The Secret of Dorian Gray

1 h 41 min197018+
Taking place in London, a wealthy young man, Dorian Gray, is in love with an aspiring actress named Sybil.
Massimo Dallamano
Helmut BergerRichard ToddHerbert Lom
English [CC]
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Supporting actors
Marie LiljedahlMargaret LeeBeryl CunninghamIsa MirandaMaria RohmEleonora Rossi DragoRenato Romano
Samuel Z. ArkoffHarry Alan Towers
Kino Lorber
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4.1 out of 5 stars

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Fred AdelmanReviewed in the United States on June 8, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
The most faithful version of Oscar Wilde's novel
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Warning SPOILERS!!! This was the first R-Rated film I saw in a theater as a pre-teen, thanks to the Colonial Theater in Pompton Lakes, NJ. It was walking distance from my house and I saw every film they showed during the late-'60s - early-'70s because I became good friends with the manager. No matter the rating (I saw the X-Rated versions of ANDY WARHOL'S FRANKENSTEIN & DRACULA [both 1973] there), he would let me in. It was great being able to walk to a movie theater, pay fifty cents to get in and see all kinds of movies, not just horror. Wiping all nostalgia aside and not realizing at such a young age that I was watching a heavily edited version of the film (a common practice by American International Pictures [A.I.P.], who distributed this film in the United States), let's get on with the review of the uncensored version.
Based on Oscar Wilde's novel "The Picture Of Dorian Gray", the film opens with Dorian Gray (Helmut Berger; THE BLOODSTAINED BUTTERFLY - 1971) complaining to some unseen elderly man that the "portrait" is the cause of all his troubles. We then see him washing blood off his hands and then covering up a painting in his attic (in an effective unedited sequence where he walks through his home). Dorian is a troubled young man who stares into his fireplace while stroking his black cat. We then travel back in time to discover why he is so troubled. It starts in 1920s London, where Dorian is the audience of a nightclub with friends Basil (Richard Todd; ASYLUM - 1972) and Alan (Renato Romano; FRANKENSTEIN '80 - 1972), watching a transvestite dance on stage. Dorian is looking for an act to perform at his rich Aunt's newly renovated retirement home. He and his friends agree that this isn't the act and leave. They part ways after leaving the nightclub and Dorian drives home worrying about finding an act worthy enough to please his Aunt. He sees a theater where "Romeo And Juliet" is being rehearsed and stops the car, goes inside and watches Sybil Vane (Marie Liljedahl; ANN AND EVE - 1970) rehearsing the role of Juliet. When their eyes meet, it's love at first sight (for the both of them). They have a wonderful and loving relationship. While making love, Dorian is surprised to discover that Sybil is a virgin and he is happy that she gave up her virginity to him.
Dorian tells Basil about Sybil and he tells Dorian that she must be someone special, as he paints Dorian's portrait. Basil's paintings are admired by the wealthy Henry Wotton (Herbert Lom; THE SECT - 1991) and his sister Gwendolyn (Margaret Lee; SLAUGHTER HOTEL - 1971), especially Dorian's portrait. While Gwendolyn lustfully watches Dorian taking a shower outside, Basil tells Henry that Dorian's portrait is not for sale as it is not yet finished. Basil introduces them to Dorian and mentions that he is about to get married (Henry says, "What is vice anyway? Simply pleasure without shame."). This doesn't phase Gwendolyn, who we can see has the hots for Dorian. Sybil lives with her brother James (Stewart Black) and their mother and James doesn't have a high opinion of Dorian, who picks her up and drives her to his parents dilapidated country cottage. He shows her the bed and Sybil accuses him of bringing other girls to the cottage and runs away. Dorian denies it and runs after her and they then make love under a beautiful tree.
Dorian is than at his rich Aunt's retirement home with friend Alan, when Henry shows up and quizzes him about Sybil and then says one day he will be old and wrinkled, beautiful no more (Henry says, "Beauty lasts a very, very short time."). Basil finishes Dorian's portrait, where Dorian asks, "Why should I get old, while this stays young? Why can't it be the other way around?" Henry hears Dorian say he would give up his soul to make that happen and buys the portrait as a present for Dorian. From that point on, Dorian is a different person and it is not for the better. A man with no soul can never be a real man.
Dorian becomes obsessed with his portrait and Sybil becomes jealous, asking Dorian if he would leave her when she becomes old. The old Dorian would have said no, by the soulless Dorian, who is obsessed with youth, has a totally different answer. Dorian cheats on Sybil with Gwendolyn at a party the very next day. He then goes to the theater with rich (and horny) old lady Mrs. Ruxton (Isa Miranda; A BAY OF BLOOD - 1971) to watch Sybil in the play, only to discover she is a lousy actress, seemingly blowing her lines on purpose as a way to make Dorian mad. Sybil then commits suicide after losing Dorian and it doesn't bother him one bit. As the years pass away, Dorian remains young while his portrait bears the wrinkles of time, getting uglier as the passage of time progresses. Dorian begins to live the life of a rich, spoiled playboy, who uses sex as a way to climb the ladder of success. But at what price? We are also let in on who Dorian was talking to in the beginning of the film and why he had to wash blood off his hands. The film ends with a final quotation from Oscar Wilde's novel, telling us that immortality is not as great as you hope it will be.
