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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating faustian fable in festering flesh, 12 Sep 2009
The 1945 cinema adaptation starts within a palatial english mansion where a renowned social painter is reverently translating the extraordinary beauty of a vain english youth onto canvas in a gesture of adoring the youth as an idol ,and as this metaphysical process ensues another english aristocrat present at the scene to challenge and tempt the youth to trade his soul for preserving his adonis like charms by giving way to all that is evil to preserve his vanity .

The influence yielded by the rather libertine older man is of such magnitude that the young Dorian grey makes a pact in the presence of an archaic idol of Egyptian goddess whereby his painting will age with time and be punished for his worldly debauchery while he will remain perpetually youthful in his physical glory with his human form not ageing in the least .

This scene itself is portrayed in a hypnotic spell of light and darkness with sonorous sound effects which makes this spell binding craftmanship and
Hatfield as dorian and George Saunders as the debauched Lord Henry are extremely sinister and intriguing while the painter Basil himself is an ignorant instrument of forging a deal between the light and the darker aspects of human nature .

Dorian immediately ventures into the dark realm of his vicious mentor when he deceives and ditches his true love ,sibyl vane played in an eclectic turn by Angela Lansbury as a singer and actress who truly adores dorian and embarks on a life of hedonistic degeneracy which is discussed in social circles rather than shown in excessive details on screen while his miraculously preserved beauty also becomes a source of scandal in Victorian London .

The set pieces where dorian actually commits various unspeakable offences from rape to murder and worst are executed in an artistic and tastefully enthralling manner without excessive indulgence in gore, flesh or flaunting excessive licentiousness itself .

Hatfield has played the role as a vainglorious ,self -obsessed man who is lacking all emotion except seeking every pleasure to entertain himself regardless of the cost to anyone else ,with a mask like face where a blink of an eye speaks volumes while his body language explores his worship of self imagery .
Saunders as his lecherous mentor is more deliberately evil who masks his bestiality in floral prose to distinguish his inhumanity and bleak soul in some devilishly clever dialogues which are as provoking as the pact between him and his pupil ,
but it is the portrait painted by basil that is the key to the puzzle as for every sin committed by Dorian the painting shows a stigma ultimately turning the youth into a hideous monster which he has become in his lecherous lifespan with his festering soul .

The portrait is kept hidden in an attic only accessible to dorian himself and is mysteriously shown in Techni-colour in the movie in a profound metaphor of sensual fulfilment while the rest of the movie is in monochrome .

The portrait is the manifestation of his soul while dorian is just matter preserved like a mummy in a breathing body and this reflects on both spiritual and divine ideas of redemption and the narcissistic philosophy of pagan rome and greece ,with shades of gothic horror and faustian ideology .

The final message and vision delivered is about penitence and redemption by an individual involved as censored by self conscience .
The movie has actually aged better than expected and is more vivid in its authentic set design of the period shown and the mellow yet artistic camera work which enhances every expression and emblem of the aristocratic excesses from operas to vaudeville taverns with enchanting musical score .

This is the definitive dorian grey that oscar wilde must have conceived originally before he was compelled to make omissions to suit the victorian critics ,and the credit for this goes solely to the brilliance of the director who has translated the literary piece laden with symbolic prose onto screen with his vast and immense comprehension of light sound and vision which all weave together to enshrine a great artistic portrait in cinema which starts with a slow ecstasy and ends with a painful and sudden impulsive pang of the eternal human conscience .
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lord Henry justifies the corruption while Albert Lewin provides the literary pretensions. An odd mix for true aficionados, 1 April 2009
By 
C. O. DeRiemer (San Antonio, Texas, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Picture of Dorian Gray [DVD] [1945] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
We first meet Lord Henry Wotton in his carriage reading Les Fleurs du Mal, a dead give away to the corrupt pleasures and literary pretensions that director/writer Albert Lewin is going to ladle up for us. Lord Henry is a man who speaks in a continuing stream of tiresomely witty and cynical epigrams a man named Wilde, hired for the purpose, prepares for him each morning. Lord Henry is on his way to meet a friend, the painter Basil Hallward. And at Hallward's studio he spots the portrait of an aesthetically handsome, Chopin playing, innocent young man named Dorian Gray. And, by coincidence, Dorian is in Hallward's parlor playing the piano and waiting to pose.

Says Lord Henry (George Sanders) to the impressionable young man, "There's no such thing as a good influence, Mr. Gray. All influence is immoral. The aim of life is self-development, to realize one's nature perfectly. That's what we're here for. A man should live out his life fully and completely, give form to every feeling, expression to every thought, reality to every dream. There's only one way to get rid of a temptation and that's to yield to it. Resist it, and the soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself. There's nothing that cures the soul but the senses, just as there is nothing that cures the senses but the soul." If we haven't gotten the idea yet, during this turgid bit of life philosophy, Lord Henry is at the same time using paint alcohol to carefully kill the butterfly he had captured in his hat.

