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This was originally broadcast in the early 1970s, by ABC Circle Films, I think, and it was a great drama for its time and it still holds up well today. Dan Curtis, who directed this also has a big collection of the Dark Shadows series and he has a good feel for the gothic aspects of the 19th century story. Nigel Davenport really steals the show as Dorian's older mentor/corrupting influence. Also, the homosexual aspects are handled extraordinarily well, by saying what they need to say, without saying anything, just a look, or a suggestion, nothing overt. Altho it follows the old MGM story, this one has a lot sharper edge to it and is more realistic, especially about Dorian's depravity. Davenport does really carry the show with his all-knowing, cynical observations that lead the way for Dorian's destruction and doom . . . but it is Dorian who makes the decisions, not Davenport.
I like both this version of DORIAN GRAY and the MGM version. Both add a little girl early in the story who grows up to have an association with Dorian (this is not in the original book), and that is my only complaint. I especially like Angela Lansbury as Sybil Vane and George Sanders as Harry in the MGM version, but Shane Briant as Dorian in the TV-version is much better looking (I think) and far more ruthless than Hurd Hatfield in the MGM version: I think Briant is more true to the novel's Dorian. In the end, this is a very good adaptation of the novel (it even hints at Dorian's liaison's with men, as does Wylde, which could not be done in the MGM version).
I first saw this one when it was first shown, so I'm not too objective about it. It really managed to scare me, partly because it was so late at night, but partly because of that whole feeling from a videotaped suspense story (the same thing that helped Dark Shadows itself). And the casting was so right. I hardly know Shane Briant from anything else, so it might not be so right to call HIM "well-cast," but to me, he IS Dorian Gray. And as far as the other male actors, the one who fit his part so well was Nigel Davenport (who's so good at "larger than life" characters) as Sir Henry. And John Karlen, a sort of Dan Curtis "repertory player" at the time, because of Dark Shadows. As one poster points out, this version manages to include the involvements with men, in a fairly subtle way. The scene where Dorian recites a list of men's names to John Karlen's character, as a way of blackmailing him, and the look on Karlen's face, were very well-done. (If that scene were done now, it would probably be done in a TOO OBVIOUS way, and be bad by comparison.) I saw it when "Dorian Gray" was barely a name to me, let alone more, so even more than the famous 1945 version (which is rightly famous), this is THE version to me.
The story is familiar - Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray wishes his painting
would grow old whilst he remain young. This is the version from Dan
Curtis Productions, which produced the TV-series "Dark Shadows" from
1966-1971; the television show incorporated a version of "Dorian Gray"
into the series' "1897 flashback" (1969). The next film, the sexually
charged "Dorian Gray" (1970), starred Helmut Berger. But, the most
well-known version remains "The Picture of Dorian Gray" (1945), which
starred Hurd Hatfield.
This "The Picture of Dorian Gray" (1973) was produced for late night TV, and the "videotape" quality shows, sadly. Still, it plays. Few actors could play the part as deliciously as Helmut Berger (who fitted the part like a glove); but, Shane Briant takes a fine turn in the lead role. Mr. Briant's Dorian is sweeter-looking, but much more evil. Nigel Davenport, John Karlen, and Fionnula Flanagan head a great group of supporting players.
The 1973 TV film, oddly enough, portrays Dorian as more wicked than other versions. For example, Briant's character has sex with a child; and, it's not ambiguous! In addition to upping the wickedness, the film is played more for horror than drama. Briant's blackmailing of pal John Karlen (as Alan) by reciting his lovers' names tops other versions; the 1970 movie had Dorian and Alan's wife in some naked photographs.
****** The Picture of Dorian Gray (4/23/73) Glenn Jordan ~ Shane Briant, Nigel Davenport, John Karlen
Young Shane Briant was the prettiest Dorian Gray ever on screen. In
this version of The Picture Of Dorian Gray I got the distinct feeling
that this is how Oscar Wilde probably saw his character in real life.
His inspiration probably was some pretty twink he met in passing in the
London underground gay scene.
