River of No Return (1954)

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Released 24-Jul-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Theatrical Trailer-1.85:1, 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:49)
Featurette-Restoration Comparison (1:27)
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1954
Running Time 87:14 (Case: 90)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (41:17) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Otto Preminger

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Marilyn Monroe
Robert Mitchum
Rory Calhoun
Case ?
RPI Box Music Cyril J. Mockridge

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 4.0 L-C-R-S (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.55:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.55:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Danish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    After a brief interlude, we return to the films of the legendary Marilyn Monroe, this time in the form of River Of No Return. Yes, the film where Robert Mitchum got to act out the less-than-R-rated fantasies of many a man by being paid to give the ultimate screen goddess back and leg rubs. Lets face it - millions of men would have cheerfully paid to be able to partake in this gig! This was also the film where they tried to present a more girl-next-door, outdoorsy-type Marilyn Monroe by dressing her in jeans and ordinary shirt. Does that mean the cold shower level is down in this film? Not on your life!

    Like quite a few Marilyn Monroe films, the story is nothing to write home about. This particular effort is set in the gold rush days. Kay Weston (Marilyn Monroe) is a saloon singer on the gold fields, trying to make some money to change her life forever. Her beau is a card hustler, Harry Weston (Rory Calhoun), of similar position - that is, trying to find his big break in the world. Kay is obviously very good at what she does as she draws large crowds at the saloon - which is actually a tent like most of the town - and this means quite a few dollars coming her way. Into her life wanders a young boy, Mark Calder (Tommy Rettig), who has been brought to the town for collection by his father, who is a little late, leaving the boy to his own devices. His father, Matt Calder (Robert Mitchum), finally arrives to collect him, meets Kay and promptly departs to his farm with Mark in tow. Meanwhile, Harry has returned to Kay with news of a big windfall - he has won a gold claim but has to get to Council City to register the claim before the clown he won it from starts complaining. The quickest way to Council City is by raft down the river - which the Indians call the River Of No Return - with "wife" Kay in tow. They get into trouble on the river right around Matt's farm, where they are rescued. Harry then does the unthinkable and steals Matt's horse and rifle, leaving Mark, Matt and Kay to the mercies of the Indians. Their only means of escape? Down the river on the raft. So they set off in hot pursuit of Harry. The back story is the history of Matt and the parallel it has in Mark's life. But of course, I shall reveal no more here.

    Like quite a few Marilyn Monroe films, Marilyn Monroe ends up in a collection of partially revealing costumes, as well as doing a fine job of filling a pair of jeans! In many ways, though, this is an atypical Marilyn Monroe film, for this is about as unglamorous as she gets - well, at least by her standards! With the emphasis on nature and not so much on Monroe, it gives her another shot at genuine acting, as well as singing. The result is actually quite a pleasant way to fill in ninety minutes. The film itself does not need much brain power, Marilyn Monroe does a good job in her role and Otto Preminger ensured that he took full advantage of the magnificent scenery of Canada, especially around the Rockies where the film was shot. Robert Mitchum is also more than up to his task and, aside from being lucky enough to get his hands on Marilyn Monroe, does the male hunk role more than adequately. Interestingly, both were asked to do their own stunts which did create some problems. Of course, they also both forgot the golden rule of acting - never act with a kid. Whilst Tommy Rettig's is not the best performance you will ever see, he does enough to warrant the golden rule.

    Whilst the film ends in an entirely expected manner, there is no denying that the journey is worthy of a watch. In the filmography of Marilyn Monroe this is one of those films that certainly is not in the upper echelon but equally is one that I can sit back and watch on a regular enough basis.

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Transfer Quality


    This release is pretty much in the same mold as Bus Stop, and as such does not show any further decline in the standard of the transfer. Indeed, all things considered, this may show just enough of a reversal of the decline to raise some optimism for the balance of the releases in the Marilyn Monroe Diamond Collection.