And before you know it, Dorian Gray (Hurd Hatfield) decides he never wants to age and wants to explore all those temptations he's heard about. It's not long before the portrait changes a bit, so he puts it in his attic. While Gray experiences the delights of debauchery, and the special delights of debauching others, Angela Lansbury shows up, excellently, as the tragic Sibyl Vane. Donna Reed also shows up as a young woman being groomed by Hollywood for star roles. Lansbury, 20 years old, doesn't need the Hollywood grooming. She's strikingly good. And Dorian Gray never ages. But, oh, does that hidden portrait show a man we'd never want to meet in a dark side street, or, for that matter, in broad daylight...leering, cankerous, face aflame with corrupt poisons, pustules leaking vile fluid, aching to caress and tear tender, uncorrupted flesh. Wow! But fate and justice will have its way. Dorian Gray finds a slender chance at redemption, and even Lord Henry, when he sees the result of his philosophy of life, looks taken aback. Just to remind us how serious this story is, we also have Cedric Hardwicke speaking a narrative. It's just as unconsciously amusing as Herbert Marshall's narrative in The Razor's Edge.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is lush, earnest melodrama, tinged with the kind of oh-my-goodness-horror that polite society might say holds a moral lesson. The movie isn't as overpoweringly pretentious as Lewin's Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. That one could have derailed James Mason's and Ava Gardner's careers if Mason hadn't been such a good actor and Gardner such a force of female nature.

The movie is driven by Lord Henry's philosophy and the depiction of what that philosophy will lead to. George Sanders was never better than when he could drip cynicism like a beaker filled to the brim with acid. He delivers here with great style, but all those Wildean epigrams and cynical wit he has to speak make his character tedious and predictable. Too much cleverness. Hurd Hatfield is the odd card. He had an almost frozen face. Little emotion shows. There is something about his mouth and lower face that reminds me of a well-preserved Egyptian mummy. For my money, this look makes Dorian Gray a very off character, and it adds immensely to the movie's odd watchability.

If Hollywood's idea of what it takes to show literary culture in a movie (think of Hardwicke's narration), endless witticisms from Oscar Wilde and three-strip Technicolor in a black-and-white movie for showing a corrupt portrait appeals to you, you may enjoy this glossy potboiler. The movie's Hollywood cultural pretentiousness makes it worth watching at least once. I enjoyed its oddness and George Sanders' skill with a nasty, witty line. If you really have a taste for what some innocents might say are corrupt paintings, but great ones nonetheless, watch Love Is the Devil. It's sort of the story of the great British painter Francis Bacon, played by Derek Jacobi. Then look up some of Bacon's paintings. Be warned; Bacon didn't do sunset landscapes of deer looking over forest waterfalls.

The DVD transfer of The Picture of Dorian Gray looks very good.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars VERY CLOSE TO THE BOOK, 3 Oct 2009
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Karen Squires (ENGLAND) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Picture of Dorian Gray [DVD] [1945] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
I had not seen this film for many years but had recently read the book and wished to see this film again. I was not disappointed. The quality of this DVD is very good and the acting excellent. The extra to this film is having the wonderful Angela Lansbury giving a commentary and revealing many things regarding the actors and recording of this film which were extremely interesting. I have not seen the new version but this will be hard to beat. Well worth the price. KAREN SQUIRES
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Faithful, 12 Jun 2010
This review is from: Picture of Dorian Gray [DVD] [1945] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
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!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars George Sanders Steals The SHow, 25 Mar 2009
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Og Oggilby "Og Oggilby" (North London) - See all my reviews
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This movie is a wonderful movie encapsulation of one of Oscar Wilde's finest creations. However, it is George Sanders in the supporting role of Sir Henry Wotton who absolutely steals the movie form under the nose of Hurd Hatfield in the title role. Hatfield is somewhat waxy and stiff as Dorian Gray, whilst Sanders delivers Wilde's witty and decadent aphorisms with consummate verve and polish, in much the same way as he comprehesively outflanked Sir Laurence Olivier in 'Rebecca'. There's never been anyone who can be quite so suavely cutting as George Sanders - there aren't enough of his films available on DVD, so make sure you snap up this one.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Picture Of Dorian Gray, 28 Nov 2006
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A classic film of Oscar Wilde's only novel. It tells the tale of socialite, the handsome Dorian Gray (Hurd Hatfield), who sells his soul so that his portrait can grow old and suffer life's iniquities instead of him. It is Hatfield's finest role, his performance equalled only by that of George Sanders at his cadish best as Gray's friend and narrator of the tale. Angela Lansbury makes her debut as the sweet and innocent girl expected to marry Gray before his descent into a twilight world of bodily pleasures. The end scene, filmed in colour, still packs quite a powerful punch.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's only shallow people who require years to get rid of an emotion., 15 Sep 2013
By 
Spike Owen "John Rouse Merriott Chard" (Birmingham, England.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Picture of Dorian Gray [DVD] [1945] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
The Picture of Dorian Gray is directed by Albert Lewin, and he also adapts the screenplay from the novel written by Oscar Wilde. It stars Hurd Hatfield, George Sanders, Angela Lansbury, Donna Reed, Peter Lawford, Lowell Gilmore, Richard Fraser and Douglas Walton. Music is by Herbert Stothart and cinematography by Harry Stradling Sr.

