The cover of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment’s Blu-ray release of Niagara (1953) features the sole visage of one Ms. Marilyn Monroe, when in truth she is but one of three (or four) key players in this thriller set against the backdrop of the Niagara Falls. Hell, one of the other main characters is even played by Joseph Cotten, so it’s certainly not like she’s the only name actor in the picture. That said, you’d have to be insane to walk away from Niagara thinking it was anybody but Marilyn Monroe’s movie. That woman knew how to steal a picture! And boy does she ever steal this one, starring as Rose Loomis, a woman who plots her husband’s (Cotten) murder with her lover.
Polly Cutler, played by Pickup on South Street’s Jean Peters, is yet another character mixed up in the whole affair, but unintentionally so as the Cutlers visit Niagara on their belated honeymoon having reserved the room George and Rose Loomis have been staying in. Thus, they wind up sucked into the Loomises’ madness and Polly finds herself smack dab in the middle of the film’s climactic action. Sure, this gives the audience an everyman character to root for during the climax– someone not involved in murder– but her presence ultimately just needlessly complicates what is already an otherwise engaging thriller.
To that end, if there’s anything wrong with Niagara (and don’t get me wrong, I really love this picture), it’s that there’s no central character per se. For a time you struggle to determine whether it’s Monroe, Peters, or Cotton, and then you just become so engrossed in the narrative, you just stop caring about such things as clear-cut protagonists. And yet, I feel it has a negative impact on the climax in the long-run, as the movie’s tension is ultimately spread out over one or two too many characters. And since some of those characters are out to murder others among them, our allegiances become split, disseminating the film’s suspense and, in turn, partially nullifying it.
But really, who cares?! You better damn well take what you can get when you find Marilyn Monroe and Joseph Cotten starring alongside one another. Maybe it’s not the most meticulously crafted story. I’ll grant you that. But Monroe, Cotten, and Peters are phenomenal here. And whereas many people recall Monroe as having had a very narrow range as an actress, limiting her in their minds to playing nothing but ditzes, she is in fact terrifically nuanced here (as in her other pictures, I might add) as a cold-hearted, murdering bitch, to put it gently. If you’ve only ever seen her in Some Like It Hot or in a poster on your friend’s wall, you owe it to yourself as a person existing in a world with a past to check out Niagara.
And now’s the time for it really, what with the recent release of Niagara on this beautiful Blu-ray from Fox and all. The presentation of the film here is absolutely beautiful, in keeping with the standard of Fox’s recent Studio Classics releases. It’s everything you want from a Blu-ray transfer: a well-articulated grain structure, exceptional clarity, and inky blacks with bright and deeply saturated colors. By way of special features, the release includes the film’s trailer, which is interesting to watch as it’s presented in black and white, as well as a Marilyn Monroe trailer gallery.