Filmed many times, including a silent version made in 1910 and the best known one in 1945 (as THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY, starring Hurd Hatfield as Dorian), it is this version that is the most faithful to Oscar Wilde's (who was openly gay) novel. It is also the most sexually charged version, which leaves little to the imagination. Director/co-screenwriter Massimo Dallamano (WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE? - 1972; THE NIGHT CHILD - 1975) has crafted an exquisite portrait (pardon the pun) of a man obsessed with age and how he uses his never-ending youth and beauty to his advantage until it consumes him. While his friends and family grow old and die around him (Dorian even resorts to murder), Dorian is determined to understand how to live without a soul. When Sybil commits suicide, Dorian becomes angry rather than feeling remorse and he finally accepts living without a soul, but it's harder than you may think. But how long can a person live before becoming disillusioned with life (or as Dorian says, "Even youth becomes boring")? Dallamano and Helmut Berger (who is excellent) show us down to the tiniest detail what it is like to live a soulless life. An elongated life full of sex (including homosexuality) and debauchery takes its toll on Dorian as the decades pass until there is only one thing left to do and that is accept death. Only he and Henry don't age, which brings up the question: Is Henry the Devil or is he a Devil's disciple? He very well may be one of those, as he haunts Dorian through the decades, making him do things that he really doesn't want to do. But how do you cheat the Devil? This is a wonderfully mounted film, as the screenplay by Dallamano, Marcello Coscia (YETI: GIANT OF THE 20TH CENTURY - 1977) & Günter Ebert (SADOMANIA - 1981) shows us how the sexual mores have changed over the decades, leading us into the mod, anything goes contemporary London of the late-'60s. We watch an aging Alan, who is newly married, having sex with a black model named Adrienne (Beryl Cunningham; WEEKEND MURDERS - 1970), while Dorian seduces Alan's new wife Alice (Maria Rohm; NIGHT OF THE BLOOD MONSTER - 1970), appearing nude in her bathroom doorway and then screwing her. There is no boundary Dorian won't cross. The music, by Peppino De Luca (THE MAN WITH ICY EYES - 1971), changes through the decades and adds to the film's effectiveness. This is a great discovery for me as, I have previously mentioned, this was my first R-Rated film, but this film goes beyond an R Rating and crosses over the line, not in violence, mind you, but in depictions of sex.
This Italian/West German/United Kingdom co-production was released theatrically in the U.S. by A.I.P., with the same edited version showing up on VHS from NTA Home Entertainment. The widescreen, uncut DVD from Raro Video (my review is based on this DVD) is an absolute revelation, as the print is flawless, looking like it was shot yesterday. The extras on the disc are sparse, just a filmography of Massimo Dallamano and an interview with assistant director Maurizio Tanfani, who has lots of great stories to tell (Franco Nero was considered for the role of Dorian; Dallamano got turned on by the sex scenes!; Herbert Lom's nose was so crooked, they had to use putty on it every day to straighten it out), not all about this film (he had a great career and worked with some of the genre greats). A nice presentation at a fairly cheap price. No Blu-Ray at the time of this review, but I believe that will be rectified soon. Also starring Eleonora Rossi Drago (IN THE FOLDS OF THE FLESH - 1970), Renzo Marignano (SEVEN MURDERS FOR SCOTLAND YARD - 1971) and Francesco Tensi (UNCLE WAS A VAMPIRE - 1959). Harry Alan Towers (who was producer here) also produced PACT WITH THE DEVIL (2002) a better-than-average take on the Dorian Gray story. Not Rated.
20 people found this helpful
RANDELReviewed in the United States on September 16, 2019
2.0 out of 5 stars
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As if Oscar Wilde didn't suffer enough, this third-rate director has turned his DORIAN GRAY into a sleazy excuse to film Helmet Berger either shirtless or riding around in sports cars while dreadful 1960's club music blasts away endlessly. This is a really really bad film! [Some of the sets look like those used in low-budget 1960's TV sit-coms.] And yet (I have to say) the film is closer in spirit to the novel than some of the newer films that have tried to turn the story into a more sensational horror-fest.
7 people found this helpful
4-Legged DefenderReviewed in the United States on October 7, 2011
5.0 out of 5 stars
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[THE SECRET OF DORIAN GRAY - (1970) - Widescreen Presentation - Directed by Massimo Dellamano - Italian with English subtitles] OK gents, it's time to stop moaning about the dvd problems from the first batch, RaroVideo has addressed this issue, and get on with the merits of the movie and the remastered transfer. The picture quality is absolutely gorgeous, the colors rich and vibrant, so much so they pop out at you constantly, the contrast is bold and the aspect ratio appears perfect. It's nothing short of breathtaking for a 'lost' film released for the first time for home consumption in any format.

