Dorian Gray Film Details
Overview: A corrupt young man somehow keeps his youthful beauty eternally, but a special painting gradually reveals his inner ugliness to all.
Tagline: He is twenty-one. He has been twenty-one for almost half a century
Review: Probably the best screen version of Oscar Wilde’s novel, mostly due to the casting of Helmet Berger as Dorian. Berger is a fascinating actor, physically beautiful but with a classic European aristocratic sense of petulance, superiority and cat-like selfishness (the film’s first sequence ends with Dorian stroking a black cat). The film is updated to the fag-end of the swinging sixties in the city at the heart of the era, London, when and where it was becoming apparent to everyone that clubbing, screwing around and dressing in the latest designer fashions did not a satisfying life make. Dorian is the employment free scion of some wealthy family, trading on his looks and the land left to him in his parent’s will. He falls in with some fashionable upper class bohemians – Richard Todd’s painter Basil Hallwood and Herbert Lom’s homosexual wit Henry Wotton. At the same time he picks up a pretty actress playing Juliet at some crummy fringe theatre, Sybil Vane. The film’s version of the Sybil and Dorian affair gives her a little more mouth, pluck and vibrancy than the novel or most adaptations, and she is as to blame as he when the relationship goes belly up, with her jealousy and nagging – even her death seems more an unhappy accident than the wilful, victimized suicide of Wilde’s book. Once Sybil has died and shortly after Dorian has made the usual wish to sell his soul in front of Basil’s picture, the film turns into an episodic trawl through the sexual conquests of the anti-hero, who with Berger’s looks and body understandably is able to seduce anyone. Old women pay for it, wives stray from their husbands and kinky scene hangers-on take a beating from his belt, but Dorian soon gets a taste for the boys as well as the girls, not entirely understandable given that his first taste of gay sex is with Lom in the shower! But he’s cruising the yachts along the marina on the Riviera and picking up black men from the cabin crews. The film is racy for its time, and probably (outside of porn takes) the most raunchy version of the book to have hit the screen; nevertheless, the sex is pretty non-explicit and Berger can be seen rather too obviously hiding his genitals in the scenes where he is nude. Yet each of the sexual episodes plants the seed of a fantasy scenario in the audiences mind, and they are left to guess quite what Dorian is doing behind his old mare of a sponsor when he stands behind her, causing her to gasp, at a stable door, what exactly Dorian and that black man are doing to get up to when they leave the public toilet they are admiring each other at the urinals in, and quite what is that black magic ceremony Dorian attends at “the house of pleasure.” The film’s opening sequence is shot from Dorian’s point of view as he staggers out of the room in which he has killed Basil (it’s a flash-forwards) and at one point he gazes at himself in the mirror; the film encourages its audience to catch themselves gazing at Berger, and to fill in the things which its moving pictures of Dorian Gray leave out. Near the end, Dorian (who has increasingly been dressed in costumes which teeter between sexy and ludicrous) stalks down somewhere like the King’s Road in an absurd Zebra-striped costume, turning everyone’s head but utterly hollow in himself. So, the film suggests, ends the decade of free love, fashion and frolics – an attractive but hollow shell doomed to suicide or age, both of which come together in the film’s close-to-the-book final scene. Massimo Dallamano shoots the film like a cross between a travelogue and a giallo, which feels appropriate, and Peppino De Luca exquisitely scores it to match. There’s a Raro Video DVD release which has a lovely to look at transfer and includes English and Italian language tracks; sadly, the sound is rather mashed and fuzzy but the film is well worth seeing as a visual feast for the eye, in which one can’t help but fall under the spell of Berger as Dorian.
Country: UK, Italy, West Germany
Language: Italian, English
Duration: 93 min
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Also known as: Портретът на Дориан Грей,Dorian Gray,Portret Doriana Graya,Il dio chiamato Dorian,Das Bildnis des Dorian Gray,The Evils of Dorian Gray,El retrato de Dorian Gray,A Vida Íntima de Dorian Gray,Portretul lui Dorian Gray,The Secret of Dorian Gray,Le Dépravé,Портрет Дориана Грея,To portraito tou Dorian Gray,ドリアン・グレイ 美しき肖像,O Retrato de Dorian Gray,Дориан Грей