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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20000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
October 16, 2015, 9:29 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Richard Fleischer
3.5 Stars
20000 Leagues Under the SeaJames Mason was the right man to play 20000 Leagues Under the Sea’s Captain Nemo, a tragic figure who is is wrought to be an alien to his own generation. Disenchanted by the “progress” of the world outside, Nemo holes himself up in a submarine and indulges the spirit to explore, discover, and put an end to man’s predilection towards war through violent means. If Nemo has clearly gone mad, he’s a product of his time. Mason was particularly gifted at these wounded, grieving characters–he is often characterized as a loner, but one who carries himself with a certain pride and grace. Alongside Mason is Kirk Douglas as a harpooner in an unfortunately misjudged casting decision. Douglas, in his form-fitting sailor outfit and frequent mugging, is so cartoonishly superhuman that he seems like a good fit for a traditional Disney film, but this is undoubtedly one of the darker, more thoughtful ventures of Walt Disney’s career. The production design and special effects are certainly worth mentioning–the rooms aboard the Nautilus are unforgettable, feeling as though a vast gothic mansion has been cramped into a tin can. If it falters on occasion–the tangent involving a cannibal island is unnecessary–the terrific visuals and especially the performances of Mason and Paul Lukas are worth seeing.