The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

Genres - Drama, Fantasy  |   Sub-Genres - Supernatural Horror, Costume Horror  |   Run Time - 110 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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The 1945 production of The Picture of Dorian Gray was something of an anomaly, coming several years after the end of the "classic" horror cycle which had included Dracula, Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and the like. Dorian is an excellent production, the best of the many cinematic adaptations of this popular tale, and in some ways an improvement on the Oscar Wilde story upon which it is based. It is not flawless, however; Hurd Hatfield is a bit colorless in the title role, and while director Albert Lewin was undoubtedly trying to use his blandness to make points about the nature and deceptiveness of evil, Hatfield's hollow performance dampens the dramatic punch of the film in a few key places. This is certainly not the case with George Sanders, playing one of those droll cynics for which he was born and getting to spout some of Wilde's most delightful epigrams (such as "I like persons better than principles, and person with no principles better than anything in the world"). Young Angela Lansbury is also used to excellent effect in a change-of-pace "good girl" part, proving that Hollywood rarely appreciated the extent of her talent. The real stars of Dorian, however, are director Lewin and cinematographer Harry Stradling, who work together seamlessly to create wonderful chilling sequences and moments of sheer beauty. Of particular note is the murder sequence, which employs a swinging light to create a stunning play of light-and-dark that emphasizes the manner in which Dorian's soul has been separated from his very being.