'Niagara' a glimpse of the falls from the past
If one has ever gone to see a decently priced movie at the Four Seasons Theater off Military Road, they will have likely seen the current movie posters lining the walls. However, hidden among advertisements for the latest blockbusters or Oscar contenders are lobby cards from an older movie. A movie from 1953. A movie starring Marilyn Monroe. A movie that put Niagara Falls on the map for tourist destinations.
"Niagara" opens up with several shots of Niagara Falls, which is probably not a new sight for students here at Niagara University. However, whether you are seeing them for the first time or the millionth time, there is something that is breathtaking about them.
The film follows a couple, Ray and Polly Cutler, who are on a delayed honeymoon to visit Niagara Falls. They stay on the Canadian side in a little motel, where the Loomis' (Marilyn Monroe and Joseph Cotton) have not yet checked out of their room. However, it is not just a case of sleeping late. The Loomis' seem to be a suspicious couple. The husband, George, seems to be teetering on the brink of insanity, while his wife, Rose, often slips out during the day to meet with her secret lover.
Things get really sticky when Rose and her lover decide to murder George, which does not go as smoothly as planned. As if that was not bad enough, it is not long before the Cutlers become the innocent bystanders in the Loomis' marital strife.
One thing that must be reiterated is that "Niagara" is an older movie. The special effects and acting are not as spectacular as in current films. Max Showalter, who played Ray, seems to be trying a little too hard to act. However, his quirky laughter and outdated slang gives this edgy drama a bit of humor, even if it is unintended.
What is most surprising is Marilyn Monroe. When people think of her, they picture a blonde who relies more on looks than talent (fitting in well with the current celebrities). This film proved that she was more than just a pretty face. She could be coy in one scene, femme fatale the next. The rest of the cast was not bad either, despite a few overzealous actors.
However, the real reason to watch "Niagara" is for Niagara Falls. Loomis sums it up when he opens the film with the monologue, "Why should the falls drag me down here at 5 o'clock in the morning? To show me how big they are and how small I am? To remind me they can get along without any help? All right, so they've proved it."
The Cutlers take advantage of all the tourist attractions, including the Maid of the Mist, Cave of the Winds, and Journey Behind the Falls. Even the bell tower, which is visible when crossing from the U.S. to Canada, is a central theme of the film.
It is interesting to be watching a film and be able to say, "I was there," or "I've seen that." It is likely that these phrases will be repeated among students at Niagara University.
"Niagara," while a decent movie for the '50s, may not live up to what students are used to today. In fact, some may find it slow, dull and mundane. Yet, imagine watching it when it first came out. It was shot in Technicolor; it featured Monroe in one of her breakout roles; and it offered people a glimpse of Niagara Falls.