Unusually for a film emanating from Hollywood, this version of Wilde's only true novel is almost completely faithful to the book. It is a superb, almost faultless film, and deserves a wider audience than I think it has ever received - it is the kind of film that appears on weekday afternoons or at 4 o'clock in the mornings, which is terrible (the same applies to other great films, of course, but don't get me started on that...).
Its only real fault, I think, is in the casting of the eponymous hero. Dorian Grey is played by a little-known actor called Hurd Hatfield. You can tell why he is little-known if you watch this film - he has all the screen presence of a block of wood, and not a very interesting block of wood at that. It was a part that cried out for Tyrone Power - if he, or someone comparable, had been cast, it would have been a truly great, as opposed to merely very good, film.
Minor gripes. The film's one real straying from the book lays in the device whereby Gray's wish for eternal youth and beauty was granted by his proximity to an ancient Egyptian statue; this didn't happen in the book (the real wish-granting was much more metaphysical), and jars slightly with the overall tone of the film. And George Sanders (in full Addison DeWitt mode), while an excellent actor and probably the only one of his time who could have done justice to the part of Lord Henry Watton, seems bored with, and wearied by, the demands of his role. This isn't suprising; his dialogue is composed largely of a ceaseless stream of Wildean epigrams which, while fine and appropriate on the page become (as another reviewer has pointed out) tiresome on screen.
Still, minor cavils apart, this remains a wonderful achievement. The film strikes the perfect balance between gothic noir and bildungsroman that the novel demands, and deserves far more showings than it currently gets. Miss it at the risk of losing your soul!