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Blu-ray Review The Razor's Edge (1946) Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Matt Hough

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The Razor's Edge (1946) Blu-ray Review

After almost four years away from the screen serving in the Marines during World War II, 20th Century Fox’s biggest male star Tyrone Power returned to the studio for Edmund Goulding’s The Razor’s Edge. Based on the best-selling Somerset Maugham novel, the film presented some of the studio’s top stars acting in a serious drama, far removed from the star vehicles and frothy films of the pre-war years. While the film was a big success, Power was never quite able to regain entry into the top ten box-office stars that he had enjoyed before going off to fight, but he was delighted to return to films that had more serious intentions and darker themes, and his performances in them seem richer and more powerful than ever before.



Studio: Fox

Distributed By: N/A

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono), Spanish 1.0 DD (Mono)

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Rating: Not Rated

Run Time: 2 Hr. 26 Min.

Package Includes: Blu-ray

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Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

Region: A

Release Date: 01/13/2014

MSRP: $24.99




The Production Rating: 4/5

Returning to Chicago from the horrors of World War I, Larry Darrell (Tyrone Power) finds himself restless and unsatisfied even with a gorgeous fiancé Isabel Bradley (Gene Tierney) who wants nothing more than for them to get married and live a life of the social elite. But Larry doesn’t want to work a standard job, and an annuity of $3,000 a year allows him to drift wherever he pleases and search for answers to the meaning of life. With his engagement to Isabel thus ended (she promptly marries Gray Maturin (John Payne), a man infatuated with her), Larry works his way on a tramp steamer first to Paris and then for a number of years studying with gurus in India considering the meaning of life and the nature of goodness. Later, on returning to France, he learns that Isabel and Gray lost all their money in the 1929 crash and are now living poshly due to the benefaction of her uncle Elliott Templeton (Clifton Webb) while another Chicago friend, Sophie MacDonald (Anne Baxter), has fallen into alcoholism and prostitution after the death of her husband and child in a tragic accident. Larry’s attempts to rescue and rehabilitate Sophie momentarily lead to their engagement, but the jealous Isabel can’t help but be resentful since she never stopped loving Larry and wants him for herself.

While touching on philosophical themes as Larry searches and studies for enlightenment, Lamar Trotti’s screenplay never delves too deeply into religious or spiritual matters (we take it on the word of the film’s characters that Larry has finally found inner peace and tranquility and can convey some of that sense of calm and control to those whom he loves). He makes certain the novel’s more salacious events (surprise deaths, revenge, murders, alcoholism) get the audience’s full attention. Director Edmund Goulding smartly delays Tyrone Power’s entrance for almost ten minutes and then allows him a long walk toward his friends with the camera following as fans the world over got to see how the war might have changed him (his eyes seem a bit sad and some of that youthful vigor is, of course, gone, but part of that is the role he’s playing of a man struggling inwardly with guilt over surviving the war and wondering what he must do to repay such a debt to the fates of chance). Goulding’s preference for long takes and the moving camera of the great Oscar-winning cinematographer Arthur Miller make superb use of the tremendously effective production design of the movie: not just the elegant salons of Elliott Templeton in Paris and on the Rivera but in allowing us to soak in the ambiance of the many nightclubs, country clubs, and later dive bars and drug dens as Larry searches for Sophie in an attempt to save her. With the person of author Somerset Maugham (Herbert Marshall) a character in his own fictional tale, there’s voiceover narration that comes and goes (sometimes to the detriment of the drama), and while the movie is quite long, it’s never dull with this exciting line-up of characters who all have either fascinating plots encircling them or who (like Clifton Webb’s Templeton) drift into and out of the plots of others making vivid impressions of their own.

It’s a most welcome return to the screen for Tyrone Power as Larry, and he embodies the earnestness and inner strength of character to pull off a very difficult-to-convey-convincingly active/passive role. Gene Tierney is superb as the entitled, selfish Isabel, more concerned with social class and wealth and all it buys than genuine happiness and selfless devotion to another. Anne Baxter’s very dramatic role and her dynamic performance as a woman who loses everything and can’t quite find her way out of the darkness won her the Academy Award and the Golden Globe in 1946. Clifton Webb’s scene stealing Elliott Templeton, vain, snobbish, gossipy, and waspish, likewise won the Golden Globe for his work (and an Oscar nomination); his death bed scene late in the film is one of the most memorable of any during Hollywood’s golden age. Herbert Marshall is adequate as Maugham without making a great impression, and John Payne likewise does acceptably with an underwritten part of the man destroyed by the stock market crash. Lucile Watson as Templeton’s sister, Frank Latimore as Sophie’s tragic husband, and Elsa Lanchester in a two-scene tiny part as a secretary all make wonderful use of their small amounts of screen time.



Video Rating: 4.5/5  3D Rating: NA

The film’s 1.33:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully reproduced in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is consistently outstanding throughout, and the grayscale rendering likewise features a solid, reliable scale of values from crisp whites to rich blacks. Contrast has been excellently maintained. Late in the film, however, there are some flecks of dust and debris and a slight scratch, none of them bad enough to take one out of the movie but noticeable since so much of the transfer had been so artifact-free. The movie has been divided into 28 chapters.



Audio Rating: 4/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound mix begins with rather subdued fidelity, but things greatly improve sound-wise as the picture runs. Dialogue is always clear and easily discernible, never compromised by Alfred Newman’s background score or the sound effects present. Occasionally one can tell that some digital scrubbing has almost successfully removed noise on the soundtrack with just the slightest amount of hiss still present, but those moments happen only infrequently and mostly in the latter parts of the movie.



