DVD Watch: ‘Dangerous Edge: A Life of Graham Greene’

The first American-produced portrait of the titan of British letters

DVD Watch: ‘Dangerous Edge: A Life of Graham Greene’

When profiling a man who made his living on the page, the visual possibilities are unavoidably limited. Lucky then that Graham Greene’s books were so often adapted to screen.

Dangerous Edge: A Life of Graham Greene (PBS, $24.99), which premiered on PBS in late March, makes good use of the many films made from Greene’s voluminous output of novels, short stories, plays, memoir-writing and more; included here are 1947’s Brighton Rock, 1953’s The Heart of the Matter, 1999’s The End of the Affair, The Quiet American (both the 1958 version, which Green loathed, and the quite-good 2002 version, which he didn’t live to see), and 1949’s sublime The Third Man (one of three collaborations with Carol Reed).

But Greene was no ordinary writer-hermit: He had an extraordinarily varied and far-flung life, full of contradictory impulses and grand passions. He was a devout Catholic and frequent adulterer; worked as a war correspondent and as an officer in the British Secret Intelligence Service (he worked for the Soviet spy Kim Philby, who inspired the character of Harry Lime in The Third Man and appears here briefly in archival interview); was manic-depressive and an impassioned advocate of human rights.

Director Thomas P. O’Connor’s Dangerous Edge dutifully charts his decades-long career, with discreet asides into his tumultuous personal affairs. Straightforward and uninventive in its mix of archival footage, talking-head interviews (John le Carré, Shirley Hazzard, John Mortimer), and narration (by Derek Jacobi, with Bill Nighy reading Greene’s letters in voiceover), Dangerous Edge nonetheless conveys – for such a death-obsessed character – what a life.

Also Out Now

Strictly Ballroom (Miramax Lionsgate, Blu-ray, $14.99): Gear up for Baz Luhrmann’s long-awaited The Great Gatsby by revisiting his effervescent 1992 debut about a star-crossed romance set amid an Australian ballroom dance competition. Paso Doble!

More song and dance can be found in Funny Girl (Sony Pictures Entertainment, Blu-ray, $19.99), William Wyler’s 1968 biopic about Ziegfeld Follies star Fanny Brice, starring Barbra Streisand. Prefer contemporary Babs? Her 2012 comedy with Seth Rogen, The Guilt Trip (Paramount, Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy, $39.99), debuts today, too.

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