Although Briant narrates this story of his life which dates from 1891 to 1911 which was after Wilde himself was gone, the story is seen from two pairs of eyes. One is that of Nigel Davenport the freewheeling hedonist who takes Gray under his wing. He's the witty Wilde and full of aphorisms which he tosses off to express his attitudes about life and love. The other is the artist Charles Aidman who paints that infamous portrait showing Gray in the full bloom of youth and attractiveness. This was Wilde the closeted gay man so hopelessly in love with the pretty Mr. Gray.
Of course Briant is taken with the portrait and wishes a strange wish that the opposite of life comes true, that he remain young and attractive and the portrait age like we humans do. But not all of us lead a life of total debauchery. It's that which the portrait shows as his pleasures age him rapidly on canvas. And his sins which includes the deaths of several people either by accident or very much design.
This is a nice television production of the Oscar Wilde classic, Briant is the quintessential Dorian Gray. If they do it again I could see Robert Pattinson playing the part.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Within the first 5 minutes of watching this version of "The Picture of Dorian Gray," I knew it had to be by the same people who had done "Dark Shadows" (DS)! I'm going on 49, and my "Younger-Slice-of-the-Baby-Boom" credentials are solid regarding having been addicted to DS. I laughed out loud when confirmation of the DS connection arose from hearing "Angelique's Theme," and another DS melody I recognizedused as music being performed at gatherings of London's elite. All such DS touches amused but also distracted me, I must say. Another distraction was the use of several key story changes used in the 1945 MGM version. Noting these changesalong with the feeling that the bits of dialogue preserved from Wilde's novel (i.e., Lord Henry's clever sayings) were those that were in the MGM version, made me wonder if the writer had read the original work at all or had just worked from the MGM screenplay! Finally, in the 2 weeks prior to viewing this, I'd watched a 1976 BBC adaption (w/ Sir John Gielgud marvelous as Lord Henry), the MGM film & read the novel for the 1st time. One thing I'll give this one, I appreciated its versions of the changes in Dorian's eponymous "Picture" the most.
This is the fourth version I have watched of Oscar Wilde's famous supernatural tale, following the definitive 1945, the trashy 1970 and the classy 1976 British TV ones. Producer Dan Curtis had reverently (and, generally, faithfully) tackled a number of horror classics around this time R.L. Stevenson's THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1968), Bram Stoker's Dracula (which he personally directed) and Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN (both 1973) and this certainly upholds that tradition, while maintaining their standard of excellence. Indeed, the essence of the piece emerges quite strongly in this case: the Victorian atmosphere (despite the limited resources of TV-based adaptations), the moral issues behind the protagonist's Satanic pact and his subsequent callous/hedonistic behavior, the wit (which was always Wilde's forte) and the opportunities afforded the cast (notably latter-day Hammer regular Shane Briant in the title role, Nigel Davenport, and DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS 's John Karlen) by way of superbly-delineated characters though the all-important role of Sybil Vane is rather inadequately filled by Vanessa Howard. Needless to say, the gradual degradation of Dorian Gray's portrait features prominently within the narrative, and this obviously emerges a highlight here as well.
This film was produced by Dan Curtis--the same guy who wrote and
produced "Dark Shadows". He also worked on several made for television
monster films in the late 60s and 70s--such as a GREAT version of
Frankenstein as well as Dracula and Dr. Jekyll. While I wouldn't
exactly say "The Picture of Dorian Gray" is a monster film in the
traditional sense, it was pretty monstrous--mostly because unlike the
monster films, Dorian is a guy who CHOOSES evil--it was not chosen for
him by fate. I must add that this version might just be better than the
classic 1945 film (starring Hurd Hatfield)--and it's well worth your
The film stars a relatively unknown actor of the time, Shane Briant. I am sure Briant was chosen because he was amazingly pretty--the sort of guy Gray was supposed to have been. It's the story about a vain young man who makes a passing wish--that as time passes, he remain young and handsome and his portrait would instead age for him. This way, he could live as debauched life as possible and suffer no obvious ill-effects. While Dorian starts off slowly on this road to perdition, as time passes, he becomes a completely hedonistic sociopath where no sin is beyond him. He uses women, does opium, kills and there is a STRONGLY suggested scene of him having sex with a child (though this was handled in a very vague and suggestive manner and you never actually see the kid). All in all, a chilling story made better by excellent acting, nice direction and terrific production values. A horrible picture of human nature run amok.
