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WARNER

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Albert Lewin
Cast:
George Sanders, Hurd Hatfield, Donna Reed, Angela Lansbury
Writing Credits:
Albert Lewin (screenplay), Oscar Wilde (novel)

Tagline:
Why did women talk about Dorian Gray in whispers?

Synopsis:
A corrupt young man somehow keeps his youthful beauty, but a special painting gradually reveals his inner ugliness to all.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio:
English Monaural
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 110 min.
Price: $19.97
Release Date: 10/7/2008

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Actor Angela Lansbury and Historian Steve Haberman
• Two Vintage Shorts
• Trailer


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EQUIPMENT
Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 19, 2014)

Adapted from the famous Oscar Wilde work, 1945ís The Picture of Dorian Gray tells a chilling tale. Set in London circa 1886, young Dorian Gray (Hurd Hatfield) sits for a painting by Basil Hallward (Lowell Gilmore). During this session he meets Hallwardís pal Lord Henry Wotton (George Sanders). The aristocrat impresses on Dorian the need to savor youth.

Dorian really takes this message to heart and he wishes that the painting would age while he didnít outwardly grow old. Dorian also listens to Wottonís advice to live life to the fullest, so he starts to frequent earthier parts of London. There he meets a young chanteuse named Sibyl Vane (Angela Lansbury). The pair fall in love and plan to marry.

However, the cynical Wotton indirectly sabotages this relationship. He urges Dorian to coldly ďtestĒ Sibylís morals, and she fails. Dorian dumps her, but by the time he reconsiders, sheís committed suicide.

Sibylís death pushes Dorian over the edge. He engages in a life of cold cruelty and becomes the subject of much London gossip, partially due to his unchanging veneer; while the years pass, Dorianís physical appearance doesnít change. We learn he hides a secret related to Hallwardís portrait.

I suppose itís pointless for me to maintain that secret, as I expect the vast majority of the viewers know what happens with the painting. Heck, the DVDís case even tells us! Nonetheless, I like to avoid spoilers, even when theyíre as well-known as this one.

I admit the manner in which the film reveals that secret surprised me. I expected the story to save it for a big shock at the end, but instead, we examine the portraitís spooky demeanor at moments throughout the film. I feared this might render the secretís impact less effective, but it didnít. The occasional glimpses of the picture add drama to the story, so they work well.

Much needed drama, I must say, as I think Picture tends to come across as rather flat at times. I expect some of this stems from the censorship standards of the day. Picture provides an awfully chatty experience; we hear a lot about Dorianís evil transgressions but rarely get to see any of them.

This means we donít often get the impact of his behavior. Oh, the flick shows a few potentially shocking scenes, and the occasional reveals of the portrait pack a punch.

However, much of the movie delivers retrospective information about the subjects; that second-person perspective means that the tale lacks the immediacy Iíd like. I donít know if the filmmakers couldnít depict what they desired because the censorship limited that side of things, but I do know that the movie tells when it should show.

Another negative factor comes from Hatfieldís performance as Dorian. Hatfield was a handsome man but he lacked much personality. He presents Dorian as a dishwater dull character, even when he turns cold and cruel.

Hatfieldís one-dimensional turn doesnít cause problems early in the flick because Dorianís supposed to be something of a blank slate. However, as the years pass, Gray should become more complex; Hatfield simply canít pull off the nuances and demands of the part.

At least the other actors provide more solid work. Always a treat, nobody did tart cynicism like Sanders. We find a good turn from a very young Lansbury as well. She doesnít get much to do, but she contributes real heartbreak to her short appearance as Dorianís doomed lover.

Clearly the source story boasts great potential, and another film version of Picture might more fully exploit the subject matter. As it stands, the movie manages to provide decent entertainment despite its flaws. Nonetheless, a better lead actor and a less chatty nature would turn it into something more consistently satisfying.


The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

The Picture of Dorian Gray appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although the transfer showed its age, the movie usually looked fine.

As expected, source flaws presented the majority of the flickís problems. I noticed a mix of specks, marks, spots and nicks throughout its running time. While these never became overwhelming, they occurred with moderate frequency.

Otherwise, I thought the film offered decent visuals. Sharpness consistently appeared positive. Only minor softness ever showed up, as the majority of the movie demonstrated good clarity. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement caused only minor intrusions.

Though the vast majority of the flick was black and white, it did come with some Technicolor inserts. These showed the titular portrait on two brief occasions. In those shots, the colors were adequate but not particularly strong. Since the movie used so few of them, however, they werenít an issue.

As for the black and white side of things, I thought the movie provided clean, vivid contrast. Blacks appeared dark and firm, and shadows were satisfying. A few interiors seemed slightly dense, but most low-light shots were clear and appropriately visible. Overall, I liked the transfer; only the persistent print defects and the mild edge enhancement made it a ďC+ď presentation.

I thought the monaural audio of Picture was perfectly adequate for its age. It didnít exceed expectations for a mix of its era, but the audio was more than acceptable. Speech lacked edginess. The lines werenít exactly natural, but they seemed distinctive and without problems.

Effects were a little flat, but they showed no distortion and displayed acceptable definition. Music was pretty lively given its age, as the score sounded reasonably bright and concise. No background noise was noticeable. All together, I found little about which to complain, as the soundtrack aged well.

In terms of extras, the main attraction comes from an audio commentary with actor Angela Lansbury and film historian Steve Haberman. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They discuss cast and crew, performance-related topics, the source novel and its adaptation, and a few other issues connected to the film.

Lansbury and Haberman combine to make this an effective commentary. Haberman gives us good background notes, while Lansbury adds a nice first-person perspective to the piece. The two of them interact well and create an informative and enjoyable chat.

Along with the filmís trailer, we locate two period shorts. These include the live-action Stairway to Light (10:21) and the animated Quiet Please! (7:36). In Light, we get a quick biography of Phillippe Pinel and his pioneering work with the mentally disturbed. The piece is too short and superficial to turn into much, but it tells an interesting story.

As for Quiet, it gives us a Tom and Jerry cartoon. The cat and mouse fight so much that they distract a bulldog from his nap. The dog threatens Tom with pain if another interruption occurs, so naturally Jerry does his best to taunt his feline adversary. Iíve never been a big T&J fan, and nothing here changes that, though the relentless violence does become amusing in a non-PC way.

The Picture of Dorian Gray presents a mixed bag of a movie. On one hand, it boasts a fascinating story and some good supporting performances. On the other, the lead actor seems too bland, and the film tells its tale in a lackluster manner. The DVD offers decent picture and audio along with a few moderately interesting extras. This is an average release for a spotty movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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