Margin for Error (1943)

Genres - Comedy, Mystery  |   Sub-Genres - Police Comedy  |   Run Time - 74 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

Most people undoubtedly have far better things to do with their time than waste it on Margin for Error, a misfire of a movie that delivers only the barest minimum in terms of entertainment or interest. It's possible that there are some Milton Berle fanatics who simply must see everything that the man ever did, in which case they can suffer through Margin -- but they will be crushed to discover that the sharp-tongued Berle is here reduced to playing a terribly normal, terribly uninteresting character that doesn't allow the comic to use his special persona in the least. It's a waste of the comedian, and he's clearly miscast -- but even so, it must be admitted that his performance is substandard. Poor Joan Bennett also doesn't catch any breaks; she tries, but this is hardly one of her finer films. Otto Preminger's performance is unbearably showboat-y, the kind of ham acting that should make him ashamed; however, at least Preminger catches and holds one's attention and provides some power and life to an otherwise dead film. The fact that Preminger also directed, however, means that he also takes a major share of the blame for the mess that Margin is. Lillie Hayward and Clare Boothe as authors deserve even more blame, however; it's a dreadful mess of clich├ęs and trite dialogue, with little of the sparkling wit that one expects of Boothe.