October 29, 1984 12:00 PM

Memo to Bill Murray: Hey, pal, what a great idea to show you’re as good an actor as a comic by doing a big-budget ($13 million) drama. You don’t see Chevy, Dan or Gilda taking those chances. But Bill, why The Razor’s Edge? The book was not one of W. Somerset Maugham’s best: all that blather about a disillusioned World War I vet trying to find the path to salvation by renouncing wealth and going to India to study with a high lama. You must have known you’d look silly in those Tibetan hats. The first film version, in 1946, was pretty heavy going. Tyrone Power played your role then. Audiences were used to old Ty playing hangdog. But Bill boy, you’re the funnyman from Saturday Night Live, Ghostbusters and Tootsie. You’ve got to get folks adjusted gradually. Why not a juicy supporting part in some hotshot flick with Meryl Streep or Bobby De Niro? Look what Silkwood did for Cher. A two-and-a-half-hour epic with you in almost every scene seems a bit much for starters, don’t you think? Those were some nice changes you put into John Byrum’s script, trying to make the character funnier than Maugham wrote him. I liked the bit with the monkey and the organ grinder. But it seemed strange that you were playing in a hip, ’80s style while the rest of the actors were doing period performances. Sometimes you looked like you just dropped in from SNL. Those dramatic scenes, like when your girl—played by sexy Theresa Russell—got her throat cut: Were you supposed to be thinking deep thoughts when you let your face go all blank like that? Get outta here. You looked like a potato. The only scene I really liked was the one you did with your dying war buddy—the one you said you wrote to say goodbye to Belushi. The rest looked like you weren’t trying. The word is you and Byrum rode around the country writing the script in noisy bars to get real vitality into the picture. Maybe you guys should have picked a library. And by the way, what made you hook up with Byrum anyway? Do you know what movies Byrum has directed or scripted? Nobody does, man, that’s the trouble. They’re turkeys like Mahogany, the one that nearly stopped Diana Ross’ movie career cold. What good were pro actors like Catherine Hicks, Denholm Elliott and James Keach if Byrum was going to force them to act hysterically? But look at the bright side: You got to go to England, France and India to shoot the movie, so it wasn’t a total loss. Except maybe for the audience. (PG-13)

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