By the end of the 1950s Marilyn Monroe had secured her position as the sexiest woman on Hollywood's silver screen, and it wasn't just because of her stunning good looks in a series of films ranging from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes to Some Like It Hot, the starlet mixed a potent combination of sex appeal, innocence, and vulnerability that made men everywhere go all hubba-hubba. It was easy to lust after Marilyn, but her secret appeal lied in the fact that it was just as easy to adore her. Thus, 1953's Niagara, which was her second starring role, offers a rare look at a different sort of Marilyn a femme fatale with curves like a speedway, and just as dangerous. Monroe stars as Rose Loomis, a frustrated wife who's vacationing in Niagara Falls with her unstable husband George (Joseph Cotten). George, a failed businessman, is recovering from a recent mental breakdown, which is only aggravated by his alluring wife, whose revealing dresses and dripping sexuality never fail to earn men's attentions and drive George into jealous rages. But what George does not know is that Rose has a lover, Patrick (Richard Allan), and that the duo are conspiring to kill her doddering sugar-daddy. With Patrick on George's tail, all Rose has to do is wait for the bells in Niagara Falls to chime her favorite song, "Kiss," and then it will only be a matter of identifying the body. It's only when she visits the morgue that she learns just how badly her plan has gone astray, and matters aren't helped by two vacationing honeymooners (Jean Peters, Casey Adams) who accidentally get mixed up in the affair. Helmed by veteran director Henry Hathaway, Niagara would be one of Hollywood's most enduring films noir were it not for two things the picture is filmed in stunning Technicolor, and Hathaway no stranger to location shooting includes a lot of sumptuous Niagara Falls scenery in the story, making this killer-thriller look as pretty as a glossy postcard. Joseph Cotten carries much of the story on his shoulders, and he's an agreeable lead who's just old enough to look like a frustrated husband with a sexy young wife, and yet virile enough to be more than a little dangerous when provoked. Meanwhile, Hathaway moves the film along at a smart pace, leading up to a series of climaxes that often draw comparisons to Hitchcock (and one must suspect that Hitch would have found the script by Charles Brackett to have a lot of appeal with its many plot twists). But above all Niagara is remembered as a Marilyn Monroe movie, offering audiences indelible images of the rising star looking sexy in her many outfits, or wearing nothing but a bed-sheet, her performance recalls the famous line by Mae West: "When I'm good, I'm very, very good. But when I'm bad, I'm better." Fox's DVD release of Niagara features a nearly pristine restored Technicolor print in the original full-frame aspect ratio (1.33:1) and Dolby 2.0 audio. Features include a restoration demonstration, stills, and trailers for films in the second wave of the Diamond Collection. Keep-case.
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