Narrow Margin (Universal) (1990)

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Released 3-May-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1990
Running Time 93:13
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Peter Hyams

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Gene Hackman
Anne Archer
James Sikking
J.T. Walsh
M. Emmet Walsh
Susan Hogan
Nigel Bennett
J.A. Preston
B.A. 'Smitty' Smith
Codie Lucas Wilbee
Barbara Russell
Antony Holland
Doreen Ramos
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Bruce Broughton

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.30:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, if you count an odd piracy warning film

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Narrow Margin is a taut and effective thriller made in 1990, starring Gene Hackman as Deputy District Attorney Robert Caulfield and Anne Archer as Carol Hunnicut. It was based upon a previous movie of the same name, made in 1952, which starred Charles McGraw.

    The story revolves around Carol Hunnicut, a woman who accepts a blind date arranged by a friend, only to see the man she has just met murdered in front of her. He has been stealing money from mobsters who he does legal work for and they have found out. He is visited by the leader of the mobsters, Lew Watts (played by Harris Yulin, now well known from 24). Luckily, the mobsters are not initially aware of  her presence and she escapes and decides to hide out in the Canadian mountains rather than get involved.

    Robert Caulfield learns where she is from a friend, and flies up to bring her back to testify against Watts. The mobsters learn of his trip, due to a mole in his department, and follow. This begins a chase which lasts virtually for the rest of the movie, beginning with a spectacular car vs. helicopter chase through a forest and then on-board a train bound for Vancouver.

    This movie is not very original (it would not be even if it wasn't a remake) but is well directed, beautifully shot, includes the reliable Gene Hackman and has a very effective score. The story is told succinctly, with the film clocking in at a relatively short 93:13. The film is directed by Peter Hyams, who has directed many other well known films including Outland, The Presidio, Running Scared and, more recently, End of Days. He also wrote it for the screen (based upon the original screenplay) and was the Director of Photography.

    Overall, this film is good entertainment, providing thrills and suspense, without resorting to the excessive violence which is rife in other films of a similar ilk.

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Transfer Quality


    The video quality is excellent considering the age of the film.

    The feature is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.30:1 and is 16x9 enhanced, which is very close to the original ratio of 2.35:1.

    The picture was very clear and sharp throughout, with no evidence of low level noise. Shadow detail was good but slightly lacking in some scenes. There is a noticeable smokiness in the background of many interior scenes, however, this is not a problem with the picture itself but is rather an effect used often by this director.

    The colour was very good throughout with all colours being well saturated and free from colour bleeding. This made the scenes of the Canadian Rockies especially beautiful with the green of the forests, white of the snow and blue of the sky.

    Only two minor film-to-video artefacts were noticeable in this transfer, both aliasing on the moving train at 86:04 and 86:20. No other artefacts were noticeable at any time.

    There are no subtitles on this disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio quality is quite reasonable, but certainly not breathtaking.

    This DVD contains only one audio option, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s.    

    Dialogue was at all times clear and easy to understand and there were no problems with audio sync.    

    The score of this film by Bruce Broughton was very good and added significantly to the tension built up during the prolonged chase sequences. It was especially effective during the title sequence giving a great introduction to the film, despite there being no actual on-screen action during this time.    

    Despite the surround encoding, there was very little noticeable surround activity.  It added to the general sound effects but did not stand out.  

    The subwoofer was used sparingly and did not seem to add much to the film.


Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are no extras on this disc. The menu included scenes from the film and music from the score, and allowed for scene selection. After the credits there is a short film involving a medieval torturer warning you that you may be branded by pirate DVD producers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc (when compared to the Region 1 release) misses out on;

    The Region 4 version of this disc (when compared to the German Region 2 release) misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc is also missing the Region 2 extra noted above.

    Based upon the above, and the reviews I have read of both versions, the Region 2 version seems to be the pick as all three versions seem to have the same video and audio content. Having said that, the Region 4 release is at a quite reasonable price point, and may be a worthwhile purchase if only the feature appeals to you.


    This movie is a well made, taut and effective thriller.

    The video quality is excellent considering the age of the movie.

    The audio quality is reasonable but uninspiring.

    There are no extras, not even a trailer.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Tuesday, May 04, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 1200, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

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