Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Niagara - movie review

Niagara is a 1953 movie, directed by Henry Hathaway, which I found tucked away on the tv schedules. It was described as "Hitchcockian" and starred Marilyn Monroe, and these twin temptations proved irresistible. And I'm glad I watched it, although it doesn't rank as a classic crime film by a long stretch. The most memorable aspect of the film is not even Marilyn, but the vivid photography of Niagara Falls, which play a key part in the story-line.

Casey Adams and Jean Peters play a honeymooning couple whose cabin at the Falls is taken by another pair, George and Rose Loomis, played by Monroe and Joseph Cotten. Monroe is young and sexy, but her husband is jealous and depressive. It soon emerges that he has plenty to be jealous and depressed about, since his wife is encouraging her lover to kill him.

There are a few pleasing plot developments, but on the whole the story is commonplace. In a sense, the story-line is that of a film noir - but Niagara is shot in glorious Technicolor. The contradiction is by no means utterly fatal to the mood of unhealthy emotional tension, but it does contribute to the slightly unrealistic "feel" of the film. You can have a "noir" film shot in sunlight and colour- the brilliant Body Heat is an example - but Niagara  isn't in the same league as Lawrence Kasdan's masterpiece.

Niagara is, perhaps, an attempt to focus more on the characters' emotional lives than the typical Hitchcock thriller. Again, though, this was much better done years later in Body Heat. When a film is described as "Hitchcockian", one expects edge-of-the-chair suspense, of the kind delivered in some of the best thrillers by Chabrol and Truffaut. Niagara is a lesser work, but still worth watching. And it does make me want to visit those Falls....

5 comments:

John said...

This movie is a guilty pleasure of mine. I watch whenever it comes on TV. And it was on over here too just two days ago. The more viewings I take in the more I admire Jean Peter's intelligent performance as the woman who tries to stop more murder. She gives the movie much needed grounding lest it take off into the stratosphere of hammy melodrama. Monroe seems to be doing yet another parody of her sexpot image, pouting and slinky posing and exaggerated hip shifting walk, and Cotten sometimes goes overboard in his later scenes. But how can you not love perfect period dialogue (intended to be taken seriously!) like the classic "You smell like a dime store!"

R.T. said...

Good (if not great) movie. Marilyn Monroe tried to prove that she was more than just a good looking woman. And Joseph Cotton was terrific.

Dan said...

I can't decide whether this film is complex and subversive or merely inconsistent.

Clothes In Books said...

I agree with you - the best thing about the film is the footage of Niagara. Everything else is forgettable.

dfordoom said...

I agree with John that the performance of Jean Peters is one of the film's strengths.

On the whole it's a pretty enjoyable movie and Monroe is a lot better than I would have expected.