The Tall Target (1951)

Approved   |    |  Adventure, Crime, Drama

The Tall Target (1951) Poster

A New York City detective, traveling by train between New York and Baltimore, tries to foil an on-board plot to assassinate President-elect Abraham Lincoln before he reaches Baltimore to give a major pre-Inauguration speech in 1861.


Get More From IMDb

For an enhanced browsing experience, get the IMDb app on your smartphone or tablet.

Get the IMDb app

Reviews & Commentary

Add a Review

User Reviews

29 September 2011 | hitchcockthelegend
| Mann delivers the perfect companion piece to Reign of Terror.
"Ninety years ago a lonely traveller boarded the night train from New York to Washington D.C., and when he reached his destination his passage had become a forgotten chapter in the history of the United States. This motion picture is a dramatisation of that disputed journey."

The Tall Target is directed by Anthony Mann and written by George Worthing Yates, Daniel Mainwaring (as Geoffrey Holmes) and Art Cohn. It stars Dick Powell, Paula Raymond, Adolphe Menjou, Marshall Thompson and Will Geer. As the above opening salvo suggests, story is disputed, it's based around the so called Baltimore Plot, a plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln; the tall man of the title who is on the train heading for his inauguration.

Set mostly aboard a train, Mann's The Tall Target is a very tight noirish type period thriller that sees Powell's gruff detective try and protect Abe Lincoln from assassins lurking within the confines of the locomotive hauled express. Although a low budget production, there is some smart period detail to enjoy and the cramped setting of the train interiors allows Mann to infuse the story with paranoia and claustrophobic tints. Major bonus is that the makers excellently capture what must have been a powder keg of political uncertainty in 1861, this is born out by the number of interesting characters with a voice aboard this train. Thus the suspense and mystery elements are not confined to being of the obvious variety.

With Paul Vogel's black and white photography adding some period bite, and putting the noirish sheen to scenes such as the ones involving smoke, it's a shame that the cast are mostly hit and miss. Powell just about carries off the tough-guy persona, with the scenes shared with Menjou good value, and Geer is the stand out as the jobs worth conductor. Raymond is lovely, but hardly puts a stamp on proceedings, while Thompson is badly inadequate when it comes to putting the threat into threatening situations. But they are only minor itches that fail to derail the film from the tracks, because ultimately it's the story that is the star, a story boosted no end by Mann's taut direction. 7.5/10

Critic Reviews

Did You Know?


The names of all the stations mentioned in the film on the line as the train travels south out of New York would be familiar to a traveler on the modern Northeast Corridor as they are still used by Amtrak, except for Darby Junction which is a now a station on the Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority's Wilmington/Newark regional rail line. Their placement in the film is geographically accurate - Darby Junction would have been the first place the train could have stopped south of Philadelphia.


Rachel - Slave Maid: Freedom isn't a thing you should be able to give me, Miss Ginny. Freedom is something I should have been born with.


Obviously, Democrat writers. The south - the secessionists - was Democrat. However, the movie constantly portrayed the secessionists as the Republicans. For goodness sake, the Tall Target, Abe Lincoln, was a Republican. How can you blame the Republicans for trying to assassinate their very first President? But, apparently, the Hollywood left of the 50's did so. No wonder they open the movie by saying this dramatization was disputed.

Crazy Credits

Opening credits S l o w l y roll up from the bottom of the screen, over a background of a train station. The word "TALL" is extra tall.. and the credits are followed by: Ninety years ago, a lonely traveler boarded the night train from New York to Washington DC and when he reached his destination, his passage had become a forgotten chapter in the history of the United States. This motion picture is a dramatization of that disputed journey.


The Battle Hymn of the Republic
Music by
William Steffe
Arranged by Bronislau Kaper


Plot Summary


Adventure | Crime | Drama | Thriller

2020 Emmy Nominees In and Out of Character

Check out our gallery of the nominees in the leading and supporting acting categories in real life and as the characters they so brilliantly played.

View the full gallery

Around The Web


Powered by ZergNet

More To Explore

Search on