Featured Blu-ray Review: Marilyn Monroe Blu-ray Double-Shot: Bus Stop and Niagara
The second Marilyn Monroe double-shot I've done. The previous review featured her best dramatic work, The Misfits, and her greatest comedic work, Some Like It Hot. This double-shot features Bus Stop and Niagara. It is unlikely this film will live up to the previous films, but are they worth checking out? And are the Blu-rays worth picking up?
The film begins with Beauregard 'Bo' Decker practicing for an upcoming rodeo. Afterward, he and Virgil Blessing head to Phoenix for a rodeo tournament. Virgil tells Bo that its time for Bo to meet a nice woman. It seems Bo is what we would politely call socially awkward and he's a bit scared to talk to women. After all, he has only been off the ranch once, and that was when he was 12 and needed his tonsils taken out. However, going to the big city should be the perfect place to meet the angel of his dreams.
There's a short stop at Grace's Diner, where Bo insults Grace, the owner, and the pair make their way to Phoenix. After Bo nearly causes a couple accidents, Bo and Virgil make it to their hotel. While Bo is getting ready for the night, Virgil sees Cherie sitting at the window across the street at the Blue Dragon. He decides to check the place out.
Cherie is the singer at the Blue Dragon, although she's not happy working there. Her boss is a tyrant and a bully and forces her to con patrons into buying her fake drinks. (They are paying for whiskey, but she only drinks tea.) One of the waitresses there encourages her to quit. However, Cherie is trying to make it in Hollywood and she's gotten from Arkansas to Phoenix, so she's not about to quit now. When she begins her set, Bo walks in, sees her and declares she's his angel. Virgil isn't so sure (he was Cherie's target to con him out of drinks). It's love at first sight, at least for Bo. They do talk a bit after her set is done and the pair kiss, which Bo thinks means they are getting married. However, Cherie doesn't feel the same way.
Bo doesn't quite understand that Cherie isn't interested in him that way, so he decides to kidnap her and take her back to Montana to be his wife. This isn't overstating things. He uses a lasso and kidnaps her. Are we supposed to cheer for him?
I'm of two minds when it come to this movie. Firstly, it reminds me a lot of Love Me Tender, which was the previous review. Elvis Presley was the big draw in Love Me Tender, but he wasn't in the first 20 minutes or so. In this movie, Marilyn Monroe is the big star, but she doesn't get her first line till more than 15 minutes into the film. Its worse here, because while the romance between Vance and Cathy was rather dull, it is a huge step up from what we get here.
At first, Bo comes across as cartoonish. He's an over-the-top buffoon to begin with, which was grating to watch. Then when he meets Cherie he turns into something I found a little scary. There's being socially awkward and then there's stepping over a line. Kidnapping is several miles on the other side of that line.
On the other hand, Marilyn Monroe is really good in this movie. She gives one of her better performances and picked up a Golden Globe nomination for this role. Granted, her Ozark mountain accent is perhaps a little wavering at times, but this is still an excellent performance. She gives Cherie real emotional depth and is easy to sympathize with, unlike her co-star. Overall it is not a great movie, but I can recommend it thanks to her performance.
The technical presentation is strong, given the film's age. The level of details is high, but there is grain present. Colors are solid and contrast is never an issue. There are no signs of print damage, but also no signs of digital manipulation either. An excellent restoration. The audio is 4.0 mix, or Quadraphonic sound, as it was known back then. It is mostly a front-centric mix, but the audio is always clear with no glitches and the dialogue is rarely overrun by music or effects.
The Blu-ray costs $20, which isn't great for a featureless disc.
We first meet George Loomis as he's down by Niagara Falls ranting about how small he is. He's here with his wife, Rose, on a vacation. Their marriage is not exactly wonderful and when George returns to their room, Rose pretends to be asleep.
We then meet another couple who are on their honeymoon, Polly and Ray Cutler. They are up from Toledo for a delayed honeymoon. They are staying at the same place the Loomises are, Rainbow Cabins. In fact, they are supposed to be staying in the same cabin. When they arrive, the manager, Mr. Qua, tries to get the Loomises to leave, but Rose explains her husband hasn't been feeling well since getting out of Letterman (a military psych ward) and she's sympathetic enough that Polly suggests they can take another cabin.
While checking out the tourist sites, Polly sees firsthand how dysfunctional the Loomises marriage is, when she sees Rose kissing another man, Patrick. She doesn't confront her about it, on the other hand. Later on that night, George finds the ticket for the Scenic Tunnel, where Rose was kissing Patrick. He has been jealous for a while and while this isn't really evidence, it doesn't help his mental state. His mental state becomes worse when Rose decides to go to a party next door. Polly and Ray are already there and they get a firsthand view of George's temper. Rose selects a song to play, "Kiss", which she clearly loves. George, on the other hand, storms into the party and destroys the album.
Polly goes to help George, who cut his hand when breaking the album. Polly sees more of George's jealousy, but she tries to help him. She's tries to convince him his jealousies are unfounded. Ray joins them and tries to help George, but it doesn't work out. George has gotten to the point where he thinks Rose is planning something for him.
At this point, we run into spoilers. However, since it is a Film Noir, some of the spoilers are not exactly surprising.
This film was a major departure for Marilyn Monroe, who is best known for playing ditzy blondes who were merely the object of affection for the male leads. Occasionally she played ditzy blondes who were actively seeking the affection of a male (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire.) Here she gets to play the Femme Fatale, which makes Niagara unique in her filmography. Personally, I think this is one of her best films, but it is important to note that I am a fan of the Film Noir genre, so keep that personal bias in mind. She gives a great performance in this movie, as do her two co-leads, Jean Peters and Joseph Cotten. All three give emotionally strong performances and give depth to their characters. The story isn't unique within the realm of Film Noir, but it is very well written, while the directing by Henry Hathaway is top notch. It isn't the best film Marilyn Monroe made, that would be Some Like It Hot, but Niagara is arguably in her top five, inarguably in her top ten.
Sadly, like the previous Blu-ray, this one just has a bunch of trailers for Marilyn Monroe movies, including this one.
The technical presentation is better here than above. The level of detail is just as strong as with Bus Stop, but the colors are even better. The colors are simply gorgeous. There are no signs of print damage, but there are also no signs of digital manipulation either, so the restoration process was spot-on. The audio is also better this time around with more activity in the surround sound speakers. There is the original mono score for those who want to see the movie as it was originally made.
Again, the Blu-ray costs $20, which is a little high for this type of film, but not out of the question.
Marilyn Monroe shines in both Bus Stop and Niagara, but in the former, she's one of the few high points in that movie. Additionally, the Blu-ray has no real extras. Niagara, on the other hand, is a great film and even though the Blu-ray lacks extras, it is absolutely worth picking up.
- Submitted by: C.S.Strowbridge
Date posted: 2013-08-25