the genre.
Kenneth Hoglund
The atmosphere, combined with a growing sense of tension and suspense, helps to create one of film noir's true gems.
ronzo
One of the detectives is played by Charles McGraw, Det.
Steven Hellerstedt

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Steven Hellerstedt on September 1, 2005
Format: DVD
Two Los Angeles detectives travel to Chicago to escort the wife of a mob boss back to LA to testify against her husband. One of the detectives is played by Charles McGraw, Det. Sgt. Walter Brown, and Mrs. Frankie Neil is played by Marie Windsor. Although neither are very well remembered today, both were great character actors and extremely prolific b-movie stars. According to William Friedkin's admiring commentary track the lovely, dark haired and doe eyed Windsor was a Vargas model and a former Miss Utah. The internet clarifies the history a bit. In an on-line interview the late Ms. Windsor explains that her home state didn't have a Miss Utah, but she was a Miss Covered Wagon Days in 1939, which was about as close the Mormon State got to such a thing. In any event Windsor's combination of authority and raven-haired beauty suits her edged character well. Friedkin describes McGraw as `the most hard-boiled of the tough guys.' With a face that looked like it was chiseled from a solid block of sandstone, augmented with a deep, growling snarl of a voice that sounded as if it had been steeped in whiskey and filtered through barbed wire - supplemented by the three packs (at least) of cigarettes McGraw smokes in this 71 minute movie- you'd be hard pressed to argue with Friedkin's assessment. In the interview Windsor remembers McGraw as a sweet and gentle man. Still, even though other b-actors, Lawrence Tierney and Tom Neal, for instance, had real life assault and murder convictions, of the bunch McGraw is the one you least want tailing you when the pavement turns slick and the shadows grow long.

A great cast, and everyone in THE NARROW MARGIN is very good to excellent, can be betrayed by a weak script and/or poor direction.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By bdlion on July 20, 2005
Format: DVD
THE NARROW MARGIN is the apex of film noir. If you have friends and family who want to know what film noir is, give them this movie. All the classic elements are here:

Modest length - the movie clocks in at a spare 71 minutes, and all the fat has been trimmed. There is not one wasted moment, and the action will keep viewers rivited.

Brilliant black & white photography - all the moody shadows, claustrophobic camera angles and amazing lighting that epitomizes film noir are on hand here and used to great effect.

Snappy dialogue - some of the best hard-boiled dialogue I've heard ("I've met some hard cases before, lady, but you make 'em look like putty") ("What are you going to do? Shoot something for breakfast?"). The barbs come quick and steady, with menace and biting sarcasm.

Femme fatale - Mrs. Neil, the protected Mob witness is nasty, self-centered, selfish and mean. Detective Brown is almost no match for her sharp tongue.

In additon, there are twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the penultimate moment. This is one of those "old" movies that bear repeated viewings. Economy of direction, script and suspense that builds throughout make this film noir a classic.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Carolyn Paetow on March 24, 2003
Format: VHS Tape
Remember when train-treading heroes and villains were concerned with the plundering of berths and compartments and fat guys blocking the corridors? Recall when no-nonsense stalwarts like Charles McGraw and tough cookies like Marie Windsor could rule the silver screen with a steely glance? Whatever the memory or lack thereof, forget train terrorists who punch in perdition with cell phones and computers, and revel in a terrific tale of mistaken identities and intriguing plot twists!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jay Dickson VINE VOICE on June 19, 2006
Format: DVD
With her great body, huge dark eyes and unsmiling countenance, Marie Windsor, "the Queen of the Bs," seemed to personify film noir. In one of her most memorable roles, she plays in THE NARROW MARGIN a mobster's widow who must be transported by a police officer (Charles MacGraw, another noir staple) on a train from Chicago to LA with assassins on board--who do not know what she looks like. Memorably dolled up in fetishistic strappy high heels, cheap dangling earrings and a tight dress, Windsor is fortunate to have a director here worthy of her in Richard Fleischer, whose inventive use of camera placement and mise-en-scene seems to make perfect use of the narrow confines of the train's corridors and Pullman rooms. There are several sequences--most memorably the famous initial attack in the Chicago tenement stairwell, the fight in the men's bathroom, and the stopover in La Junta, CO--where he seems to anticipate Brian de Palma in his brilliant use of editing and camera placement to indicate several things going on at once on different points in a confined space; he also makes memorable use of window reflections to heighten suspense (and, in the finale,to further the story). The only downside of the film is Jacqueline White, vaguely reminsicent of Elinor Donahue, as MacGraw's wholesome love interest on the train: she seems to have wandered in from a different movie altogether. One of the most beloved of all film noirs, this comes with a bizarrely superfluous commentary from director William Friedkin, who seeems to imagine an audience who has never been to a movie before in their lives.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By DJ Joe Sixpack HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 20, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
Tough guys don't come tougher than Charles McGraw as a hard-nosed, gravel-voiced West Coast cop who's been detailed to escort a mob widow cross-country to her date with the Los Angeles grand jury. This taut film noir takes place on the tight confines of a passenger train, brilliantly blocked in a series of tight corners and cramped cabins. The direction is perfect, though... You never lose your way or wonder where the action has taken you, and the stifling sense of oppressive constriction matches the McGraw's mood as he steadily runs out of options. Great, gritty dialog, particularly from femme fatale Marie Windsor (who is a dead ringer for Ilyana Douglas) and several running gags that bring character to a fast-moving film.
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