Sunday, January 04, 2015

Tonight's Movie: The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

MGM's classic telling of Oscar Wilde's THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY was recently released in a beautiful Blu-ray edition by the Warner Archive.

In the well-known story, Dorian Gray (Hurd Hatfield) remains unchanged in appearance over decades, while a portrait he has locked away turns older and uglier, reflecting Dorian's many immoral acts, which include murder.

The new Blu-ray is beautiful, showing off the Oscar-winning deep-focus photography of Harry Stradling Sr. The cast has many actors I enjoy, including George Sanders, Angela Lansbury, Donna Reed, and Peter Lawford.

Despite these fine attributes, I can't say I really enjoyed the movie, simply because horror isn't my thing. Movies where the horror is largely unseen, such as CAT PEOPLE (1942) or THE UNINVITED (1944), are about as far as I can go in the genre.

I didn't enjoy looking at the always-impassive Hatfield's face; his lack of emotion throughout the film was creepy in and of itself, and there was something very off-putting about his appearance in general, which I suspect was by design. And since I'm sensitive to upsetting visuals, I didn't want to look at the portrait!

However, the above reactions are simply personal preferences and don't have much to do with the quality of the film, which is excellent. Those who enjoy the story and this type of film surely couldn't do better than this outstanding cast and sumptuous telling, including a score by Herbert Stothart.

Angela Lansbury, who was all of 19 or so when this was made, was particularly affecting in her few scenes as a music hall girl who believes she has found true love with Dorian. She received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Incidentally, as readers know, I love George Sanders, but I felt as though he were racing through his lines in this one. Perhaps the director was trying to keep him speaking at a fast clip due to concerns about the running time -- the finished film is 110 minutes -- but I found it difficult to absorb the import of what he was saying at times due to the rushed delivery of some complicated dialogue.

The supporting cast includes Lowell Gilmore, Richard Fraser, Douglas Walton, Mary Forbes, and Robert Greig. The film is narrated by Sir Cedric Hardwicke.

THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY was written and directed by Alfred Lewin, based on Wilde's novel.

Extras on the Warner Archive Blu-ray include a commentary track by Angela Lansbury and Steve Haberman, along with the movie's trailer, the "Passing Parade" short STAIRWAY TO LIGHT (1945), and the "Tom and Jerry" cartoon QUIET PLEASE! (1945).

The Blu-ray picture is amazingly pristine, showing off MGM's fine production values and the cinematography to the fullest. Though the genre isn't my particular thing, I can highly recommend this disc to those who enjoy the story.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website.


Blogger A said...

It's fun to see someone else's views of Dorian Gray. It plays quite heavily on TCM and I view it at least once a year it seems. I even reviewed it on my site

12:55 AM  
Blogger Kristina said...

Kind of impressed to see you review this since I know horror is not to your taste, good for you for giving it a look. You're brave because you know I'm a huge horror fan and that painting even gives ME the willies!!

3:09 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for the link, Amanda, I will be sure to check it out!

And thanks, Kristina! I figured it was "my" studio (MGM in the '40s!) and a cast I loved, plus I've enjoyed film versions of Wilde's comedies, so I thought I should give it a try. I couldn't have asked for a better way to watch the film, even though as I feared it just wasn't for me! That's funny about the painting, LOL. I kind of glanced quickly through my fingers! :)

Best wishes,

3:26 PM  

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