DVD region 2. Odeon.
on from Armored car Robbery,
Odeon bring us another Richard Fleischer / RKO film noir classic
– this time in the shape of one of the genre’s sharpest
Opening up with stark, headline style credits, The Narrow
Margin (not to be confused with the 1990 film of the
same name) wastes no time in getting into the action, as cop Walter
Brown ((Charles McGraw) and his partner get off the train in Chicago
to collect gangster’s wife Mrs Frankie Neal (Marie Windsor),
who is due to testify to a grand jury in Los Angeles. Brown’s
partner is killed in a shoot-out, but he and Neal manage to make
it back to the train, for the long trip back to LA. Unfortunately,
mob hitmen are also on board, and are trying to find Neal - whose
appearance is unknown to them.
The Narrow Margin drips with a sense of style
way above anything you’d expect – you could pause
the film at any point in the opening ten minutes or so and find
yourself looking at a perfectly framed, beautifully crafted still
photo. The bulk of the film, of course, takes place within the
confines of the train, and the claustrophobia and lack of hiding
places are beautifully exploited, as the story thunders along
with barely a pause for air. McGraw is the very definition of
hardboiled, and yet the film also shows an unusual (for the time)
human side to him, as he grieves his partner’s death and
struggles awkwardly in conversation with the attractive young
mother he meets.
The film has a genuinely surprising twist towards the end, some
well-placed humour and assorted red herrings amongst the ruthless
– but not very efficient – killers. There isn’t
a moment of film wasted in this movie – modern filmmakers
could learn a lot from the way this film cuts to the chase.
Crime movie fans will need no encouragement to nap this up; for
anyone else, take my word for it – this is a tight, tense,
gripping thriller that is well worth picking up.
IT NOW (UK)
IT NOW (USA)