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NIAGARA  [Blu-ray]
on 4 January 2014
NIAGARA  [Blu-ray] Marilyn Monroe and ‘NIAGARA’ a Raging Torrent of Emotion That Even Nature Can’t Control!
Marilyn Monroe sizzles in this tense, masterful thriller. While the seductive Rose Loomis [Marilyn Monroe] and her husband George Loomis [Joseph Cotton] vacation in a charming guest cabin at spectacular Niagara Falls, Rose Loomis and her lover plot to kill George Loomis. But things go terribly wrong, and soon, an innocent honeymooning couple find themselves swept up in the crime. Narrated by Joseph Cotton.
FILM FACT: Marilyn Monroe was given first billing in ‘NIAGARA’ which elevated her to star status. Her following two films of that year, ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,’ with Jane Russell, and ‘How to Marry a Millionaire,’ with Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall, were even bigger successes. Unlike other film noir thrillers of the time, ‘NIAGARA’ was filmed in "Three-Strip" Technicolor, one of the last films to be made at Twentieth Century-Fox in this format, as Twentieth Century-Fox was in the process of converting to CinemaScope, and which is mutually-exclusive with "Three-Strip," but not with Eastmancolor, and was one of Twentieth Century-Fox's biggest box office hits of the year.
Cast: Marilyn Monroe, Joseph Cotton (narrator), Jean Peters, Max Showalter, Denis O'Dea, Richard Allan, Don Wilson, Lurene Tuttle, Russell Collins, Will Wright, Henry Beckman (uncredited), Harry Carey Jr. (uncredited), Bill Coontz (uncredited), Robert Ellis (uncredited), Howard Engel (uncredited), Neil Fitzgerald (uncredited), Gloria Gordon (uncredited), Patricia Henderson (uncredited), Winifield Hoeny (uncredited), George Ives (uncredited), Arch Johnson (uncredited), Lester Matthews (uncredited), Sean McClory (uncredited), Norman McKay (uncredited), Audre Monture (uncredited), Patrick O'Moore (uncredited), Tom Reynolds (uncredited), Willard Sage (uncredited), Bert Stevens (uncredited), Minerva Urecal (uncredited), Nina Varela (uncredited) and Gene Wesson (uncredited)
Director: Henry Hathaway
Producer: Charles Brackett
Screenplay: Charles Brackett, Richard L. Breen and Walter Reisch
Composer: Sol Kaplan
Cinematography: Joseph MacDonald
Video Resolution: 1080p [Technicolor]
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English: 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Mono, Spanish: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono, French: 5.1 DTS-HD, Castellano: 2.0 DTS-HD, German: 5.1 DTS-HD and Italian: 2.0 DTS-HD
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, German, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Swedish and Turkish
Running Time: 84 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes' made her a star, but 'Niagara,' a nifty little Technicolor film noir released earlier the same year, put Marilyn Monroe on the cinematic map. Though she previously spiced up such A-level productions as 'All About Eve,' 'The Asphalt Jungle,' and 'Monkey Business' in notable supporting parts, Marilyn Monroe made a splash as monumental as the film's eponymous falls in this Henry Hathaway thriller, which allowed her for the first and only time in her storied career the opportunity to play a duplicitous bad girl. Sexier than Lana Turner in 'The Postman Always Rings Twice' and more sympathetic than Barbara Stanwyck in 'Double Indemnity,' Marilyn Monroe accents the femme in femme fatale, crafting a fatally glamorous portrait of a conniving four-alarm siren whose incendiary allure transcends that of any other Hollywood actress. If given the chance, men would line up by the thousands to be manipulated, teased, and even spurned by such a sensual seductress. And that's all due to a single, extended close-up and a sultry song called "Kiss."
