Niagara (1953)

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Released 24-Jul-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:56)
Featurette-Restoration Comparison (1:07)
Gallery
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1953
Running Time 85:12 (Case: 88)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (27:11) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Henry Hathaway
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Marilyn Monroe
Joseph Cotten
Jean Peters
Case ?
RPI Box Music Sol Kaplan


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/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 None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Danish
Dutch
English for the Hearing Impaired
Finnish
French
German
Italian
Norwegian
Spanish
Swedish
French Titling
German Titling
Italian Titling
Spanish Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    If there was one film that could be pointed to as "the one" that catapulted Marilyn Monroe into the stratosphere of actresses in Hollywood, then Niagara is it. It was arguably her first genuine starring role (after Anne Baxter backed out if I remember the Internet Movie Database notes correctly) and she made herself an A-list star with it. It proved that she could not only ignite fires with her sexuality on film but also that she could actually act when asked to. Toss in a bit of singing and this demonstrated just about everything she had to offer. In some ways, this is the film that highlights what a great tragedy her life was, inasmuch as it constantly reminds us of what a woman she was. Legends are few and far between - there is no denying Marilyn Monroe that status. Goddesses are even fewer and even further between - Marilyn Monroe would just about make the grade.

    Given the title of the film, it comes as no surprise that the film was set around Niagara Falls. The story begins with a hint of something mysterious, as George Loomis (Joseph Cotten) is driven to the brink of insanity by his adoring wife Rose (Marilyn Monroe), so much so that he wanders dangerously close to the falls themselves. Returning to their holiday cabin, George finds his wife apparently fast asleep. Into the mix arrives a young couple from Toledo, Polly Cutler (Jean Peters) and Ray Cutler (Max Showalter), in town to visit the headquarters of Ray's company. He turns out to be a successful sales rep for the Shredding Wheat company and has won the trip to Niagara Falls for his sales performances. The couple are using the trip as a belated honeymoon. They have booked into the same holiday cabins as the Loomis' - indeed the actual cabin itself. So the Cutler's get to meet the Loomis', and the mystery just goes crazy. Obviously the Cutler marriage is a happy one, but equally obviously the Loomis marriage is not and those problems are manifested within sight of the falls. Rose Loomis has a plan and the Cutler's will be the unwitting participants therein to prove to the police that George Loomis was not entirely sane. Like all plans though, this one does not have a smooth ride and both Rose and Polly have some nasty surprises in store.

    Nothing more will be revealed, for whilst not quite up to the standard of Alfred Hitchcock, we do get a nice little twist that is not entirely expected.

    The star of the film in every way is Marilyn Monroe and she demonstrates it in just about every scene she appears in. She has the sassiness and innocence to pull off the role of the scheming wife with absolute aplomb. Even if you know the film well, her performance is good enough to still cast that little doubt in the back of your mind. Mind you, she still gets ample opportunity to demonstrate her sheer sexuality and I doubt anyone lying in bed under sheets could generate as much electricity on screen as Marilyn Monroe could. To be fair, her co-star was not quite in the same league and was to a large extent overshadowed by her presence. Whilst I would not go so far as to say Joseph Cotten was a complete miscasting, you do have to think that perhaps a better choice could have been found. The comparative lack of chemistry between the two of them does, however, add an edginess to the drama here. There was one other bright light in the film and that was the beautiful Jean Peters. She did not have much of a career before she gave it away to become Mrs Howard Hughes, but on the evidence here, it would have been a career worth watching. The rest of the cast do enough to flesh out their roles and that is about all you could ask for in the presence of Marilyn Monroe. Henry Hathaway did a fine job in the director's chair, but the special effects certainly date the film badly! You will see what I mean in the climatic scene of the film.

    Niagara is one of the most important films in the career of Marilyn Monroe, and one of the better ones too. Not quite in the league of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes or Some Like It Hot - in my view her two best outings - but worthy of investigation.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    With a return to Technicolor for this release, the quality has seemed to improve again - at least in comparison to the DVD immediately reviewed prior to this (Monkey Business). Whilst not in the visual delight category of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, this is a good transfer in most respects and shows only a few indicators of the film's age.

    The transfer is presented in a Full Frame format that equates very closely to the Academy aspect ratio (1.37:1) of the theatrical release. The transfer is not 16x9 enhanced.

