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Customer Review

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Symbolic Drama, 22 Aug. 2009
This review is from: Niagara [DVD] [1953] (DVD)
This film is a wonderful chance for the four main leads to show their considerable talents. From the title and the opening scene it is obvious that Niagara Falls will dominate this picture, but even more important are two more symbols: bars and bells. When George Loomis (Joseph Cotten) returns to the holiday cabin, it is dark and gloomy. The scene then switches to the interior of the chalet. On hearing George`s key in the lock, Rose Loomis (Marilyn Monroe) pretends to be asleep. The pair of them occupy seperate beds, and when George lies down, the slats from the venetian blinds cast shadows which resemble prison bars across his face and body, thus emphasising the trap in which these two people find themselves; this point is further reinforced when Rose, seeing George has closed his eyes, turns away from him in contempt.

The scene which introduces Mr and Mrs Cutler (played by Jean Peters and Casey Adams) shows the contrast between this happy couple and George and Rose; not only in character but physically:i.e. the blonde (Rose) and the brunette (Polly). The movie also contains interesting parallels; the shots of Niagara Falls followed by Rose in the shower, plus the sound of the bell-tower contrasted with the tinkling bracelet worn by Rose. Another significent detail is how George Loomis, in building his tiny model cars is trying to hold himself together and exercise some control over his disturbed mental state. The use of music is very well handled with the tune "Kiss" played with variations throughout the film.

When Rose returns to the holiday site having plotted the murder of her husband, the moment in which she closes the window blinds plunges the room into darkness with the slats becoming even more vivid, symbolising the moment of murder, helped once more by the crashing chord in the music. I feel that the film-makers made a slight mistake in revealing George`s identity too soon; it might have been better to hold this back until we see his face, as Polly does, and it becomes as big a shock to the viewer as to her.

The murder of Rose is perhaps the highlight of the film. Notice how George stubs his cigarette under his heel, to signify that he intends to eliminate his wife. The pursuit in the bell-tower shows Rose`s desperation and hopeless position, again, aided by the increasing harshness of the music. As she rushes upstairs, the staircase receives great visual emphasis (more bars) also, George`s face is shown in full white light giving added terror to the scene. Finally in the bell-room the two symbols: bars and bells come together at last. The murder scene is highly dramatic, with a complete absence of sound, the bells are shown from various angles in successive shots of two seconds each; and the actual strangulation is shown from above. In particular the bars, which have been increasing in size throughout the film, are shown larger than ever before, reflected across Rose`s dead body, even though her corpse changes position in consecutive shots! This particular moment signifies that these two people have reached the "point of no return" for Rose is dead and George Loomis has become a murderer.

The film is not faultless: there are times when you feel the picture is using Marilyn`s physical charms at the expense of drama, plus the picture contains some improbable situations; but no matter, it is a movie that deserves close study.

John Harman
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 13 Mar 2010, 09:39:52 GMT
Last edited by the author on 13 Mar 2010, 09:40:53 GMT
H. Dumpty says:
Very interesting and perceptive review. Thank you.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Oct 2011, 21:24:03 BST
E. Smith says:
Great review. I missed a lot of that in the film, so you've made me think about it again.
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