"Dorian Gray" [1970]

I am basking in a serious far-out post-hippie glamour afterglow right now, having just watched Massimo Dallamano’s 1970 “Dorian Gray.” The film follows Oscar Wilde’s “Picture of Dorian Gray” in many details, adding copious nudity and outrageous fashion statements and taking away virtually all subtelties of plot and characterization. It’s a one-dimensional film that mirrors the vanity of its title character, serving as a showcase for elegant European actors and little else.

Helmut Berger’s Dorian begins as an almost aggravatingly sweet and naive young Londoner, whose “male beauty and virility” has been identified by his artist friend Basil Hallward (Richard Todd), who is painting a portrait of Dorian. Dorian meets doe-eyed actress Sybil Vane (Marie Liljedahl) and they begin a whirlwind romance, confirming their love for one another over hot dogs, shared car rides and (naturally) nude love scenes. Things take a Hard Left when Dorian is introduced to Henry Wotton (Herbert Lom) and his sister, who are avowed hedonists. Soon, Dorian is deeply involved in their world of cocktail parties (sadly, not of the Hott Nazi Cocktail Party variety noted in my Sadiconazista article–these are rather more subdued and entirely-sans-uniform). His relationship with Sybil ends very badly, and she commits suicide, leaving Dorian free to pursue all life’s pleasures. And the film does, indeed, show ALL of life’s pleasures–hetero couplings, threesomes, gay couplings, LOTS more cocktail parties. As Dorian becomes more and more depraved, the appearance of his portrait deteriorates while he stays forever young. The movie implies the passage of many years, as other actors age on-screen, but never fear, things stay hella-groovy throughout. Of course, Dorian’s bad behavior and evil influence do not go unpunished, leading to his eventual suicide.

My love of Mr. Berger is no secret, and I have seen him put in a great-if-melodramatic performance, but–let’s be honest–he doesn’t play a convincing innocent. There is no transition between Good Dorian and Naughty Dorian, effectively eradicating the dramatic arc of the film. Sure, the man looks amazing in (and out of) outfits, but since the film is structured as a character-driven drama, the lack of a believable main character is problematic. The film is very fun as a dated document of its time, and so long as one looks at it as a psychedelic soap opera, it’s a blast.

I’m less inclined to want to discuss the merits of this movie than I am to start figuring out some way I can get my Domestic Partner into this outfit. The Baron claims that zebra is “the tackiest of the animal prints,” but I claim this outfit is totally awesome and completely fashionably sound.

Enjoy this gallery of super-hip film stills from “Dorian Gray” on Flickr.

A big thank you to Kim at Cinebeats for sending me a copy of this movie! I suspect I have to fly out to the West Coast to wash her car and clean her home for a month to make up for this kind gesture.

7 thoughts on “"Dorian Gray" [1970]”

  1. I’ve always been a big fan of Oscar Wilde’s “Dorian Gray.” I’ve not seen this film. I’m also a fan of Helmut Berger. I was actually talking the other day with a friend of mine about him. I definitely would love to see this film. Great review.

  2. I’m waiting for my pal Jack to weigh in on this one–he is in the process of getting his doctorate in decadent Victorian literature and I’m sure he’ll have some thoughts on this take on Wilde’s work.

    Alas, this film is hard-to-find. Kim was able to secure me a copy from VHS, but I’ve not yet been able to find a DVD release. It’s a shame, because the movie is a real trip. I’d love to purchase a nicely restored disc, believe me.

    As for H’Berger, a friend made me this awesome user icon for my LiveJournal in tribute to my awful fangirldom.

  3. That’s cool that your friend Jack is getting a doctorate in decadent Victorian lit. There’s nothing much better than that.

    It’s a shame that films like this aren’t available on DVD. I would love to have a copy of that. Most of my viewing is either from movies I buy or can rent on Netflix.

    That’s such a cool icon of Berger.

  4. Excellent! I will invoke your name when I being on my devious peer-pressure campaign to get the Baron into that outfit, just in case my “WWHBD [what would Helmut Berger do]” approach proves unsuccessful.

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