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Case Number 26123: Small Claims Court

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Niagara (1953) (Blu-ray)

Fox // 1953 // 89 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // August 18th, 2013

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge Tom Becker wonders how many men wanted to go over Marilyn Monroe in a barrel.

Editor's Note

Our review of Marilyn Monroe: The Diamond Collection #2, published May 7th, 2002, is also available.

The Charge

The two most electrifying sights in the world!

The Case

Young marrieds Polly and Ray Cutler (Jean Peters, Pickup on South Street, and Casey Adams, a.k.a. Max Showalter, The Anderson Tapes) are taking a belated honeymoon at Niagara Falls. When they arrive, they discover that the cabin they'd reserved—with a magnificent view of the falls—is occupied by another couple, Rose and George Loomis (Marilyn Monroe, Some Like It Hot, and Joseph Cotten, Citizen Kane). When Mrs. Loomis explains that her husband hasn't been "well," Polly and Ray agree to take a different cabin.

Mr. and Mrs. Loomis are not a happy honeymooning couple; in fact, they're not happy at all. She's a beautiful, seductive vamp who seems to have little regard for her husband; he's spent time in a mental institution and seems on the brink of another breakdown.

Both Loomises befriend the Cutlers, though separately. When the Cutlers spend the day at the falls, Polly is shocked to see Rose there—in the company of another man.

It soon becomes clear that whatever problems George might be having are directly connected to his wife.

Niagara is a nifty little Technicolor noir set against the background of the majestic Niagara Falls. While it might not have the despairing, ironic power of the best of the genre, it does feature one of the most intriguing femmes fatale, the always-fascinating Monroe.

In Niagara, we don't get the sweetly sexy Monroe or the innocently sexy Monroe, or the dumbly sexy Monroe; what we get is a conniving seductress, fully aware of her erotic powers. Done up in dresses so tight you almost wonder how the wardrobe passed the censors, Monroe is a study of determined sensuality. Every move, every glance just reeks sex; it's easy to understand how poor George is driven crazy by this creature, just as it's easy to understand how he—and probably no single man—could ever satisfy her. At one point, George talks about how Rose was a waitress in a beer hall when he met her, the most popular waitress: "I guess they liked how she served beer," he notes, ruefully and wryly. Undoubtedly.

Director Henry Hathaway (1947's Kiss of Death) keeps everything taut and edgy. Peters is excellent as Polly, who slowly figures out what's really going on; she actually should be the star here, but up against Monroe in her element, she doesn't stand a chance. Cotten offers his usual strong—and sympathetic—performance as the cuckolded George, who goes from villain to victim and back again—and again.

Fox has done a spectacular job with the image for this release of Niagara (Blu-ray). Remastered in high def, the Technicolor video looks astonishing. The colors are vivid and true; on top of that, the image is remarkably clean, with nary a scratch nor imperfection. It's really superlative work. The 5.1 audio track sounds great, with no significant hiss, crackle, or distortion.

It's a shame that Fox scrimped on the supplements. While there's a Tower of Babel-worthy array of audio and subtitle options, the only "extra" material we get are some trailers for Marilyn Monroe films, including the black-and-white one for Niagara, which plays up Monroe's sexual charms and pretty much spoils all the film's surprises. Niagara features one of Monroe's best performances and was a break-through role for her; a featurette or interview with a film historian would have been a nice addition to this disc and with the excellent tech, would have elevated it to "must own" status.

The Verdict

An eye-opening Marilyn Monroe performance, fantastic location shooting, and tense script and direction make this one worth checking out. The lack of supplements is unfortunate, but the tech work is stunning. Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 88

Perp Profile

Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
• Full Frame (1080p)
Audio Formats:
• DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
• DTS 5.1 Surround (French)
• DTS 5.1 Surround (German)
• DTS 5.1 Surround (Japanese)
• DTS 2.0 Stereo (Italian)
• DTS 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
• DTS 1.0 Mono (English)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
• English
• English (SDH)
• Catalan
• Croatian
• Czech
• Danish
• Dutch
• Finnish
• French
• German
• Hebrew
• Hungarian
• Icelandic
• Italian
• Japanese
• Norwegian
• Polish
• Portuguese
• Spanish
• Swedish
• Turkish
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 1953
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Blu-ray
• Classic
• Crime
• Drama
• Film Noir
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• Trailer


• IMDb

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