The iconic shot occurs about 17 minutes into the film when Marilyn Monroe emerges from a rustic cabin wearing a tight-fitting, low-cut, off-the-shoulder magenta dress with a thin white chiffon wrap casually draped around her back. She hands a party boy a phonograph record and sullenly asks, "Would you mind playing this?" He dutifully complies, and after a few bars she begins to sing along. The lyrics and arrangement are syrupy, but her vocal delivery is anything but. With a light breeze blowing her wavy blonde hair, her painted lips glistening in the moonlight, her eyes half shut in a romantic reverie, she oozes sex appeal and projects a mesmerizing magnetism. The camera and always Marilyn Monroe's closest ally, lingers on this sizzling image for a long time...not long enough for my taste, but long enough to forever embed Marilyn Monroe in our collective consciousness and earn her well-deserved stardom and eventual immortality. Yes, the picture is that powerful, and it's worth far more than a thousand words.
'NIAGARA' is not a great film, but it's a brisk, seductive, absorbing piece of popcorn entertainment, distinguished by solid performances, a couple of interesting twists that perk up the tired premise, and the powerful backdrop of Niagara Falls which is one of the world's most breath-taking natural wonders. The location shooting adds an authentic accent, with the omnipresent rushing torrents of cascading water heightening suspense and playing a starring role in the films over the top and over the edge climax.
Though 'NIAGARA' starts innocently enough, focusing on cheery young marrieds Polly and Ray Cutler [Jean Peters and Casey Adams] and their arrival at the falls on a delayed honeymoon, it quickly takes a melodramatic turn as we get to know another, less happy couple, Rose Loomis [Marilyn Monroe] and George Loomis [Joseph Cotton], who are staying at the same inn overlooking the falls. George Loomis is a troubled, insecure man, possibly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after a tour of duty in Korea, and the curvaceous Rose, we soon learn, is shamelessly two-timing him with a beefy hunk Patrick [Richard Allan]. The Cutlers try to ease the tension between the volatile pair, and soon become unwitting enablers in a deadly game that doesn't go as planned, and ends up spiralling out of control.
Though shot in brilliant Technicolor, this film noir possesses many of the same enticing elements that distinguish the genre's black-and-white classics. 'NIAGARA' may not be as hard-boiled as movies based on novels by Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain, but it occasionally brandishes a well-honed edge that makes its many trite moments bearable. Part travelogue and the film seems to hit all the Niagara Falls tourist highlights, and part mystery, the picture somehow gels into a cohesive whole and has held up darn well over the past six decades.
Credit to Marilyn Monroe for the durability of 'NIAGRA.' While her acting is, for the most part, strong, she's still a little rough around the edges in some scenes, enunciating too precisely here and emoting too heavily there. Yet her captivating presence and charisma elevate the story, and when she unleashes her inner vamp, it's a sight to behold. Joseph Cotten portrays her tortured, insanely jealous husband well, generating a surprising amount of sympathy despite his questionable deeds, while the fresh-faced Jean Peters, who three years later would become the wife of reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes, conveys an attractive girl-next-door quality that nicely balances Marilyn Monroe's unvarnished sex appeal.
'NIAGRA' can't compete for top noir honours, but it remains a satisfying genre entry and puts a potent exclamation point on Marilyn Monroe's Hollywood apprenticeship. Hereafter, the iconic star would dominate almost every movie in which she appeared, but never again would she play such a hard-nosed, deceitful character. Yet when all is said and done, 'NIAGARA' isn't about an adulterous couple plotting to bump off an inconvenient husband; it's about how a sultry song and especially a monumental close-up gave birth to a cinema legend. End of story.
