in , , ,

The Razor’s Edge


‘…a surprisingly literate and sensitive film about self-development…’

Although comedy was clearly his thing, from SNL to Caddyshack, Stripes and Meatballs, Bill Murray only agreed to do the game-changing, ghost-busting smash Ghostbusters so he could make this underrated period adaptation of W Somerset Maugham’s book. Widely ridiculed on initial release, The Razor’s Edge is now gaining a cult reputation; it was the wrong film at the wrong time commercially, but it’s a surprisingly literate and sensitive film about self-development. Back in the 80’s self-development meant Flashdance, Footloose, gyms and steroids, but The Razor’s Edge looks to bygone years and situations for inspiration.

Murray plays Larry Darrell, an everyman first spotted in Illinois circa 1917, whose experiences of war as an ambulance driver provide him with existential leanings, and send him on a globetrotting search for meaning that takes him physically to Paris and India, and mentally to many places beyond. There’s great support from Theresa Russell and Denholm Elliot, and the production is handsomely mounted.

The Razor’s Edge was made when Murray was still seen as a comic rather than an actor, and his refusal to play Larry’s quest for laughs worked against the film at the time; these days, post-Lost in Translation, Broken Flowers and St Vincent, we should cut him a little more slack. It certainly works for John Byrum’s serious-minded drama now that Murray’s reputation for bringing gravitas to roles is secure. And the speech that Murray gives for a fallen comrade, a man who had died saving his life,  clearly echoes the actor’s friendship with the late John Belushi, is a moment of genuinely heartfelt cinema as he tries to bury his own vulnerable emotions in defiant anger.

“He was a slob. Did you ever see him eat? Starving children could fill their bellies on the food that ended up in his beard and on his clothes. Dogs would gather to watch him eat. I’ve never understood gluttony, but I hate it. I hated that about you. He enjoyed disgusting people, being disgusting, the thrill of offending people and making them uncomfortable. It was despicable. You will not be missed.”



Leave a Reply
  1. I wasn’t a fan of the original with Tyrone Power/Gene Tierney. I roasted it a bit on my own site as being rather dull. I still might give this one a try though….Maugham is never easy to adapt to film.

    • This isn’t dull, and I think I prefer it to the stuffy old version. Like Power and Tierney, but these kind of literate/spiritual movies rarely worked back in the 40’s. The Murray version was ripped apart by critics at the time, but has be rehabilitated since…give it a spin!

  2. I’ve wanted to watch that one for a long time and just haven’t gotten around to it. The modern trailer looks fantastic. Plus, it has Marcus from Raiders of the Lost Ark!!

    • All things that drew me to this for sure. Wasn’t what was wanted from the star at the time, but looks much better now…

  3. Sadly, the mention of Maugham derailed this whole post for me. maybe you should ban Maugham from your blog AND comments? MaughamMaughamMaugham.

    Hmmmm, sounds like some sort of weird chant….

  4. I was too busy in the 80’s for self development so I missed that boat, so this won’t mean anything to me. Nope. Trailer looks cool though.

Leave a Reply