    Apart from a few places where grain is really in evidence, there is little to hinder the transfer at all. Funnily enough, the grain is most noticeable during the special effects segments of the film - 79:45 and 83:15 are examples - where the foreground is distinctly superior in quality to the background. This does raise the question as to whether this represents second unit shooting on different film stock or something similarly inherent in the source material. Nonetheless, it has to be said that in comparison to some grain harvests seen, this is a reasonably limited one. Otherwise, the transfer is reasonably sharp and quite well detailed. Shot mostly on location I believe, the result has a quite natural look to it (aside from the effects work that is). Shadow detail is where the film does fall down somewhat with some instances being quite poor - 31:15 is an example where more detail was really required. This is unlikely to be anything other than source material issues though. Low level noise is not an issue in the transfer.

    The colours here tend towards being a little muted, which is not exactly detrimental to the film. Aside from a few of the dresses worn by Marilyn Monroe there are not really a heck of a lot of bright, vivid colours to be found. The result has a quite natural feel to it, and overall aids the film pretty well. The only evidence of bleed in the transfer is during the opening credits, where the red tends to run a little. There is no real indication of oversaturation anywhere in the transfer. This is not exactly a vibrant transfer and I would have preferred a little more depth to the tones.

    There are no significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There are few film-to-video artefacts in the transfer, with the most notable being some moiré being evident in the roof at 2:42. There are quite a few film artefacts in the transfer, most notably and obviously during the opening credits, but dotted elsewhere during the transfer as well. This is perhaps the poorest of the restored colour films in the series in that regard, yet it is by no means a big issue here.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming during the black scene change at 27:11. Once again it is not disruptive to the flow of the film and was unnoticeable on my new DVD player (I had to resort to the old player to find out where it was exactly).

    There are fourteen subtitle options on the DVD. Once again they are pretty good with only relatively minor dialogue omissions in general.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are five soundtracks on the DVD, being Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. I listened to the English soundtrack, as you would of course expect.

    The audio transfer is pretty good and apart from some rather obvious drops into distinctly mono sound, the sound has a decent body to it and thus everything comes up pretty well. You will note that the recordings involving the waterfall itself sound quite congested and almost hissy. This is most likely the result of the deficiencies of recording technology in those days. As anyone who has been to Niagara Falls and had the chance to get close to them will attest, the din they make is quite amazing. The fact that this results in some less than perfect sound recording for the film is hardly surprising. There does not appear to be any significant audio sync issues with the transfer.

    The original music comes from Sol Kaplan, which is not exactly terrific but does the job of supporting the film well enough.

    This is a reasonably good mono soundtrack in that it is not obviously mono and the remastering has done a decent job of splitting the sound into the front speakers. It does get a little echoic at times, but not distractingly so. The sound could certainly have benefited from a bit more air but overall there is little to be truly complaining about here.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Another light load again, for what is arguably Marilyn Monroe's first real starring role. I would have thought a little more could have been done.

Menu

    Fairly basic efforts, although reasonably decent looking and they are 16x9 enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer (2:56)

    Let's see - very grainy, plenty of film artefacts, congested sound and black and white. Not much going for this on purely technical grounds. I thought the caption "Filmed in Technicolor" over the black and white picture was one of the funniest moments in a trailer that I have seen recently. Presented in a Full Frame format, which is not 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound of the mono variety. Not an inspiring looking or sounding effort at all.

Featurette - Restoration Comparison (1:07)

    Not much in the way of length with this effort, which follows the same format as the other DVDs in the series. This effort features three screen comparisons after the obligatory self running notes about the restoration. The first comparison is between the pre-restoration film and the restored film elements with video restoration. The second compares the existing video master with the restored film elements with video restoration. The third comparison is between the restored film elements and the restored film elements with video restoration.

Gallery - Stills

    Comprising nineteen stills, mainly from the film itself with a few costume test shots added in for good measure.

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 again nothing significantly different between the two releases, so this one is also even.

Summary

    Aside from the fact that just about any shot of Niagara Falls reminds me of one of the best days of my life, a day that nowadays I really don't like to remember, Niagara is a very decent film and demonstrates exactly why Marilyn Monroe's career basically went into overdrive thereafter. Whilst it does not stretch any cinematic boundaries, it is a neat little story that has enough Alfred Hitchcock-like tautness to it as to sustain interest to the end. Sure the maestro would have added a few more twists into the equation, but you really never know where this one is going until the final act. The transfer is not the best in the Marilyn Monroe Diamond Collection but it is still good for its age and will satisfy all barring the most fastidious.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Friday, August 02, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, 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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