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The Razor's Edge

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Product Details

  • Actors: Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney, John Payne, Anne Baxter, Clifton Webb
  • Directors: Edmund Goulding
  • Writers: Darryl F. Zanuck, Lamar Trotti, W. Somerset Maugham
  • Producers: Darryl F. Zanuck
  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English, French
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Studio: Fox Video
  • VHS Release Date: Feb. 17 2003
  • Run Time: 145 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6303333079
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #4,376 in Video (See Top 100 in Video)

Product Description

The Somerset Maugham novel should be read by everybody at a certain age (say, early twenties), and this 1946 movie adaptation of The Razor's Edge stays faithful to the book's questing spirit. Despite its apparently uncommercial storyline, it was a pet project of Fox honcho Darryl F. Zanuck, who saw the spiritual journey of Larry Darrell (Tyrone Power) as an "adventure" movie. Power, who was newly returned to Hollywood after his military service in World War I, does his most soul-searching work as the WWI vet who needs to find something in life deeper than money and conformity. The search takes him away from fiancee Gene Tierney and her skeptical uncle Clifton Webb and into Parisian streets and Himalayan mountain ranges. Herbert Marshall deftly plays the role of "Somerset Maugham," the observing author, and Anne Baxter picked up the supporting actress Oscar for her brassy turn as a floozy. The picture has the careful, glossy look of the studio system's peak years (you can sense Zanuck "classing it up" and squeezing the life out of it), and Edmund Goulding's tasteful approach is hardly the way to dig deep into the soul of man. If it seems a little staid today, its square sincerity nevertheless holds up well--and it just looks so fabulous. The really amazing thing about the movie is that it was made at all. A 1984 remake, with Bill Murray, is an extremely weird variation on the material. --Robert Horton

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mark N. on May 13 2004
Format: VHS Tape
I've just been rewatching this with my daughter. It's an example of a film that does justice to its book. No, it exceeds that. The film's structure is leaner than Maugham's book. You know, less 'novelistic' and more 'cinematic'. In this case, the heightened drama helps contrast the high-societal nature of Paris/Chicago with proletarian life (anywhere) and spiritual life (Indian Himalayas and inside).
It was sheer chance, at age 16, that I turned on a very early a.m. broadcast channel in Los Angeles and saw this for the first time. Actually, it had begun already, and I saw very soon the 'sunrise scene' which serves as an objective correlative for Larry Darrell's (Tyrone Power's) enlightenment. I started 'seeking' from that point.
Maybe this is what 'critical theorists' mean when they urge us to ferret out contradictions: the irony that Hollywood 'sells' the repudiation of material acquisition.
I bought the message.
Wonderful performances by Ty Power (catch him reading Keats!), Gene Tierney, classic Clifton Webb, great voice-overs by one of the greatest film voices, Herbert Marshall (as Maughm), and young Anne Baxter as the lost Sophie. Post WWII 'dark' recuperation at its best.
They should convert this to DVD.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robert E. Henry on Feb. 25 2004
Format: VHS Tape
Words fall short in the praise of this remarkably uplifting and thoroughly enjoyable film that dares to show an individual in pursuit of the Sublime -- that elusive commodity explored by the classical Roman Longinus in his treatise, "On the Sublime," a seminal work of inspiration to the Renaissance over a thousand years afterwards. This landmark movie might have anticipated the Sixties idealists who tried, however tragically and unsuccessfully, to turn away from monetary and social success to find their souls -- only this movie's hero, admirably portrayed by Tyrone Power, does not fail.
The film goes where venal Hollywood rarely ventures: the spiritual longing in all our hearts that demands that we take ourselves away from the distractions and illusions of success that Society dangles before us. This movie is a defining work on the pursuit of inner peace and perfection in the real world, the heroic, quixotic pursuit of the "Life Worth Living." It explores with dazzling creativity -- plot, script, casting and direction -- the timeless "what if" proposition. What if a man with everything going for him -- good looks, a "goddess" for a fiancée, money, social graces and social position -- realized that Holy Scripture was right when it said, "Vanity, vanity, all is vanity"? What would happen in the 20th century if, like Eliseus when the prophet Elias threw his holy cloak over him, our protagonist turned away from the pursuits of the world to pursue Truth alone -- without compromise in any way?
If you have ever wanted a little encouragement in thinking on the level of the sublime, ever yearned to live your one-and-only life in accordance with God's holy plan, then this film is for you.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By B. Gordon on Oct. 4 2003
Format: VHS Tape
I heartily recommend this film for fans of the "classic hollywood" genre. Yes, you can find minutia to criticize as with everthing, but really, for a film to capture the "times" of the 1920's and 1930's, this film does a fine job. If anything lacks, it's the budget. I really wish the production had more money and the director could have actually filmed in Paris and in India. You can tell that all of the scenes were essentially shot in Hollywood on staged sets. But I loved the acting from all of the characters. I think Anne Baxter deservedly earned her academy award. She does not overact at all! She does a beautiful job of acting. And Tyrone Powers, while understated, does a fine job. And Tierney is beautiful and emotes every bit of the cunning and ulterior motives throughout this film. I also thought the actor who plays Maughm does a masterfully subtle acting job that makes you think he really is the actual author!!
What's so masterful about this film is that it focuses solely on the characters portrayed and you want to find out what happens to Larry. I wish the film could have gone into greater detail about Larry's experience in India. It's a bit too superficial but then, for hollywood, what do you expect??
I also care about Larry and I really wanted to see Ann Baxter's character saved. And the important moral lesson is that you can't save everyone in this universe! And not everyone is bound for "success." It's not in the cards. And that's a very powerful message that seems to be forgotten today. We glorify tragedy but films don't explore what Larry explored. What does it all mean???? American Beauty was a more modern attempt at it, and I liked that film.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Kendall on June 13 2003
Format: VHS Tape
This film has achieved "classic" status, yet it looks a bit shop-worn and creaky in some respects, when approached from a modern perspective. This is, overall, a highly stylized treatment of Maugham's novel. Scriptwriter Lamar Troti definitely focuses on the melodramatic elements of Larry Darrel's spiritual odyssey. Maugham was a highly realistic novelist. His subtle wit and sharp observations are buried under here in the moviemaker's wallowing in the bathetic.
The performers, with the exception of Clifton Webb as Uncle Elliot and Herbert Marshall as Somerset Maugham, are decidedly from the "studied" school of drama. Tyrone Power, in particular, is at times painful to watch, especially in the scenes opposite Tierney. Such emoting might work on stage, but before a camera, the overblown gestures, lack of facial expression, and wooden delivery border on the farcical. Tierney is a delight to look at, but her emotive range is severely limited as well. She seems to have two modes: coquettish or angry. Sure, this stylized sort of performance was the order of the day in 40s Hollywood, but it looks really dated these days. And there were exceptions, even then. One can well imagine what actors the caliber of Olivier and Leigh would have done with the roles. Anne Baxter, who received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance as the unfortunate Sophie, is also guilty of overacting, at least by naturalistic standards. She could have used a dose or two of Ibsen.
Which brings us to the two bright spots, performance wise. Clifton Webb probably would have won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, had he not received one two years earlier for his work in "Laura." His death bed scene, though maudlin as all get out, is nonetheless unforgettable. The man had a knack for line delivery.
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