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The Picture Of Dorian Gray (Albert Lewin, 1945, USA)

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message 1: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 226 comments This is a psychological horror film based on the Oscar Wilde novel. It's shot as a typical Hollywood melodrama but has a seething tension just beneath the surface, beautifully captured in the deep focus black and white cinematography.

THE PICTUE OF DORIAN GRAY (Albert Lewin, 1945, USA) If people’s selfish and degrading acts were reflected upon their visage, what monstrosities would haunt the streets? Dorian Gray makes a pact with a strange god, its catlike grace frozen forever yet its ubiquitous presence stalks his nightmares: be careful what you wish for, it softly purrs…Dorian is a young man who wishes to never grow old, to let his beautiful portrait age and bare his afflictions whilst he remains physically unchanged. A Faustian bargain that can end in no other way than tragedy: Dorian’s good intentions become corrupt and he poisons his intimate friends, time his second worst enemy…the first being himself. A very young and pretty Angela Lansbury is his first victim; he truly falls in love and becomes her Knight In Shining Armor, but begins his brutish downward spiral, which ends in her suicide. As the story progresses, Dorian becomes indifferent to pleasure and pain, tasting debauchery and excess and filling up his empty vessel with ignoble desires at the expense of others. The black and white deep focus cinematography is grand, displaying myriad mise-en-scene shots that convey suspense with an imaginary devilish quality: watch the scene where he confronts his portrait, the stoic cat totem is peripherally framed in nearly every shot. The watchful eyes of this god are always upon him. The Technicolor inserts of the portrait as it changes and becomes a grotesque human mockery are shocking; we see what Dorian has become, his leprous morality seeping pustules upon the image. Dorian eventually commits the final despicable act of murder, and the masterful lighting submerges his face in darkness and light as the gas lamp swings back and forth: the corpse’s shadow printed indelibly upon the wall behind him. The child who loved him but is now a grown woman (which is a bit disturbing) searches for her father, but he is dead in Dorian’s locked room. With one violent thrust, Dorian finally commits one good dead in his lecherous existence: he stabs his portrait through the heart. When discovered, his body is an abomination with tumorous growths defiling his face: but his portrait is forever young…and innocent. (B+)

message 2: by Tera Marie (new)

Tera Marie I read the book many moons ago, but do not remember it well.

message 3: by Phillip (new)

Phillip It's a great read.

message 4: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 226 comments This new DVD looks great and is worth a purchase. Though the film limits Dorian's debauchery to staying out late, drinking, and visiting seedy motels, the sex and violence is implied. I hope others give the film a chance because it is visually exciting: Hitchcock must have seen this murder scene (seen this scene...rather awkward prose, but I digress) because the reveal in PSYCHO is eerily similiar. I haven't read Wilde's novel but I'm adding to my must read list.

message 5: by Tom (new)

Tom | 21 comments I've always liked this film a good deal, it holds up very well. I agree Alex, I've often wondered about that swinging lamp. I remember seeing the actual portrait painted by Ivan Allbright. A really amazing and revolting work of art, it looks like a giant over-ripe fruit. I kept expecting it to slide off the canvas with a dreadful noise. I think it is hanging in the Chicago Art Institute.

message 6: by WitchyFingers (new)

WitchyFingers There is another review of this in the latest issue of Rue Morgue, just in case anyone is interested.

message 7: by Phillip (new)

Phillip i saw this as a kid, and don't remember it very well. i did see the new dvd release on the shelves at my local video store, i'll check it out this weekend.

thanks again, alex!

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