The Narrow Margin (1952) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Narrow Margin (1952)




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The Narrow Margin is generally considered a "model" B picture; some film buffs go farther than that, labelling this 1952 RKO suspenser as the best low-budget studio production ever made. Nail-hard detective Walter Brown (Charles McGraw) is assigned to protect gangster's widow Mrs. Neall (Marie Windsor) as she rides the train from Chicago to LA, en route to testifying at a grand jury. There's no love lost between the ill-tempered Neall and Brown, especially since Brown's partner (Don Beddoe) was killed by mobsters while shielding Neall from harm. On the train, Brown makes the acquaintance of a likeable woman (Jacqueline White) and her playful young son. He also comes in contact with a rather secretive fat man (Paul Maxey), who may well be a mob assassin. Not long before the train pulls into California, Brown is approached by small-time crook (Peter Brocco), who offers the detective a great deal of money if he'll permit Neall to be silenced. Brown appears to be tempted, but this is only a smokescreen to throw the crooks off the trail. The Narrow Margin was remade (and unnecessarily padded and attenuated) in 1990.
Classics , Drama , Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Warner Home Video

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Charles McGraw
as Det. Sgt. Walter Brown
Marie Windsor
as Mrs. Frankie Neal
Jacqueline White
as Ann Sinclair
Gordon Gebert
as Tommy Sinclair
Gordon Geberl
as Tommy Sinclair
Queenie Leonard
as Mrs. Troll
Peter Virgo
as Densel
Don Beddoe
as Gus Forbes
Paul Maxey
as Jennings
Harry Harvey
as Train Conductor
Michael Lally
as Taxi Driver
Donald Dillaway
as Reporter
George Sawaya
as Reporter
Milt Kibbee
as Tenant
Tony Merrill
as Off. Allen
Howard Mitchell
as Train Conductor
Milton Kibbee
as Tenant
Don Haggerty
as Det. Wilson
Johnny Lee
as Waiter
Ivan Browning
as Waiter
Edgar Murray
as Waiter
Will Lee
as Newsstand Owner
Franklin Parker
as Telegraph Attendant
Jasper Weldon
as Porter
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Critic Reviews for The Narrow Margin

All Critics (8)

The cast may be B-level, but the sharp writing, taut direction, and production values of the Richard Fleischer's noir thriller (which is superior to the 1990 remake) are not.

Full Review… | February 18, 2011

Along with Ulmer's Detour, the ultimate noir "aesthetics of hunger" manifesto

Full Review… | March 14, 2010

A hard-as-nails, noir-ish thriller from the often underrated Richard Fleischer.

Full Review… | October 31, 2007
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

One of the best B-movies I've ever seen, and deserves to be better known.

Full Review… | April 4, 2007
Goatdog's Movies

The Narrow Margin rumbles along at a good speed with a minimum of fuss, making beautiful use of its compact train locale.

Full Review… | August 1, 2005
Combustible Celluloid

This sleeper may very well be the best B-film ever made.

Full Review… | January 25, 2005
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for The Narrow Margin


Good film noir set entirely on and around a train. Charles McGraw plays a cop hired to transport the widow of a murdered gangster cross-country to testify before a grand jury. Also on the train are men who will do what ever is necessary to make sure she DOESN'T testify. McGraw is Mr. Tough-as-Nails as always, and noir queen Marie Windsor is at her bitchiest. The setting on the train gives the whole film a claustrophobic quality that adds to the suspense. There's also a cool little twist that I didn't see coming. A definite star in the film noir universe.

Cindy I
Cindy I

Super Reviewer


I've always considered a train as an ideal geography for suspense. A claustrophobic spot where a cat-and-mouse game seems edgier than usual, and this was no exception. An intense, enormously effective thrill ride, full of great twists and occasional touches of humour.

Pierluigi Puccini
Pierluigi Puccini

Super Reviewer


A brilliant film noir gem. The dialogue between McGraw and Windsor is brilliant. A fast, tough talking, and fun film with a great twist at the end. Well worth seeing. Walter Brown: Meaning you'd like to sell out? Mrs. Neall: With pleasure and profit, and so would you. What are the odds if we don't? I sing my song for the grand jury, and spend the rest of my life dodging bullets - -if I'm lucky! - -while you grow old and gray on the police force. Oh, wake up, Brown. This train's headed straight for the cemetery. But there's another one coming along, a gravy train. Let's get on it. Walter Brown: Mrs. Neall, I'd like to give you the same answer I gave that hood - but it would mean stepping on your face.

Emily B.
Emily B.

Super Reviewer

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