Working her way up through the ranks beginning in 1948, Marilyn Monroe finally attained top billing in 1953’s Niagara, Henry Hathaway’s melodramatic color noir with Marilyn in the last unsympathetic role she’d ever act on the screen. With the unique backdrop of Niagara Falls able to be exploited in quite a few location shots with the cast, Niagara is not a great film, but it exploits its natural assets (the Falls and Marilyn Monroe) to the max.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono), English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 1.0 DD (Mono), French 5.1 DTS
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 29 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 07/30/2013
On a belated honeymoon to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, young couple Polly (Jean Peters) and Ray Cutler (Casey Adams) become acquainted with unhappily married Rose (Marilyn Monroe) and George Loomis (Joseph Cotton). Loomis has mental problems stemming from battle fatigue in Korea, and the young, vital Rose has had enough of tending to him and wants a life of more excitement with her lover (Richard Allan). As Rose skillfully works Loomis up into a jealous rage that everyone including the Cutlers witness, the two lovers plan to do away with Loomis at the Falls and make it look like an accident. But things don’t go exactly as planned for the schemers, and the Cutlers get dragged unwillingly into their morass.
The Production Rating: 3/5
Screenwriters Walter Reisch, Richard Breen, and Oscar winner (and the film’s producer) Charles Brackett try to add a few surprises to the murderous mix of a love triangle and the innocent dupes who get pulled unceremoniously into their mess, but the plotting never rises above the mundane. Interestingly, however, top-billed Monroe plays almost no part in the film’s final third or the climactic river chase where ironically Jean Peters actually transforms into the star of the film. Director Henry Hathaway, however, provides some terrific insider views of Niagara Falls taking us along with the lovebirds on the Maid of the Mist trip and other points of interest at the tourist attraction. Hathaway also photographs a murder from an interesting high angle and with deep shadows looming lending the film its noirish feel and manages a neat feat of balancing location photography with rear screen projection in the studio tank for the climactic river sequence. Knowing that the public was coming in droves to see the screen’s latest sex bombshell, Marilyn has been poured into a succession of slips, tight dresses, and skirts that leave very little to the imagination and which allow her to show off her famous waddle-walk on several occasions.
Marilyn also proves pretty adept at playing this two-faced woman: vulnerable and a little desperate when she’s with people who can help her and caustic and vicious when she’s away from prying eyes. We also get our first taste of Marilyn’s singing voice here with Lionel Newman and Haven Gillespie’s “Kiss” proving the character’s theme song (which also serves as a signal from her lover that the deed has been done). Joseph Cotton plays the mentally unstable Loomis quite nicely, boiling with jealousy over his sexy wife who’s on every man’s radar but occasionally sliding back into domestic bliss when she’s not instigating his distrust. Jean Peters give a solid portrayal of a concerned woman trying to help this miserable couple through a bad patch only to realize too late that she’s in over her head. Casey Adams perhaps chortles a bit too much as the more innocent husband Ray. Don Wilson as Ray’s gregarious boss and Lurene Tuttle as his understanding wife make notable appearances in the film’s latter half.
The film is presented in its theatrical 1.33:1 aspect ratio with this transfer in 1080p using the AVC codec. Fox engineers have done a marvelous job giving us a fineTechnicolor look for the film transfer. Reds are wonderfully deep and rich (Marilyn’s lipstick, some roses, the elevator doors, red stripes in flags all really stand out), and blues come off well, too. Flesh tones are quite appealing. The images are free from any age-related problems. Sharpness is usually excellent apart from a few random shots, and black levels are fine if not superb. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The disc offers DTS-HD Master Audio English tracks in both 1.0 and 5.1. Both are strong with no age-related artifacts spoiling the listening experience. The 5.1 track does open up the sound experience nicely with the roar of the Falls in the front soundstage providing an effective and necessary ambiance to the film’s story even if the rears are completely silent throughout. Dialogue has been well recorded and is never obfuscated by the sound effects or Sol Kaplan’s music score.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Theatrical Trailer (3:03, SD): in black and white
Special Features Rating: 1/5
Marilyn Monroe Trailers (SD): Bus Stop, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire, River of No Return, The Seven Year Itch, and There’s No Business Like Show Business, all of which are now available on Blu-ray.
A superstar was born with Henry Hathaway’s Niagara, the first of Marilyn Monroe’s color vehicles in which her name appears first in the billing. While the film’s melodramatic elements are dated now and the Blu-ray disc doesn't include any notable bonus material on a star who is synonymous with Fox in the 1950s, the allure of Marilyn Monroe will always be present in these films which sometimes weren’t up to the talents of their leading lady.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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