Blu-ray Video Quality – Lush, beautiful photography has always set 'NIAGARA' apart from similar thrillers, and the film's previous home video incarnations have all looked great. That said, I still wasn't prepared for the flat-out dazzling appearance of this high-definition rendering. Crystal clarity, exceptional contrast, and a gloriously saturated colour palette distinguish this vibrant, vivid 1080p encounter image transfer that's a treat to watch from start to finish. Never has Marilyn Marilyn's magnetism and allure seemed so potent or her connection with the camera so intimate. Time after time images pop up that demand freeze framing, and I don't just mean those of Monroe; Niagara Falls in all its unspoiled grandeur is captured from a variety of stunning angles, along with the rainbows it so often generates. The spotless source material keeps the spell unbroken, with not a single speck, mark, or errant scratch distracting us from the sublime images on display. Colours are bright, bold, and sumptuous. Marilyn Monroe's glossy lipstick, her red jacket, the yellow slickers the sightseers wear as they tour the falls, the blue hues of the river water, and green foliage lining the streets and riverbanks all make a statement. Not to be outdone, black levels are deliciously inky and intense, just look at Marilyn Monroe's jacket and hat as she enters the morgue, the white foam and mist of the raging falls are always crisp and distinct, and flesh tones, from Marilyn Monroe's creamy complexion to Joseph Cotten's olive skin, remain natural and stable throughout. Close-ups, especially those of Marilyn Monroe, are devastatingly glamorous and I could watch her sing 'Kiss' till the cows come home, background elements are easy to discern, shadow detail is quite good, and no crush, noise, banding, or other annoyances rear their ugly heads. The one caveat to this magnificent effort is the sparing use of digital noise reduction, which seems to have erased the film's natural grain structure. A movie of this vintage usually doesn't exude such a smooth, dimensional look, but the razor sharp, high gloss appearance of this transfer nicely complements the story's cold nature. Though I'm usually a stickler for grain and revel in the texture it lends the image, I honestly don't miss it much here. I believe the 20th Century Fox technicians have employed DNR [Digital Noise Reduction] intelligently in this instance and in other Marilyn Monroe Blu-ray titles, allowing it to subtly enhance the picture without the waxy and smeary look that's usually a by-product of the process. To these eyes, this is the best 'NIAGRA' has ever looked on home video, and those who own the previous Diamond Collection DVD should upgrade as soon as possible. You won't be sorry you did.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – 'NIAGARA' comes equipped with two lossless tracks, both newly re-mastered. There's the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio option and the more traditional 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio choice for those seeking to replicate the movie's original soundscape. Both provide clean, clear, well-modulated audio with a wide dynamic scale and no incidents of distortion, and any age-related defects, such as pops, crackles, and hiss, have been erased. The newly engineered 5.1 track does its best to widen the audio's scope, but the sound remains front-based. The music scoring and thunderous roar of the falls fill the room nicely, but there's no distinct action from any of the channels. Dialogue is always well prioritized and easy to comprehend, the church bells possess fine resonance, and solid bass undertones add punch and nuance to the falls sequences, offering that extra bit of ambience to immerse us in the setting. The 1.0 track is equally well balanced, yet sounds slightly harsher, especially with regard to the falls. Atmospherics are weaker, too, but subtleties remain distinct and certain scenes sound almost identical to their 5.1 counterparts. Either option is solid, but the 5.1 track provides a more full-bodied, robust experience, as one might expect.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras: 'NIAGARA' was shot in glorious Technicolor, but for some reason this trailer, which compares Monroe to the breath-taking falls that frame the story, is in black-and-white. Surely there must be a colour print of this preview lying around the vaults somewhere!
More Monroe Movie Trailers [1080p] [16:00] Previews for six more Monroe films from Fox are included, five of which are included here which includes: ‘Bus Stop,’ ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,’ ‘How To Marry A Millionaire,’ ‘River Of No Return,’ ‘The Seven year Itch’ and Irvin Berlin's ‘There's No Business Like Showbusiness.’
Finally, while not as widely acclaimed as some of her subsequent films, `NIAGARA' put Marilyn Monroe on the pop-culture map, establishing her platinum blonde screen siren image. The film feels a little quaint today and suggestive more than explicit, with twists that come precisely as expected, but the combination of Marilyn Monroe's steamy presence and Joseph MacDonald's gorgeous "Three-Strip" Technicolor cinematography makes ‘NIAGARA’ a trip worth taking. Further, 20th Century Fox's Blu-ray release is a real stunner; what it lacks it special features and you'll only find some trailers here and it makes up in a nigh-perfect high definition transfer. Marilyn Monroe fans will definitely want to add this one to their collections, and even more general golden-age-of-Hollywood enthusiasts will probably want to check it out. In my review of ‘BUS STOP,' I felt the characters did not quite gel with me, but with this film, and all the actors, even Marilyn Monroe, pull out all the stops and produce a cracking film and keeps you on the edge of your seat right to the bitter end and I felt Marilyn Monroe put her best effort to make this a worth addition to my ever expanding Marilyn Monroe Blu-ray Collection. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom