My Review of ‘The Narrow Margin’ (1952)

This is a taut film noir thriller that takes place almost entirely on a train.

It starts with an LAPD detective, Walter Brown (played by Charles McGraw) and his partner Sergeant Gus Forbes (played by Don Bedoe) picking up their assignment. Their task is to protect a boss’ widow name of Mrs. Frankie Neall (played with acidic zest by Marie Windsor), as she travels from Chi-Town to the City of Angels to give grand jury testimony.

Unfortunately, en route from Mrs. Neall’s apartment, Forbes is shot to death by an assassin named Densel (played by Peter Virgo), who gets wounded but escapes. Naturally, as Brown and Mrs. Neall bicker their way to the train station, they’re followed. And despite Brown’s clever attempts to evade them, the followers join them on the train to L.A.

Brown soon has his hands full, between trading snarky remarks with the oddly-uncooperative Mrs. Neall, trying to avoid undue attention from what appears to be a hyperactive child, and flirting discreetly with an attractive blonde, Ann Sinclair (played by Jacqueline White). All while dealing with the hoods on the train.

Without going into great detail—because that would spoil everything—it’s hard to know who to trust in this story. The plot is a nail-biter, complemented well with its use of sound and shadowy cinematography. It also has a plot twist that I never saw coming—and I’ve seen my share. This plot twist was, in fact, meticulously set up—or would have been, had they not changed one tiny detail about Forbes. Which I won’t reveal, because … spoilers! 🙂

It should also be noted that, instead of a musical soundtrack, train sound effects serve as the accompaniment, creating tension and suspense in a more naturalistic way.

For a low-budget B-production with a cast of relative unknowns, this movie is top-drawer in every sense. As befitting a film noir, the story is one in which nothing is as it appears.

This film totally merits five stars. Check your local library for a copy or buy it online.

PS: Shades of North by Northwest? Or Double Indemnity? 🙂

PPS: I love this review, but be forewarned—spoilers!

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4 Responses to My Review of ‘The Narrow Margin’ (1952)

  1. This was remade in 1990 with Gene Hackman and Anne Archer. It’s one of my fav Hackman movies. I will have to watch this earlier version. Sounds intriguing It’s available on YouTube for $2.99. I love train suspense films & movies: Stamboul Train, Murder on the Orient Express, The Lady Vanishes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Debbi says:

      I love those movies, too! Haven’t seen the remake with Hackman and Archer, but the original is definitely worth watching! 🙂


  2. Such a great film! It really ought to be more well known than it is.

    Liked by 1 person

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