Niagara (1953)

Genres - Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Film Noir, Psychological Thriller  |   Release Date - Jan 21, 1953 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 92 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

Launched with a memorable ad campaign featuring water cascading over Marilyn Monroe's curvaceous body, Niagara helped to cement Monroe's status as a box office draw. It also afforded her the chance to play a change-of-pace part. While the character still uses sexuality in an overt manner, she's no dumb blonde. Conniving and cold-blooded, the role calls for Monroe to sacrifice her famous vulnerability, using it only to manipulate the others around her rather than the audience, and she comes through in spades. While her performance lacks a great deal of variety, that's essentially due to flaws in the script and character. Joseph Cotten turns in another of his intense, dark and disturbed portrayals, and while he too is hampered by the script, it's an effective performance. The lack of dimension in the characters is regrettable but not overly damaging, as director Henry Hathaway keeps the tension high, even during some moments when the credibility of the situation is in question. Most memorable are the stalking sequence in the clock tower and the finale, both of which are exciting and very well handled. Most importantly, the film makes great use of the falls themselves, both in a "travelogue" sense and in terms of using the location to create and maintain atmosphere. Too flawed to be the kind of Hitchcockian thriller it aspires to be, Niagara nevertheless provides solid chills and entertainment.