Dorian Gray of Mayfair and Selby.

Oscar Wilde's Faustian tale about a young Victorian gentleman who sells his soul to retain his youth, is given a magnificent make-over by MGM. Pumping into it a budget reputedly of $2 million, the look and feel is perfect for this macabre observation of vanity, greed and self destruction. In many ways it's still an under valued movie, mainly because there will always be Wilde purists who think it lacks the writer's poetic spikiness. While horror fans quite often venture into the picture expecting some sort of violent classic ripe with sex, drugs and debauchery unbound.

Lewin crafts his film in understated manner, never allowing the themes in the source material to become overblown just for dramatic purpose. He cloaks it all with an atmosphere of eeriness, keeping the debasing nature of Dorian Gray subdued. The horror aspects here mostly are implied or discussed in elegantly stated conversations, the horror in fact is purely in the characterisation of Dorian himself, we really don't need to see actual things on screen, we are urged to be chilled to the marrow by his mere presence, which works because Lewin has personalised us into this man's sinful descent by way of careful pacing and character formation.

There are some jolt moments of course, notably the famous inserts of Technicolor into the black and white film, the impact of such bringing the portrait of the title thundering into our conscious, but this is not about thrill rides and titillation, the film, like its source, is intellectual. Lewin is aided considerably by Stradling's beautiful photography, which in turn either vividly realises the opulent abodes or darkens the dens of iniquities, just like Lewin, Stradling and the art department work wonders and prove to be fine purveyors of their craft.

Hatfield is wonderful, it's an inspired piece of casting, with his angular features and cold dead eyes, he effortlessly suggests the black heart now beating where once there was a soul. Yet even he, and the rest of the impressive cast, is trumped by Sanders as Lord Henry. Cynical, brutal yet rich with witticisms, in Sanders' excellent hands Lord Henry becomes the smiling, devil like mentor perched on Dorian's shoulder. Dorian and Lord Henry are movie monsters, proof positive that not all monsters need to be seen hacking off limbs or drinking blood. In this case, the decaying of the soul is far more terrifying.

Fascinating, eloquent, intelligent and frightening, a true classic in fact. 9/10
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gothic masterpiece with Oscar-winning cinematography, 16 Dec 2014
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This review is from: Picture of Dorian Gray [DVD] [1945] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
This is one of the best films I have ever seen, and, for Hollywood, it is surprisingly true to the spirit of Oscar Wilde's scary and wickedly witty novel. The sets and cinematography are outstanding, with stunning Edwardian furniture, ancient artefacts and a central stairway all adding to the sense of an underlying malevolent force at work on the central character, Dorian Gray, whose portrait ages over the years, while he stays young and fresh on the outside. Hurd Hatfield does a good job as the title character, but the real acting comes from Angela Lansbury (Murder She Wrote) and George Sanders. Lansbury makes the most of her smallish but pivotal role as music hall singer, who commits suicide as a result of Gray's treachery, and I'm not surprised that she won a Golden Globe award for her performance (she was also nominated for an Oscar, but sadly, lost out on that). George Sanders is also very convincing as the decadent Sir Harry who leads Gray along the path of debauchery and evil in a frighteningly casual and wicked way. The cinematography, however, in beautiful black and white, with three bursts of glorious Technicolor showing the portrait as it progress from a young and beautiful man, to an evil, twisted satyr, is the biggest star of all!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great film this one, 10 July 2014
This review is from: Picture of Dorian Gray [DVD] [1945] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
Great film this one, another oldie but worth watching.A story of wickedness & murder in black & white but has colour in the end bit.I love these old films. Well made film.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 5 Dec 2014
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This review is from: Picture of Dorian Gray [DVD] [1945] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
arrived quickly and up to expectaions
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