Dorian Gray (1970)

Alas poor Oscar, you’d be struggling to recognise more than the shadow of your story in this rendition of it. Wilde’s Dorian is updated to the late 60s/early 70s, and is done so in reasonably handsome fashion; director Massimo Dallamano had been a cinematographer since the mid-40s before taking up direction late in life (he died in 1976 aged 49), and so for lovers of that “retro” look of films (particularly European) of this period, this film is at least a delight to look at. But exactly what period is it? I mean, it clearly starts around 1970, and the story seems to span about 20 years  or so (going by the vague hints the film itself gives)… but it still looks like it ends around 1970 as well. That’s the aspect of the modernisation of the story which bothers me, at least; other reviewers I’ve read are more bothered by the very idea of the modernisation, or maybe it’s more the actual time it was made… cos by 1970 Dallamano could get away with more than MGM had been able to in 1945 with their version, it could be more overt with the decadence and filth, and that’s what seems to put some off… but, being me, I think it doesn’t go anywhere near as far as it might, it doesn’t wallow in the muck to the extent I kind of hoped it would; for all that its admirers and detractors seem to agree that it takes advantage of the period’s permissiveness, it’s awfully shy about actually showing penis (apart from a split-second flash), forcing Helmut Berger to stand covering himself awkwardly with his hands or a sheet. Some fearless bloody libertine… Not that it’s not trashy, cos it is, just not as much as I’d expected. Disappointing. Also, while it looks nice, I wish I could say the same for the sound on the Australian DVD; the English track was unexpectedly hissy though otherwise clear enough, but the Italian track (which I also sampled) sounds like it had been taped off a TV broadcast being received inside a cave while a thunderstorm was raging outside by one crappy microphone hooked up to a barely functional reel-to-reel recorder utilising a particularly shitty brand of tape. Whoever Big Sky sourced it from should surely be taking a bit more care when it comes to supposedly legitimate and professional presentation…

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