[31 Days Of Horror ’19] Review: The Picture Of Dorian Gray (1945)

Review Day 03: The Picture Of Dorian Gray (1945)

The works of Oscar Wilde are still as popular as ever, and his only novel The Picture Of Dorian Gray remains a classic. The 1945 classic adaptation is a very worthy one, following the book in great detail whilst changing a few aspects that really make the film shine. The titular character of Dorian Gray is known for having a portrait that takes on his aging, as he himself stays young. Some may argue this film is more drama/fantasy, it is a true horror film however. The horror elements are subtle and creep through the air throughout the entire film, the unsettling nature of Dorian himself is as terrifying as any horror character.

Beginning in 1886 London, we are introduced to Dorian Gray (Hurd Hatfield), the subject of a portrait done by artist Basil Hallward (Lowell Gilmore), it is during one of the sessions Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton (George Sanders). Lord Henry is what some may call corrupt with controversial views on the world, it is these views he shares with Dorian that lead him down a very dark path, corrupting Dorian’s very soul. During these early days Dorian is taken with singer Sibyl Vane (Angela Lansbury), but it is the influence of Lord Henry on Dorian that causes a horrible act. As the film shifts 18 years on, Dorian has not aged and his life has not been the same, rumours circulate of his misdeeds, but most don’t buy into it because Dorian has the face of innocence. As a new potential romance appears for Dorian in Basil’s niece Gladys (Donna Reed), will there be a change in Dorian or has he become far too corrupt to change?

First and foremost The Picture Of Dorian Gray is a visual delight, the sets, the costumes, the cinematography and the clever use of colour for certain scenes in a mostly black and white film is utterly brilliant. The film won Best Cinematography Black and White for Harry Stradling Jr. at the 1946 Academy Awards and deservedly so. There is an elegance about the film, which serves as a mask for the true horror hiding beneath, a very clever aspect of the film.

The performances here are all excellent, Hurt Hatfield made for a very chilling Dorian, his cold demeanor and lack of visual emotion make for a frightening character. The performance is layered and he was the right choice for the part. George Sanders stands out as Lord Henry, a charismatic man who cares not for much, the performance here is masterful and not one you’ll soon forget. Lowell Gilmore might not be as memorable as the other two, but his is a far more quieter performance and attention is held when he is on screen. The main female leads are both excellent in different ways, the characters of Sibyl and Gladys are polar opposites. Angela Lansbury is stunning in this role, which won her a Golden Globe award, Sibyl is a quiet woman with the singing voice of an angel. Anyone would be taken by her, it is Dorian that wins her over, but not for the better. Donna Reed’s Gladys is an outspoken woman, and wears her passion on her sleeve. Since she was a young girl she has been smitten with Dorian, and this connection between the pair, will ultimate decide his fate. The chemistry between Hatfield and Reed is full of sparks, they shine when sharing scenes together.

With so much on offer, the film is a treasured delight, a must see master work. The horror of the story speaks volumes even if it isn’t shown visually, the writing and direction make it work and it is a piece that has many unnerving moments. The portrait itself is quite a sight to see, the changing elements of it through the film give the audience a chance to glance at the true corruption and horror of Dorian Gray. To those who have not had a chance to see the film, add it to the list, you will not be disappointed.


Reviews written by Marcella Papandrea


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