The Narrow Margin

Director: Richard Fleischer
Year Released: 1952
Rating: 3.0

Economical noir that's also very exciting: a stereotypically gritty detective (Charles McGraw) is assigned the job of escorting a key witness from Chi-town to L.A. via train, but those crafty baddies are all too aware she's on-board and want to wipe her out. The cramped compartments inside the 'train' (actually sets) create a wonderfully claustrophobic atmosphere (although the tight spaces and lighting do seem to cause the camera's shadow to keep appearing, which is a pet peeve of mine) and the plot contains some clever (if a bit puzzling) twists, even taking a running gag about a fat man being stuck in the aisles and incorporating it into the conclusion (that's some nice scripting, guys). Proves that a memorable picture doesn't need stars or a monstrous budget: it needs a story with a functioning intelligence and a little gusto (easier said than done, I'm afraid).