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George and Rose Loomis are honeymooning at a Niagara Falls motel. She plots with Ted Patrick to do him in, but all does not go smoothly. For one thing, after Loomis is reported missing Polly Cutler spies him at the motel but her husband Bud thinks she's imagining it. Marilyn sings "Kiss." Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
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I rented "Niagara" for two reasons: one, the obvious reason to see Marilyn Monroe in such a unique role for her, and two, I always liked the idea of a side character (in this case, Jean Peters) getting inadvertently swept up in the intrigue of the main characters (Monroe and Joseph Cotten here). It's rare that the supporting characters of a film are integrated so well into the plot. Usually, they disappear or are seen less of as the plot progresses. (eg: the inexorable quirky friend of a leading lady in far too many thrillers) But I digress.
The plot is fairly simple, or so it seems. Polly and Ray Cutler (Peters and Max Showalter) are a young couple heading to Niagara Falls for a delayed honeymoon. Upon their arrival, they meet Rose and George Loomis (Monroe and Cotten), who are over-staying in their time in the Cutlers reserved cabin. Though Polly and Ray agree to stay in a nearby cabin, that is not the last they see of the Loomis's, a strange couple indeed. One day, Polly sees Rose passionately kissing another man (Richard Allan). Then, the sly Rose angers her husband by playing a seemingly reminiscent song on a record player a few other couples are dancing to, pushing George to destroying the record in his hands. It becomes apparent that something far more than infidelity is going on, and without giving away too many of the plot twists, murder ensues.
One of the things I really loved about this movie was how timeless it was. The actors, or at least Monroe and Cotten, may be familiar actors of the time, but this movie could be done at any time, and seem appropriate. And speaking of actors, the acting in this movie, for the most part anyway, is wonderful. Monroe, needless to say, was flawless, and I loved every second she was on the screen. Joseph Cotten, as he did in Hitchcock's "Shadow of a Doubt," has the ability of being very intimidating, almost brooding, and was terrific. Jean Peters gives an Oscar-worthy performance. She's very realistic, and impeccably likable. She manages to almost steal the movie from Monroe. I'm sorry to say Max Showalter was, well, really quite flat. The worst of the lot. Good thing he wasn't in a large role, though he still is one of the stars of the film. In supporting roles, Denis O'Dea gave a typical detective role as Inspector Sharkey, popping in once in a while. Richard Allan had little to do as Rose's lover Patrick. Showing up later in the film were Don Wilson and Lurene Tuttle as Ray's boss and the boss's wife, at Niagara Falls to vacation with the Cutlers. Both were excellent, though their roles were somewhat small. I liked the addition of their characters.
The chemistry between all the characters is terrific, particularly in the scene where Polly is bandaging George's hand after he breaks the record. The two of them have many scenes together, and I loved how Peters and Cotten interacted with one another. Showalter seemed consistently nervous around Monroe, while on the topic of spouse-switching, so to speak.
Overall, "Niagara" is very engaging. There is a good deal of action, especially towards the end. The chase scene through the bell tower was suspenseful, and the climax on the falls was absolutely wonderful. Polly proved herself to be very tough and a quick-thinker, and, throughout the rest of the movie, I liked how she didn't turn to Ray every time a problem arose. (Which made the final confronation between only her and the other character so much fun, because no one could save Polly but herself.) I think that's why I liked her character so much. Though, one thing to note, is the sort of silly-looking moment during the scene towards the end of the movie when George is pursuing Polly along the Falls (muted besides the sound of rushing water) and she slips and breaks through the wooden banister. It was a startling scene (I honestly thought she'd fall) but sort of funny, the way the movie sped up quickly to make it look to sudden. Oh well, blame it on technical abilities.
I definitely recommend this film, not just for Hitchcock fans and Monroe fans, but for anyone, even if you don't like older films. This one is a classic, but at the same time, feels as if it could have been made only twenty years ago, not almost fifty.
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