“Niagara” (1953)

Directed by Henry Hathaway
20th Century Fox
US, 88 minutes
Starring Marilyn Monroe, Joseph Cotten, Jean Peters

Marilyn Monroe’s career was long enough for her to have some duds. Niagara, directed by Western director Henry Hathaway, is one of those. The film boils down to a sub-standard Hitchcockian story of a younger wife (Monroe) wanting to off her older husband (a very creepy Joseph Cotten) and the young, honeymooning couple who get stuck in it (Jean Peters and Casey Adams). Sure, there are some nice moments – particularly the way Hathaway shot Monroe’s character death at the hands of Cotten’s. Still, her death comes with nearly a half-an-hour left of the picture and Jean Peters is just not a strong enough actress to come in Monroe’s footsteps. In fact, all the scenes with the honeymooning couple at the beginning of the film are bad enough to make one squeamish. Maybe that’s the point though – that regular people can get twisted into impossible situations. Hitch did that better, though.

Aside from Charles Brackett’s less-than-stellar story (yes, this film was actually concocted by the same man who worked with Billy Wilder on all those great classics), the film is also weighed down by the color. On the disc, Fox included a black & white trailer for the film, which shows that it would have looked much better with that color palette than in Technicolor. Considering the poor condition the film is in, not only would it have been easier to see Joseph Cotten’s face, but the film’s noir ambitions might have been easier to swallow.

With little in the way of bonus features and a shoddy transfer, it is hard to recommend Niagara. It’s a slight, predictable film (seriously, if you can’t figure out where this one is going right away, you need your head checked), only memorable today because of Marilyn.

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