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Secret Of Dorian Gray, The

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    Ian Jane
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  • Secret Of Dorian Gray, The



    Released by:
    Raro Video
    Released on: 2011

    Director: Massimo Dallamano

    Cast: Helmut Berger, Herbert Lom, Maria Rohm, Marie Liljedahl, Margaret Lee

    Year: 1970

    Purchase From Amazon


    The Movie:


    Massimo Dallamano's 1970 filmed take on Oscar Wilde's The Portrait Of Dorian Gray changes the title only slightly but Dallamano, who made this movie hot on the heels of his uber sexy Devil In The Flesh pulled out all the stops for this one.


    The story, set in the sixties, follows the titular Dorian Gray (Helmut Berger) who, at the beginning of the film, is wandering his house with blood on his hands, having just murdered someone off screen. This lets us know in no uncertain terms right off the bat that Dorian is a bastard, but not one completely without emotion as we see him wash off the blood and cry in front of his fire. From here a series of flashbacks fill us in on just what happened, what drove him to murder, and who the victim was.


    Way back in the 1920s we see Dorian and his friend Basil Hallward (Richard Todd) take in a cabaret show after which he's introduced to a few folks - Henry Wotton (Herbert Lom) and his sister Alice (Maria Rohm). After some getting to know one another, Basil quite literally begs Dorian to let him paint his portrait, and when he finally obliges, he's so taken with the finished piece that he buys it from Basil, noting that he looks so good in the picture that he's sell his 'soul to stay that young forever.'


    Not thinking much of what he's just done, he then embarks on a shallow romance with a beautiful young actress named Sybil Vane (Marie Liljedahl) though his selfish ways end that relationship sooner than he initially wanted when Sybil winds up getting hit by a car. Dorian gets over this pretty quickly, becoming even more self absorbed and basically prostituting himself to a rich eccentric older woman before dabbling in homosexuality with Henry or taking a stab at Basil's beautiful wife - since he isn't aging, he seems to feel as if nobody can resist him and if actions speak louder than words, it would seem he's right. Eventually, however, the truth behind Dorian's secret of eternal youth comes out and his world comes crashing down around him.


    Dallamano's experience as a cinematographer for the likes of Sergio Leone really shows in this film, which really has a remarkable visual flair to it that fits the mood of the story perfectly. Each shot is carefully composed from the camera angles to the lighting to the color combinations and, as wacky as the story might get and as fairly sleazy as the whole affair may be, the movie never looks less than excellent throughout. This style is complimented very well by Helmut Berger's appropriately distant performance. He very definitely looks the part here, handsome and perfectly groomed, an irresistibly Aryan Romeo all too accustomed to getting what he wants when he wants from whoever he may want it from. Lom's supporting role, and the relationship that grows between the two men in the film, is also noteworthy and at times obsessively creepy giving the film an almost predatory tone at times. Not to be outdone, the female cast members are good here as well. Marie Liljedahl looks as beautiful as she ever has and if she's underused here, her character is an important plot device. Maria Rohm also looks fantastic, resplendent even when all decked out in her fancy eveningwear and dressed to the nines. Women in the film are more or less chattel, however, and for the most part this is Berger's show.


    Set to a great fuzz guitar score buried under some heavy effects pedal work and well paced and beautifully shot, The Secret Of Dorian Gray might not appeal to those looking for a straight (pun intended) adaptation of Wilde's original story as it periodically descends head first into camp, but it's well shot and well acted and never short on weird.


    Video/Audio/Extras:


    Raro's 1.66.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer (of the full strength European version of the film with the snippets from the AIP edit of the movie included as well, making this the most complete version available) looks excellent on this DVD, with the picture properly framed and cleaned up quite nicely. Color reproduction is top notch and the film's lively costumes and sets really shine here, while there are thankfully no problems with compression artifacts or heavy edge enhancement to note. Some minor print damage in the form of the odd speck here and there might show up from time to time but the emphasis here is on minor, it's never problematic. The movie really looks very good.


    Dolby Digital Mono options are provided in English and Italian with optional English subtitles. The Italian track is in considerably worse shape than the English track (the included liner notes explain that the elements were damaged) but the English track sounds nice and clean and clear offering up easy to understand dialogue and properly balanced levels.


    The main extra is a thirty-five minute interview with the film's assistant director, Maurizio Tanfani, who talks about making the film with Dallamano, working with Berger, original casting choices for the lead and more - it's quite a comprehensive look not just at the making of this movie but at Tanfani's career in general. The disc also includes menus and chapter selection. Aside from that, there's a two page insert containing some liner notes on the history of the film.


    The Final Word:


    A truly bizarre take on Oscar Wilfe's story, The Secret Of Dorian Gray is slick, sexy, stylish and just weird enough to work. Berger's lead performance is great, the visuals are pretty much perfect from start to finish, the supporting performances and score all compliment things very well. Add to that the fact that Raro's disc looks as good as it does here and this is one Euro-cult fans will definitely want to own.























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