Niagara is the film that began to imprint Marilyn Monroe into the American conscience as an icon. A glossy film noir shot in beautiful Technicolor, Monroe’s smoldering sensuality as a beautiful femme fatale is immediately apparent. Set in the popular honeymoon destination of Niagara Falls, the movie contrasts wedded bliss with a broken couple. Niagara is the quintessence of old Hollywood in 1953, a tightly crafted movie executed with precision and style. As entertaining today as it was when first released, no true film fan should miss the taut thriller.
The spectacular backdrop of Niagara Falls provides the setting for this morality play. Sensuous Rose (Marilyn Monroe) is vacationing with her husband, George Loomis (Joseph Cotton). George is possibly recovering from a mental breakdown. Staying in a cabin overlooking the falls, Niagara almost immediately reveals the distrust and acrimony between the poorly matched couple. George’s neurotic behavior prevents him from satisfying his vivacious spouse. Rose is clearly not satisfied in the marriage and looking for a way out, two-timing George with another man. George still loves her and can’t let go of the marriage.
Into the picture steps Ray and Polly Cutler (Jean Peters), an eager, young couple on a delayed honeymoon. After the Cutlers briefly meet Rose and learn of her husband, Polly soon ends up accidentally seeing Rose with her illicit lover. Polly keeps this information to herself, trying to stay out of the domestic affairs of another couple. Polly becomes inextricably linked, first as a sympathetic ear for George and later as Rose’s nominal acquaintance.
To escape her marriage, Rose and her paramour craft a plan to permanently remove George from her life. Things go terribly wrong for several characters and the innocent Cutlers get swept up into unfolding events. It would not be an entertaining movie were that Niagra’s entire storyline, having several tricks to throw viewers off, including a heart-racing conclusion that one will find hard to forget.
A tense thriller with excellent pacing and characterization, Niagara is one of those timeless movies that would have worked in any era. It is Marilyn Monroe’s radiant star that adds the cherry on top of the cake. If any woman was born for three-strip Technicolor, it was Marilyn with her ruby-red lips and dyed blonde hair in Niagara. Her charisma in the role of Rose adds another dimension to the masterful film. There is more psychological depth to the characters than was usual for the period, as it explicitly deals with George’s mental problems and his motivations in marrying Rose.
Fox topped themselves and possibly every other studio to date with this brilliant transfer for Niagara. The 1953 movie was shot in gorgeous three-strip Technicolor by cinematographer Joseph MacDonald. Properly framed in its native 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Niagara looks absolutely stunning and one of the crowning achievements of the Blu-ray format. This BD is easily the best a Technicolor film has ever looked in 1080P, culled from a truly wondrous restoration.
Dazzling primary colors are fully saturated and rendered in brilliant clarity. The pitch-perfect transfer never skips a beat, as the film elements are in fantastic shape for any age, much less a film released in 1953. Print damage is virtually nil, completely lacking embedded negative and positive dirt.
Fox’s transfer technicians have done a marvelous job in retaining fine-grain structure without heavily filtering it or adding unnecessary sharpening. Niagara has an authentic film-like appearance without a single anomaly or artifact to remind one is watching a digital replication of a 60-year-old film. Close-ups of Monroe show an extraordinary level of detail and focus. The cinematography is razor-sharp and has impeccable contrast, highlighting extreme clarity of many shots.
In the world of Blu-ray, throwing money at a project often produces results. It is immediately apparent that someone at Fox loves Niagara, devoting immense resources as this lavish restoration is second to none in many respects. Only a complete photochemical restoration to the original negatives and harvested on the newest pin-registered scanners could produce a product of this caliber. Niagara on Blu-ray deserves a special award, and is a lock for year end home video nominations.
Fox has provided the original mono soundtrack for Niagara in lossless fidelity with 1.0 DTS-HD MA and a slightly expanded 5.1 DTS-HD MA presentation for listeners. The surround mix is a slight expansion of the monaural sound, spreading the musical elements and some minor Foley effects over a larger portion of the sound field. It adds a touch of extra immersion in the rear channels, though the most critical element, dialogue, is still firmly anchored to the center channel. The orchestral score is a fine component of the experience, though it is not a transcendent work which could stand on its own for most people.
Like many other Blu-rays released by Fox, a number of subtitles and dubs are provided for Niagara. Subtitles are presented in white: English SDH, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, and Turkish. Dubs include: French DTS 5.1, German DTS 5.1, Japanese DTS 5.1, Italian DTS 2.0, Spanish DTS 2.0, Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 mono.
Original Theatrical Trailer (03:03 in 480i)
More Monroe Movie Trailers (Various times in 480i): Bus Stop, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How To Marry A Millionaire, River of No Return, The Seven Year Itch, Irving Berlin’s There’s No Business Like Show Business.
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