This one I was planning on watching again after not seeing it in years
but I ended up skimming though it because I found it not as good as I
was remembering it was.
The movie has a the look and feel of an older TV show or older soap opera. It felt very stagy and didn't play out as well as I had remembered. I guess some movies really are best left to a childhood memory. It's a shame I wasn't as happy with this film as I once was.
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) and Dorian Gray (2009) I have both enjoyed very much. This 1973 version will still be a good childhood memory for me, just not one I would care to watch these days.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
He who does not know Oscar Wilde is just uneducated. He who does not
know Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray" is just half human. And
any film adapted from Oscar Wilde's stories and plays are a must for
any man in this world. I did say man because Oscar Wilde is talking to
men about men, and even when he is dealing with women he is addressing
men as his privileged audience.
Oscar Wilde was at least bisexual and being Irish and not of noble extract, his gay adventure with the son of an English Lord cost him several years in the prison of Reading. More for than "perverting" the son of a lord and future lord himself, and that son remained attached to Oscar Wilde and his work till the end of his life, Oscar Wilde was punished because of the social line of nobility he crossed up, which was unacceptable at the time in England, and will be till the 1980s or so. What's more he dared cross the national divide from Irish to English in his sexual love life and that was a tremendously lot less acceptable than trespassing the first nobility divide, and probably still is or was till at least the beginning of the 21st century.
So this film has to be seen as a fundamental film as for dealing with "perversion" and "perdition" in English society. The film is discrete about the gay side of things, but a long list of men are said toward the end of the film to refuse to have anything to do any more with Dorian Gray or to step out of a room when Dorian Gray steps in it. That discretion is not important anyway since what is at stake is a lot more than just gayness.
Dorian Gray is young, about 20 at the beginning, and rich, at the beginning again since he will grow poor as years go by. He will be 41 at the end. During those 20 years or so he will do all the villainies and treacheries you can imagine, with women or with men, among other things breaking the hearts of women and leading them to their death or plainly killing men or blackmailing some others like the professor and doctor he uses to get rid of the corpse of his last victim, using the professor's liking men to force him to do something absolutely unethical and make him his accomplice in this crime.
But the appealing and disquieting knack of the novel and the film is the fact that the picture that was done by a famous painter when Dorian Gray was 20 leads Dorian to wishing the painting to age while he himself does not. So at age 41 he is still looking the way he did when 20 and the portrait, hidden away from public view is aging for one and changing in agreement with the horrors Dorian Gray does.
At the end what has to happen happens: Dorian Gray wants to destroy the painting and instead it is him who dies and the curse on the painting reverts itself and Dorian Gray when dead looks his age and carries his horrendous soul ugliness on his face.
But the film reduced to this story line is in fact rather simple and would at best be a horror short story, and in fact was used several times here and there in horror literature. This film and the story behind are not horror literature but deep ethical literature. Oscar Wilde denounces the hypocrisy of English society: "The value of an idea has nothing to do with the sincerity of the man who expresses it." One can utter the most profound moral statements and yet be the most rotten character on earth. His rotten nature does not in any way degrade the ethical value of the moral statements he proclaims.
In simple words "those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril." The real theme of the novel is the fact that the surface of things means nothing and that the true nature of a man is beneath his appearance. Note the well chosen "beneath." Oscar Wilde is careful not to use "behind" that would not mean a lower level or state. For Oscar Wilde the social world is a superficial appearance and a lower true reality. The appearance is the top surface of things and truth is necessarily underneath. The aristocracy that is at the top of society does not hide a shadow that is at their level but hides an ugliness that is necessarily deep under that aristocratic top surface. Aristocratic societies are necessarily hypocritical and pushing their roots in some deep mud or filth.
Though this is the fundamental idea in the story, Oscar Wilde cannot resist expressing another one he borrowed from Shakespeare. "Time is jealous of you. Time will have his revenge." This time is the time Shakespeare describes and despises in his sonnets but with a Macbethian dimension to it. Time is the all leveller but by bringing everything superior down into the muddy pit of human manure.
I will only regret one thing about this film. The actor who plays Dorian Gray is slightly stiff and not directed into some kind of real attractiveness. He may be handsome but he is also tremendously cold or artificial.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
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