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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Thriller > Mystery > Gothic > Literature > Aging > Curse > Beauty > Sexuality > Dorian Gray (2009/NEM/National Entertainment Media Blu-ray)

Dorian Gray (2009/NEM/National Entertainment Media Blu-ray)


Picture: B-     Sound: B     Extras: B-     Film: B-



Oscar Wilde wrote his classic book The Picture Of Dorian Gray back in 1890 and it is as significant a Horror genre work as Shelley’s Frankenstein or Stoker’s Dracula, yet the work has become somewhat lost on the public and not adapted as regularly if at all.  Part of this comes from a combination of ignorance and homophobia, as well as many not wanting to deal with what it says about youth, mortality and aging.  It has been a long time since a good adaptation of the book was made, but finally, Director Oliver Parker (An Ideal Husband, Fade To Black) has delivered an adaptation that is the best in at least a generation, simply entitled Dorian Gray (2009).


Ben Barnes (in a breakthrough role) is the title character whose portrait painting is more than just a decoration, but the painter Basil Hallward (Ben Chaplin of The New World, Remains Of The Day, Thin Red Line) has a deeper interest in just a commission for a job well done.  This leads Basil to introduce Dorian to Lord Henry Wooton (Colin Firth of A Single Man) who loves and celebrates nothing but beauty, pleasure and fun, the pleasure principle in full swing.  As Gray indulges himself, his picture starts to change and that is only the beginning.


That was a shocking proposition to some at the time the book first arrived and Parker with Writer Toby Finlay have changed a few things, but not gone overboard like too many adaptations have (The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen feature film (not the graphic novel comic) made him into a cardboard superhero!) and recaptured the richness, energy, subtle terror and horror of the original work.  Too many pretentious recent versions were trying to be about the author in embarrassing ways or even the AIDS crisis, resulting in some of the most inept adaptations well ever see.  This versions respects the work and can go a few rounds with any recent adaptation of a literary Horror classic in the last 20 years.


Made at the legendary Ealing Studios, it is stunning that this barely received a theatrical release, yet is part of a growing list of solid British films (like Cemetery Junction, Pirate Radio and Harry Brown) that are some of the best their country’s cinema has produced and yet, it is not given a proper release in the U.S., but having a format like Blu-ray really brings home how terrific these missed films are and in the case of this version of Dorian Gray, a big surprise.


Yes, the film has a few moments that do not work, but they are few and minor; moments that could have been changed or even cut to improve the film.  With a great supporting cast that includes Maryam d’Abo (The Living Daylights), Caroline Goddall (Schindler’s List, Cliffhanger), Rachel Hurd-Wood, Emilia Fox, Rebecca Hall, Douglas Henshall and Emily Philips, it is a throwback to what made the old Hammer films great without trying to be one of those films, exceptional British casts that also made so many independent films, anthology films and films by companies like Amicus so great.  Dorian Gray is a must for any serious Horror fan.



The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image is impressive for most of the time, with only some softness and digital work that cuts into the fine sets and locations holding back an otherwise solid transfer with good color and detail, no matter how it is styled.  Director of Photography Roger Pratt easily delivers his best work since Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys (1995) creating a world of the past where all that happens is possible.  As palpable as From Hell (2001) and as period authentic as the recent Wolfman remake (2010), this is a nice return to form after so many slow dramas and fantasy films.  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 5.1 mix is even better with a fine soundfield, superior recording and fine score by Charlie Mole.  The combination makes for one of the best Horror titles on Blu-ray to date and that includes some great releases.


Extras include stills, a Blooper Reel, Deleted Scenes, Multiple Behind-The-Scenes Featurettes, Making-Of featurette with extensive interviews and feature length audio commentary track by Parker and Finlay.



For the record, MGM’s 1945 film version is considered one of the early best with Hurt Hatfield, Angela Lansbury, Peter Lawford and Donna Reed, while the 1970s Italian indie with Helmut Berger and Herbert Lom is considered the boldest and the Dan Curtis-produced TV version with Shane Bryant, Nigel Davenport, Charles Aidman and Brendan Dillon exceptionally effective.  Too few of the adaptations have made it to DVD, let alone Blu-ray and I hope this new version causes a cascade of all of them.  Wilde’s book is too significant to be left behind and this new version is something to be very proud of.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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