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The Razor's Edge (1946)

A big budget adaptation of a respected novel, Edmond Goulding's 1946 version of M. Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge is fascinating for its antiquation. Tyrone Power stars as Larry Darrell, a man of society who returns from World War I questioning the meaning of life. As such, he cannot marry Isabel Bradley (Gene Tierney), though both planned to settle down together. But though Larry is interested in becoming enlightened and Isabel lets him go, with the help of her uncle Elliot Templeton (Clifton Webb) she plots to ensnare Darrell into marriage while he's in France. But she can't spring her seductive trap, so Larry heads east and discovers Eastern philosophy. When he returns years later, Isabel has married another beau, Gray Maturin (John Payne), and Larry finds himself attracted to Sophie (Anne Baxter), another friend of theirs who has become an alcoholic after she lost her husband and child in a car accident. Larry helps Sophie clean up, but Isabel and her uncle can't help but meddle, hoping to ruin the marriage but in doing so ruin Sophie. What makes The Razor's Edge compelling is that it's a rare breed of movie, a studio picture that attempts to be all class and intelligence. This was a Darryl F. Zanuck production, and it's filled with the importance and style of something to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, the novel doesn't translate well to the screen, and the writers couldn't crack the main character of Larry Darrell — he's a saint and a cipher. What makes the story interesting is not what it sets out to be, but what it becomes, which is a portrait of a conniving woman. Isabel and her uncle — whose sexuality seems at best confused — become the focus, and Tierney vamps a good game with Webb sharing in her brittle sentiments. It's a return to their work in 1944's Laura, and their re-teaming is the film's most exciting facet; Tierney plays a wonderful bitch. Goulding does an acceptable job with an unworkable script — one that includes M. Somerset Maugham as a character, played by Hebert Marshall — and the performers do what they can with it. But it's more fascinating as something from a bygone era than as compelling entertainment. Fox includes The Razor's Edge in its "Studio Classics" imprint, presenting the film in a pleasing, restored full-frame transfer (1.33:1) with Dolby 2.0 stereo and mono soundtracks. Extras include a commentary with film historians Anthony Slide and Robert Birchard, as well as three Fox Movietone News segments (3 min.). Keep-case.
—DSH



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