The Razor’s Edge (1946) (Blu-ray)

The first film version of W. Somerset Maugham’s novel, directed by Edmund Goulding (Wilson) The Razor’s Edge captures one man’s search for the meaning of life. Larry Darrell (Tyrone Power) returns from World War I questioning why he survived, while a friend was killed just before hostilities ended. Things at home are no more settled. He’s in love with wealthy socialite Isabel Bradley (Gene Tierney) but he balks at the idea of joining the social crème de la crème. After agreeing to postpone their marriage, Larry travels to Paris in an attempt to clear his head.

While Isabel’s snobbish Uncle Elliot Templeton (Clifton Webb) would prefer she forget Larry, Isabel travels to Paris to force him to make a decision once and for all. Not long after, she marries the adoring Gray Maturin (John Payne), while Larry continues to seek enlightenment first in a French coal mine and later from the teachings of an Eastern Holy Man (Cecil Humphreys) in the Himalayas. Eventually returning to Paris, Larry learns that Isabel and Gray have been wiped out by the stock market crash of 1929. Isabel would like to rekindle her relationship with Larry, but Larry, now spiritually centered, is concerned with helping his childhood friend Sophie (Anne Baxter), who lost her husband and child in a car accident.

While Sophie is the most optimistic character at the films start, by the end, she has the most to be upset about as the story proceeds. An unfortunate car accident takes away her husband and child with no rhyme or reason. Sophie is left to drown herself in drink. Baxter won an Oscar for her performance, and it’s easy to see why. When she cries over her loss, it doesn’t seem theatrical, but realistic, and heartfelt. When Baxter is drunk, her cherubic face is still vibrant, but her eyes are hollow, lifeless. It’s acting at its best.

The Razor’s Edge was remade in 1984, with the odd casting of Bill Murray as the traveler in search of meaning. This version, more serious in tone, is easily the better of the two.

Presented in the 1.34:1 aspect ratio, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has provided a perfectly serviceable 1080p transfer. While some minor damage such as dust, dirt, and a few minor scratches are in evidence, it’s nothing that mars the overall viewing experience. Contrast and black levels are both excellent, as are clarity and sharpness. Grain is natural, and there are no compression issues.

The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track is nothing special, but it does the job. While there’s no real damage to report, the track just sounds a bit weak, likely due to age dialogue is a bit flat, and Alfred Newman’s music cues have little pop.

English SDH, and Spanish subtitles are included.

The following extras are available:

  • Commentary by Anthony Slide and Robert Birchard: Though there are some awkward silences, the two men offer surprising detail about the production, including efforts to make sure the film wasn’t overly “preachy.”
  • Fox Movietone News (SD, 3:11) Newsreel footage featuring the film’s stars, and W. Somerset Maugham himself.

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