Sunday, June 01, 2008

Movie review: The Picture of Dorian Gray

Film version of the Oscar Wilde story of Dorian Gray, a young man with a remarkable portrait.

The painter Basil Hallward (Lowell Gilmore) has created a portrait of Dorian Gray (Hurd Hatfield), a handsome and rather bland man of about 22. Hallward and Gray have a mutual friend in Lord Henry Wotton (George Sanders), a wicked old coot whose stated beliefs are so outrageous as to be taken as jokes.

Wotton's offhanded comment about youth being the only thing a person has of value is taken to heart by Gray, who wishes desperately that he could remain as young as the portrait, and let it age, instead. Some wishes should not be granted.

Gray continues taking bad advice from Wotton, making terrible choices in testing his fiancee's values, and going on from there. As he does, the portrait begins to show signs of the cruelty, sadism and sickness that Dorian would be bearing on his own body. Very soon, Dorian must hide the portrait away or risk his friends and guests seeing how corrupt he's become inside.

Hurd Hatfield is old-fashionedly handsome, although very bland in this film. His lines are delivered with detachment, with barely a flicker of expression. I don't know if I've seen him in anything else, so I'm not sure if this was deliberate for the film. It really seems like many of the actors in this movie deliver their lines the same way.

One interesting effect: The movie is filmed in black-and-white, with few exceptions. The portrait's changes briefly appear in color. I think they missed an opportunity at the end with this effect.

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