The Narrow Margin
A police detective has to protect a female witness on a train while several men are trying to get her pay-off list or kill her.
Detective sergeant Walter Brown (Charles McGraw) gets off a train and goes with his detective partner Gus Forbes (Don Beddoe) in a cab to pick up a hood’s widow, Mrs. Frankie Neall (Marie Windsor), whom he is to protect. By the stairs a man shoots Gus dead and escapes. In the cab Brown blames himself and tells Neall what to do. He boards the train separately and tells her that a man followed him.
Joseph Kemp (David Clarke) and the train conductor (Harry Harvey) look in Brown’s room for Kemp’s bag. Brown says the other room is empty while Neall is anxious in there. Ann Sinclair (Jacqueline White) spills her drink on Brown’s pants. Kemp searches Brown’s rooms. In a compartment Brown meets the boy Tommy Sinclair (Gordon Gebert) and a woman. Brown takes Neall back to his rooms.
Vincent Yost offers Brown $35,000 for Neall and hands him $5,000 as a start to let her get shot, but Brown gives it back. Brown searches a room and finds a telegram. Tommy says Brown is a robber, and Brown carries him away. In the dining car fat Sam Jennings (Paul Maxey) asks Brown to let him use the empty room, but Brown tells the conductor his partner is coming.
Brown denies he ordered breakfast because he told Ann he was not hungry. At a stop Brown sends a wire for information on Kemp and Jennings. He buys sandwiches for hungry Neall. Brown is worried they will shoot Ann, but Neall is glad not to be the target. Brown gets angry at Neall.
Brown fights Kemp and knocks him out. Kemp says he wants to negotiate with Neall, but Brown won’t deal and arrests Kemp. Jennings works for the railroad and takes Kemp. Densel (Peter Virgo) and Kemp beat up Jennings.
Neall tells Brown that she wants to sell her list, but he says no. Brown learns that Jennings is missing. Brown visits Ann and warns her she could be shot. Densel and Kemp find Neall and demand the list. She tries to get a gun, and Densel shoots her.
Ann tells Brown that she is Mrs. Frankie Neall and that the other Neall is a policewoman. Ann says she mailed the list to the district attorney. Kemp finds a policewoman badge on the dead Neall. Densel takes Tommy hostage, gets into Ann’s compartment, and demands her list. Brown tells her to give it to him and shoots Densel dead. Kemp gets off the train and is captured. Ann and Brown sneak off the train to avoid reporters and walk to the courthouse.
This crime drama portrays an honest cop doing his job even while he is being tempted to test for graft. Stereotypes allow the audience to be surprised to learn who the two women actually are. The main characters bring across the theme that crime does not bring a happy life.