Plot: Ben Cameron (Anthony Quinn) runs a good sized cattle ranch and he loves the work, as well as the rustic lifestyle, but the rural locale and such have caused problems for his beloved wife, Margaret (Debra Paget). She is a city girl and the country life does not agree with her, though the same could be said for her relationship with Ben, as she isn’t all that pleased in that department, either. But there is a sense of obligation, as Ben helped her out of some legal trouble, though her patience has just about worn through and she plans to make an escape soon. So when her old partner in crime Nardo (Ray Milland) shows up out of the blue, her interest is piqued even though he bailed on her, dooming her to a jail sentence. Soon tempers flare, jealousies arise, and a million dollars proves to be a lure too strong for anyone to resist, but how will this situation settle out once things boil over?
Entertainment Value: The River’s Edge is an interesting, well crafted thriller that combines elements of westerns and film noir, all directed with great skill by Allan Dwan and performed by a trio of terrific leads. The movie takes a bit to hit its stride, but I wouldn’t call it slow or drawn out in the least, as the time invested in development pays off in spades as the film progresses. The final act here is a powerful one and without the earlier character work, it would lose much of its impact, so while the pace is deliberate at times, it is always done with purpose. The tone is bleak at times, especially in how it views the merits of people’s ambitions, but it does have some dark humor and makes a couple saving throws, to evade a totally downbeat experience. The performances are great, but I think the dialogue is what drives The River’s Edge, as the banter is so sharp and even brutal at times. The exchanges between characters are well developed and the writing puts a fine point on the lines, so even the more routine conversations tend to have memorable elements involved. As tensions rise, the dialogue gets more and more pointed as well, which enhances the mood. As usual, I tend to appreciate melodrama and b movie vibes, both of which are present in The River’s Edge, so I found a lot to like with this one. I think this one is worth a look for most who appreciate a broad scope of film, but especially noir fans or those into Dwan’s prolific work.
As this movie is driven by characters and dialogue more than the actual narrative, the cast needed to be on their games and especially in the case of the three leads, since the movie is carried by that trio of characters. A skilled threesome is present indeed, all of whom show up to bring the heat and there is a lot of chemistry between the three, so the mood runs hot and tense, just as the material requires. That mood is a crucial element of The River’s Edge, since the dynamic between the leads is what pushes the narrative and provides the entertainment. Anthony Quinn is great as the oafish Ben and Debra Paget is memorable as bad girl Margaret, with an odd, sometimes awkward vibe between the two that is fun to watch. The two make for an odd couple to be sure, which helps Margaret’s flighty actions kind of make sense, though the melodrama ensures that logic isn’t one of her strong suits. But I think Ray Milland steals the show here, in a venomous, insanely fun role that lets him unleash a darker side onto the screen. He especially shines when it comes to the dialogue and while no one in The River’s Edge is innocent, he is easily the most villainous of the trio. The cast also here also includes Harry Carey, Jr. and Lee Morgan, while Allan Dwan served as the film’s director.
The Disc: As usual, Twilight Time has delivered a wonderful visual treatment and The River’s Edge looks great on Blu-ray. The print is very clean, but not scrubbed of grain or texture, which is great news. The image shows good detail throughout, with no softness issues to contend with. The colors run warm here and that is well replicated, while contrast remains consistent and accurate as well. This is a more than capable treatment and one that offers a noticeable upgrade in all respects. The disc also includes some nice extras, with a film historian commentary track, isolated music & effects track, and the film’s trailer. A solid package from Twilight Time, as you’d expect from such a consistently great label.