The Tall Target (1951)
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The Tall Target is a near-noir historical thriller based on the alleged Baltimore Plot that would have seen Lincoln assassinated while he was still President Elect by secessionist agents. As with many successful nailbiters, it takes place almost entirely on a train, with Dick Powell as a disgraced policeman and just about the only man who thinks the threat is real. The mystery works, punctuated by action beats, and of course, the conspiracy and just good, old-fashioned hard-headedness getting in Powell's way. It's kind of funny than his character is called John Kennedy, considering it wouldn't have meant anything in 1951. There's even a scene where another character remarks that it's a pretty common name, and there are probably several people with that name. But the most interesting thing is the political climate of the day, well used by the film. Anxiety about the possible Civil War, realpolitik about Lincoln's legitimacy, propaganda about slavery (from both sides)... That's really what makes The Tall Target more than another locomotive thriller.
This is a standout noir, not only due to very competent directing as usual by Anthony Mann, but also a tense plot and a unique time period for a noir, featuring some of America's first PIs.
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In 3 official lists
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This movie ranks #256 in ICM Forum's 500<400
This movie ranks #323 in Jonathan Rosenbaum's Essential Cinema
This movie ranks #804 in TSPDT's 1,000 Noir Films