    This is another of those CinemaScope films again, so the theatrical aspect ratio was 2.55:1. The transfer we have here has a measured ratio of 2.54:1: pretty well right on the mark. The transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    Once again the restoration has done a pretty good job of bringing the transfer back to somewhere close to its original glory. In general this is a nice, decently sharp transfer that certainly looks a lot better than I have ever seen it before. The only trouble is that the sharpness of DVD highlights the use of edge enhancement during scenes on the river, as well as what is presumably effects work as the background at times gets a little dull looking. Shadow detail is excellent even during the somewhat over-lit night time scenes. Clarity would have been excellent but for the presence of some grain here and there. Whilst the restoration has certainly cleaned it up somewhat, there is enough grain present to draw attention to it: 17:10, 36:00 and 65:06 are examples of this. There appears to be no problems with low level noise in the transfer.

    The colour here is by Technicolor and tends towards the moderately saturated middle of the range. The opening few minutes has enough colour pulsation to create worries about what is to follow, but this soon settles down and ends up not being an issue. The colours are not exactly vibrant but have a natural, matte look to them that I find quite pleasing. It suits the film well as the attention is not drawn away from the story being told - as could so easily be the case in the magnificent scenery on display here. There are no obvious problems with oversaturation nor undersaturation.

    There are no significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There are no significant film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. Whilst the restoration has certainly cleaned up the transfer very well, there are still quite a few film artefacts floating around. An especially noticeable collection of speckles can be found at 16:40.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming at 41:17. This is during a black scene change and therefore is virtually unnoticeable and completely non-disruptive to the film.

    There are ten subtitle options on the DVD, although I just checked out the English for the Hearing Impaired efforts. These seem to be quite good and do not seem to miss as much dialogue as in the previous DVDs from the Marilyn Monroe Diamond Collection reviewed.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are five soundtracks on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 4.0 soundtrack and Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks in French, German, Italian and Spanish. I listened only to the English soundtrack, which sounds as if it has a configuration of L-C-R-S.

    The audio transfer is good and presents the dialogue in a generally clear and easy to understand manner. There does not appear to be any problem with audio sync in the transfer.

    The original music once again comes from Cyril J. Mockridge. Not to be confused with something to be remembered, it does a decent job of supporting the film and providing the right sort of clichéd mood at the appropriate points.

    There is nothing else to report again with the soundtrack, with again nothing to be raised from my notes. The soundtrack is obviously lacking any LFE channel activity, and equally obviously lacking anything in the way of distortion or hiss. The configuration of the sound is not quite so frontal as other DVDs in the series, and at times the surround activity is much more obvious than hitherto the case.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Another slightly less than spectacular effort.


    Fairly basic efforts, although still looking pretty classy and they are 16x9 enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer (2:49)

    Displaying grain problems way beyond that of the feature itself, it does give some inkling of how bad the film could have looked. In broad terms it is not a good effort: quite dark, with poor definition, and suffering from rather ropey Dolby Digital 2.0 sound which is distinctly tinny and definitely mono. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced. Perhaps it should have been given something of a restoration itself on the evidence here.

Featurette - Restoration Comparison (1:27)

    Getting shorter all the time, this is broadly in the same form as the earlier DVDs reviewed with the self running notes about the extent of the restoration required followed by a split screen comparison. This compares the 1988 source for the laserdisc release with the 1995 source for the laserdisc release (which is somewhat better!), and then compares restored film elements with the restored film elements with video restoration.

Gallery - Stills

    Twenty one publicity type stills taken from the film and the production.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    As far as we can ascertain the Region 4 release misses out on:

    The Region 1 version misses out on:

    In broad terms there is nothing significantly different between the two releases, so call this one even, too.


    A film that I consider a little underrated, even if the story is not exactly stellar stuff. It might not be the most obvious film to check out in the Marilyn Monroe Diamond Collection but it really is one that you should check out. It is well worthwhile having a look-see at this DVD, providing of course you can live with the six different copyright messages you have to suffer before getting to the main menu.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Wednesday, July 24, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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