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Henry Hathaway
Marilyn Monroe, Joseph Cotten, Jean Peters, Max Showalter, Denis O'Dea
Charles Brackett, Walter Reisch

A raging torrent of emotion that even nature can't control!
Not Rated.

Standard 1.33:1
English Digital Stereo
English Digital Mono
French Digital Mono
English, Spanish

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 5/14/2002

• Still Gallery
• Trailers
• Restoration Comparison

The Diamond Collection 2

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Niagara (1953)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

For 1953’s Niagara, we find Marilyn Monroe in a somewhat unusual position. The film casts her as the femme fatale, as she plays Rose Loomis, the new wife of older, troubled veteran George Loomis (Joseph Cotten). Though on their honeymoon, the couple bicker quite a lot, and we see that George has a serious temper on him.

We also meet another young couple, Polly (Jean Peters) and Ray Cutler (Max Showalter). Polly quickly grows suspicious of the events that surround the other couple, and when George apparently dies, things take a turn for the weird. It becomes clear that Rose plotted with her lover Ted Patrick (Richard Allan), but although she identified a corpse as George’s, Polly claims to see him in their bungalow. Polly tries to convince her husband and the authorities that they have the wrong dead dude, but no one listens, and she eventually becomes involved in the various events herself, a course that inevitably leads her into danger.

”Inevitable” is probably the best word to describe the events that occur during Niagara. Very little of the plot comes as a surprise, as virtually all of the plot “twists” and events seem telegraphed. The movie tries to gain depth from its setting, but those attempts appear pretty hokey and laughable. We hear some metaphors that connect relationships and the Falls, but these come across as silly and forced.

Because the events contain so little tension, we must rely on the characters to provide interest. Unfortunately, they fail to do so. Cotten offers the strongest performance of the bunch; although all of the roles are thin and underwritten, he brings a nice sense of weariness and desperation to the part. Peters is lovely but insubstantial as Polly; frankly, I think she’s much prettier and sexier than Monroe, but she does little to distinguish herself as an actress. Still, that tops Showalter, who offers such an annoying presence as Ray that I continually hoped he’d go over the Falls himself!

As for Marilyn, it’s interesting to see her play this kind of part. She didn’t often portray such a conniving bitch, so it’s cool to watch her do something different. However, she doesn’t accomplish much in the role. She overplays Rose, perhaps in an attempt to wring some drama from this tepid vehicle.

Unfortunately, she fails, as Niagara offers nothing more than a tame and tired thriller. The predictable flick provides very little tension or depth, as it just grinds along from one bland plot twist to another. I can’t call Niagara a terrible film, for it fails to muster that level of passion in me. Instead, it simply seems relentlessly bland and ordinary.

The DVD Grades: Picture B- / Audio C- / Bonus D-

Niagara appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Despite some moderate problems, the picture generally seemed quite good for its age.

Sharpness caused a few minor concerns. For the most part, the image remained reasonably accurate and well defined, but definite softness interfered at times. Occasionally the movie presented a fuzzy picture, though those occasions occurred fairly infrequently. Jagged edges and moiré effects presented no issues, but I did see some light edge enhancement at times. Print flaws arose in the form of grain, blotches, specks and spots. However, these were pretty modest considering the age of the material, and the movie generally presented a pretty clean impression.

Colors also seemed somewhat erratic, but they usually came across quite well. Skin tones periodically appeared too pink, but otherwise the hues looked fairly vivid and distinct. The movie featured a natural palette, and the DVD replicated this to pretty solid effect. Black levels also seemed acceptably deep and dense, but shadow detail was a little excessive; low-light situations remained decent but they could look somewhat thick at times. Overall, I thought Niagara presented a satisfying image. The moderate softness caused the greatest loss of points, but as a whole, the picture seemed positive.

As I noted in my review of Monkey Business, the audio grade listed above reflects the mix that sits highest on the food chain. If a DVD includes both stereo and mono tracks, I only grade the former. However, in some cases, that mix may not be the best one. That occurred to a radical degree for Business, and it also happened for Niagara, though the differences between the two seemed less severe in this case.

If you read my complaints about Business’ stereo mix, you’ll already sense where I’ll go with my discussion of Niagara. This film suffered from a sense of excessive broadness. Localization appeared improved over the extremely loose and artificial tone of Business, but it came across as better-focused much of the time. Speech showed the greatest problems. At times, dialogue sounded reasonably well placed, but I also noticed a fair amount of inappropriate bleeding to the sides. On the other hand, the track actually boasted some nice spread to effects, as the sound of the Falls seemed fairly accurate and engaging. Nonetheless, I wasn’t wild about the stereo imaging, as it usually appeared too vague and could become a moderate distraction.

The stereo track of Niagara lost most of its points due to another culprit that also marred Business. Both films coated the audio with a nasty sense of reverb that made much of the audio appear compressed and artificial. This element seemed less severe here than during Business, but it still made the material appear less natural and clear; dialogue suffered from the greatest degradation due to this choice. Otherwise, the audio came across as decent for its age. Effects occasionally sounded somewhat shrill, but they also maintained surprising depth at times; for instance, the Falls boasted pretty good low-end response. Overall, the stereo mix of Niagara could have been worse, but it remained a flawed piece of work.

Again, I strongly preferred the monaural mix. Although it obviously lacked the nice spread to effects, it also lost the annoying vagueness that affected the localization of much speech heard during the stereo track. The mono edition also sounded substantially more accurate. Speech appeared fairly warm and natural within the confines of the era, and the other elements also showed good clarity and definition. Some hiss and hum affected both tracks, but they remained acceptably minor. Ultimately, Niagara offered a good mono mix for its age; if graded on its own, I’d give it a solid “B-“.

For the five DVDs that come as part of Fox’s “Diamond Collection 2”, we find very similar extras. All five include the same set of trailers. We discover ads for Niagara as well as “Diamond 2” mates Don’t Bother to Knock, Monkey Business, River of No Return and Let’s Make Love. In addition, we get an ad for the original “Diamond Collection”.

After that we locate a Still Gallery. This domain includes 19 images. Those consist of shots from the film, publicity images, and some wardrobe tests. As with the other collections of photos, the frames seem moderately interesting but not great.

As with all of the discs in the original “Diamond Collection”, Niagara and the other “Diamond 2” release offer a Restoration Comparison. This lets us see the changes from older releases of the film and the current one. I think these seem somewhat self-serving and a little pointless, but it can be interesting to note the improvements.

With Marilyn Monroe in the part of a fairly nasty little shrew, Niagara possessed the potential to be something unusual in her roster of films. Unfortunately, the movie succeeded as nothing more than a dull and obvious thriller with no sense of ingenuity or life. The DVD provided pretty good picture and monaural sound. However, the disc’s stereo track showed more problems, and the disc included only the standard compilation of bland extras. I can’t say that I loathed Niagara, but I can’t recommend it to anyone other than Marilyn die-hards.

Note that Niagara can be purchased on its own or as part of Fox’s Marilyn Monroe “Diamond Collection 2” set. The latter includes four other movies: Don’t Bother to Knock, Monkey Business, River of No Return, and Let’s Make Love. For dedicated fans of Marilyn, the “Diamond Collection 2” offers a nice bargain. It costs only $79.98 list as opposed to a total of $99.90 for the five films on their own. Granted, you’d need to really love Marilyn to want that much of her material, but if you fall into that category, it’s a great idea.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.421 Stars Number of Votes: 19
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