Special Features Rating: 2/5

Audio Commentary: film historians Anthony Slide and Robert Birchard contribute a less than exhilarating audio commentary. Their speaking styles are somewhat subdued, and as the film is long, there are numerous gaps in their comments especially in the later reels. Though there is interesting information imparted, the track is not without error (Anne Baxter did not win a second Oscar for All About Eve. Perhaps they meant to say she earned a second nomination, but that’s not what’s implied).

Movietone News (SD): three brief newsreel excerpts pertaining to the movie: (1) Somerset Maugham presenting his manuscript for The Razor’s Edge to be displayed in the Library of Congress (0:30); (2) the film’s premiere in New York City with stars from the film and Fox studio executives and contract players in attendance (1:23); (3) the 1946 Academy Awards in which Anne Baxter receives her award from Lionel Barrymore (1:16).



Overall Rating: 4/5

The first version of The Razor’s Edge, even with the then-Production Code impacting what could be said and seen, remains the best version of Somerset Maugham’s story. The Fox Blu-ray offers outstanding picture and sound quality for a film of this vintage, and it comes with a hearty recommendation.


Reviewed By: Matt Hough


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Robin9

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Sharpness is consistently outstanding throughout, and the grayscale rendering likewise features a solid, reliable scale of values from crisp whites to rich blacks. Contrast has been excellently maintained. Late in the film, however, there are some flecks of dust and debris and a slight scratch, none of them bad enough to take one out of the movie but noticeable since so much of the transfer had been so artifact-free.


That was exactly what I was hoping for. I enjoy this film - I must read the book one day - but the DVD is really rough and grainy; not easy to watch. I'll definitely upgrade to this blu-ray disc.


Clifton Webb is one of my ten favorite male film stars and, although he had a very successful career, remain a little underrated in my opinion.
 

Nick*Z

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Okay, I have to offer an alternative view on this one. Not only does the image look digitally scrubbed, it bears an uncanny resemblance to the DVD transfer, right down to the areas where scratches and dirt occur. The image is SOFT in the opening sequences in particular and grain is virtually NON-existent, which in and of itself is a travesty! Fine detail is not nearly as prominent as it ought to be and contrast seems a tad weaker than expected at times, while in other scenes there is some definite boosting going on. In medium shots we lose detail in faces that appear ghostly pale. Honestly, I have the DVD and doing a side by side comparison with it I detected very little improvement, apart from Blu-ray's obvious capacity to marginally tighten things up. But this IS NOT a new scan, in my opinion, just a regurgitation of the old one bumped to 1080p. Regrets!
 

Robert Crawford

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Looks like another difference of opinion as I read another review besides this one that gives this BD a highly recommendation score.
 

lionel59

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Another well-written review Matt.

I have a 1946 LIFE magazine detailing the filming of a particular scene (involving a kiss) between Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney.It has many photos.(August 12th, 1946 issue)

I first saw this movie in 35mm in a revival cinema in L.A. in 1981 (As a double with THE SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO. Both excellent prints). I agree with Virgoan that it is one of Newman's best scores (which is saying a lot). The song 'Mam'selle' (composed by the movie's director Edmund Goulding) was a big hit and often re-used by Fox in later movies).

Somerset Maugham reportedly wrote his own screenplay adaptation which was deemed unusable by Fox. To make amends they purchased an expensive Matisse painting for him.He originally wanted Gene Tierney to portray Isabel but she only got the role after Maureen O'Hara broke her promise to say nothing to anyone about being cast as the female lead. (She 'blabbed' to Linda Darnell,an unwise decision considering Darnell's reputed intimate relationship with Zanuck). George Cukor was first choice to be the movie's director, but Zanuck differed with his approach and gave the task to Goulding (who, despite a somewhat notorious reputation regarding his private life, was renowned for sensitive, romantic dramas with punch egs DARK VICTORY, THE CONSTANT NYMPH. His career had an inauspicious wind-down at Fox with teen-themed movies such as MARDI GRAS and TEENAGE REBEL in the '50's).

Betty Grable and Judy Garland both turned down the role which ultimately won Anne Baxter a Best Supporting Actress award, judging the character-Sophie-as being too downbeat.

Maugham biographers apparently cite writer Christopher Isherwood as the likely basis for Power's character (Larry Darrell). Isherwood wrote the stories which became the source for the plays/films I AM A CAMERA and CABARET.
 

lionel59

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81XwPF7%2B2vL._SL1500_.jpg

Let's not forget the great Norman Rockwell poster art for this film. (Another he did superbly was the poster art for Welles' THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS.)
 

Josegc

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Is THE RAZOR"S EDGE on Blu-ray still available? Was it ever available? I Cannot locate a new or used copy anywhere, not even EBay.
 

Robin9

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Is THE RAZOR"S EDGE on Blu-ray still available? Was it ever available? I Cannot locate a new or used copy anywhere, not even EBay.
It seems to have sold out. It was certainly released because I have a copy! For all this talk about physical media being strictly yesterday, enough people bought The Razor's Edge for it to sell out.
 

Josegc

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I supposed it was "limited" even though not sold as such. The DVD edition is available at a dime a dozen.
 

lionel59

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Is THE RAZOR"S EDGE on Blu-ray still available? Was it ever available? I Cannot locate a new or used copy anywhere, not even EBay.
Yes. I have the Fox blu ray of THE RAZOR'S EDGE. It is still listed on amazon.com. Here is a link to a review :
I think it should turn up on ebay from time to time. Try some foreign ebay websites. Great transfer.
 

RMajidi

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This is being released on Blu-ray in the UK by Signal One but not until September 2022! (Apparently)


Signal One's projections ought to be taken with a grain of salt.

Initially, they released quality product, then in recent years, their offerings can perhaps be best described as vapourware.

Razor's Edge, The Gunfighter and Nightmare Alley - among others - are titles that they've been touting for ages, only to bump back by a year as the release date approaches.
 

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