Beginnings and Endings

Niagara unfolds as a story in progress, a marriage going through its final death throes.

How appropriate then that it takes place at that well known honeymoon destination, Niagara Falls. The Loomises have been staying here. Rose (Marilyn Monroe) and George (Joseph Cotton) are the two in trouble, any kind of mutual trust between them long gone. Another couple, Polly and Ray Cutler, arrive on their honeymoon and repeatedly find themselves involved in the Loomises' affairs.

How volatile has the situation become? Rose and her lover is plotting to have her husband killed. George turns the tables on his would-be killer, and then works to confront his wife. Meanwhile, the Cutlers try to do the right thing but find the situation moving quickly beyond their ability to make a difference.

The movie unspools like a Hitchcock film, but not as crisp, lacking that frame-by-frame exactness. It's hard to criticize a director though for not being one of the greats, and this was a job very well done.

Where Niagara stumbles is in understanding why all this is happening in the first place. The script makes intimations of the strains on the Loomis marriage, but seemingly more out of obligation than any desire to make us understand. I kept waiting for some reason for the film to exist, and was left wanting. The movie is like one long extended scene in search of something meaningful to placed around it.

There are three credited writers, headed by Charles Brackett, the man behind Sunset Blvd. It really seems like this film was an attempt to write a very particular style. While it works on a certain level, it left me wanting. It's a shame really, for all the craftwork - the acting, directing, and so on - is deserving of a complete story.

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