I am and always have been an unapologetic Marilyn Monroe fan. Not only for her iconic place in Hollywood history, but I actually really enjoy her acting and her screen presence. She is very funny in her comedies and very convincing in her dramas. I think her image has overshadowed her talent, and that is a shame because she had much more to offer than a pretty face. Last year we were treated to a magnificent Marilyn collection from Fox with seven of her classic films, but this week Fox offers up the two essential film that were missing from that set, Bus Stop and Niagara.
Café singer Cherie (Monroe) sees her fair share of men that fling themselves at her, but when Bo (Don Murray), an innocent rodeo cowboy, becomes obsessed with her in Phoenix, Cherie runs away to Los Angeles. But Bo is determined and finds Cherie, forcing her to board a bus with him back to his ranch in Montana, where he plans to marry Cherie whether she likes it or not. When a blocked road forces the occupants of the bus to spend some time at Gracie’s Diner, the drama between the cowboy and the kidnapped singer plays itself out with all involved.
Bus Stop is a very different movie for Marilyn. She does sing one number in the film, but it is primarily a drama. The strange story of Bo’s childlike attraction to Cherie, and their eventual coming together despite both of their pasts and secrets is a strange character arc if there ever was one. But Murray and Monroe sell the parts and make for an interesting character drama with a fine performance by Monroe. It may be one of the lesser celebrated Marilyn flicks, but it has a lot to offer.
Niagara may be my favorite Marilyn film. The thriller is a tense excursion into murder and conspiracy worthy of the Hitchcock name. It feels very Hitchcockian in tone as well, fitting very well into the Master of Suspense’s template. Marilyn is Rose Loomis, a woman staying in a cabin at Niagara Falls with her husband George (Joseph Cotton). Ray and Polly Cutler (Showalter and Peters) are on a delayed honeymoon and find the Loomis’ in their reserved cabin. The Cutler’s kindly take another cabin and befriend the odd couple. When George Loomis goes missing and is presumed dead, Polly suspects foul play on the part of Rose.
Revealing any more about the plot would really be a disservice to the viewer. Niagara is a tense, well written, beautifully filmed thriller with a lot of class. Marilyn is all sinister sensuality here and pulls it off in spades. The rest of the cast all hold up their ends as well including Cotton, Showalter and Peters, all excellent in their respective roles. The pacing is intentional and meticulous in the best way possible and Niagara hooks you from the beginning and keeps you reeled in the entire time. I put Niagara right up there with some of my favorite Hitchcock’s and is definitely at the top of my list of great Marilyn roles.
The Blu-ray’s from Fox stand up with the previously released set just fine. For films of this vintage I am always shocked at how good they look. I think many of these classic films looks better than some recent films, the results are just staggering. Bus Stop is the lesser of the two discs, but it is still a fine improvement over any previous editions. While the picture retains a healthy grain and is still a little flat, the overall clarity and detail have greatly improved and the color is very nice. The gem though is Niagara. I don’t know what they did to this film, but I was blown away by this transfer. Colors are bold and full, clarity and detail are amazing and I couldn’t find any significant signs of age. This is just a stellar transfer that has to be seen. While both films got a great treatment on Blu-ray, Niagara is the clear winner here and is a must own disc for classic fans.
Available July 30, 2013 on Blu-ray and DVD.