For Reel

The Narrow Margin (1952)
August 28, 2016, 1:17 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Richard Fleischer
5 Stars
The Narrow MarginA train infested with thugs races down the tracks at sixty miles an hour. If by some miracle the heroes make it out alive, a car keeps pace on the outside to make sure the job is done. A masterpiece of claustrophobia, Richard Fleischer’s The Narrow Margin is deservedly known as one of the greatest of all B-pictures, thanks in large part to George E. Diskant’s gritty cinematography and a memorable prosecution witness played by the sultry Marie Windsor. The plot is packed with twists and turns, with Earl Felton’s screenplay producing many memorable one-liners along the way, but the real star of The Narrow Margin is its sense of atmosphere. Each train corridor is so tight that one needs to step into a doorway to avoid bumping into another passenger—these close confines become even more of a problem with the hulking Paul Maxey stumbling his way through, serving as a roadblock at the most inopportune times. Charles McGraw’s maneuvering through the space feels like he’s navigating through a labyrinth, the walls closing behind him as danger is just around the corner. That Fleischer opts out of a musical soundtrack is a stroke of genius, with the rhythmic churning of the train’s wheels serving as the score and even better evoking the specificity of the place. It’s a masterclass in not only detailing a setting, but utilizing it as an essential character.

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