Greatest and Leanest of Forgotten Noirs

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The Narrow Margin
Warner Bros.
Among the greatest and leanest of forgotten noirs, Richard Fleischer's 1952 micro-crucible runs only 71 minutes and is a model for visual and narrative concision. (The 1990 remake is more than a third longer and much less than one-third as accomplished.) Every shot counts because there's no time to piss away: Hardhead detective Charles McGraw must take mob widow Marie Windsor to court on an overnight train, and every car and station stop harbors potential assassins. Based on an unpublished story co-written by Detour's Martin Goldsmith and therefore ripe with noir dialogue written to be remembered ("You make me sick to my stomach!" "Well, use your own sink. And let me know when the target practice starts!"), Fleischer's movie also stands as a testament to McGraw's blistering, cliff-faced genuineness. An undervalued character star even in the '50s, McGraw makes lead actors then and now look like terrified schoolchildren. The DVD includes an audio commentary (with archival chat from Fleischer) by William Friedkin, all of 16 when the film came out and apparently a fanboy. Warner's also releasing Crossfire (1947), Edward Dmytryk's beautifully textured post-war tract on anti- Semitism and other dark things; Fritz Lang's adaptation of Clifford Odets's Clash by Night (1952), with Lang crony Peter Bogdanovich commentating; the Robert Wise journey into Lawrence Tierney land, Born to Kill (1947); and Dillinger (1945), Tierney's biggest splash, with an audio track by John Milius, who remade the film 28 years later.
 
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