The film itself is a mod 60's update of Oscar Wilde's famous story (which is better than any theatrical version yet made - the best adaptation is the 1945 version, 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' starring George Sanders IMO), but the swinging sixties London scenario adds a new touch to the tale. Helmut Berger is cast as the foppish pretty boy who never ages, but has a portrait of himself in his attic that doesn't look so good. Swiss sensation Marie Liljedahl ('I, A Woman', 'Inga' and 'The Seduction of Inga') is his aspiring actress girlfriend who is eventually cast aside as Dorian falls prey to those who gradually corrupt his morals as he climbs a social ladder of conceit and decadence. Herbert Lom is his benefactor and initial prime source of corruption, but soon Dorian becomes his own monster, devouring well-known Euro-lovelies Margaret Lee and Maria Rohm, among other various vixens clamoring for a dalliance with Dorian. Director Massimo Dellamano ('What Have You Done To Solange', 'Night Child' and the original 'Devil In The Flesh') creates a hyper-reality and sumptuous visual feast in lieu of any dramatic embellishments to the story, so no major plot surprises are in store for us, yet it still holds a certain fascination for those who enjoy sixties cinema (even though it was made in 1970, it was still the 60's until 1972 - ask anyone who was there or wrote a book on cinema from that era) and European films. The Great Britain/Italy/German co-production is understandably schizophrenic, but this too adds a psychedelic psychosis rather than detracts, at least it did for me.

The highly-touted sexual aspects of this film are quite tame by today's standards and thus were a letdown; after all, what respectable gent wouldn't eagerly eyeball the luscious ladies listed above in their undraped splendor? There is some nudity but precious little for that era of permissiveness. Overall, the film was still 4 stars for me (others may only deem it 3½), but I feel compelled to add the fifth star to counterbalance the many bad reviews the actual film suffered as a result of the initial pressing's defections. Those negative reviews will cost this enjoyable flick many viewers who just see the review stars and aren't aware of the film's unique merits. All fans of a good gaillo and Eurohorror buffs will also enjoy this film, and I hope RaroVideo continues its trend of offering stateside releases of other rare European films in such lavish, remastered presentations.
26 people found this helpful
SeraphimTheOrthodoxReviewed in the United States on November 12, 2019
4.0 out of 5 stars
Go-Go Dorian B Goode!
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Always up for yet another film adaptation of Oscar Wilde's allegedly most disliked work, I've seen FIVE adaptations of The Picture of Dorian Grey and I lay wager there's yet another hiding somewhere. I couldn't say what the worlds most LOVED story is, but I can say w/o reservation there ain't FIVE adaptations to film of it lol. Makes sense to me. Well I was always transfixed by the story and cant wait to see what happen to his portrait in each one. However, being such an enthusiastic fan, I've yet to read the novel and I know I need to lol.
2 people found this helpful
Paul J AmouryReviewed in the United States on March 11, 2022
2.0 out of 5 stars
Worst of teh 70's
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This could have been a good movie. The script seems to flow well and could have been better but it is the style of teh 70's so a bit corny as it is. Some of the filming is good; however, the music and go-go dancing style of the late 60's - early 70's is awful. There is lots of skin shown but again the filming style is not that good and the color comes and goes, so makes it hard to watch. Some of the music it just gruesome, I had to put it on mute.
Chuck SnowReviewed in the United States on May 25, 2011
5.0 out of 5 stars
They fixed it!!!
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October, 2010: This is a complete reassessment of my previous (negative) review about what was a defective product. When I noticed that Amazon (as opposed to the Marketplace) was carrying this DVD again I figured it was safe to re-purchase it, and I was right. Well, fair is fair, I did get an instant refund and a promise for defect correction, thus my "new" review. I will not bother to describe the familiar plot since most folks have surely seen one or more versions of this often told tale.

The print is first rate color and anamorphic, and absolutely tack sharp and at a bargain price to boot ($12-$13). I have bought other Raro Video DVDs and their product merits to be rated right up there with Criterion.

The film itself is a fun 70's romp through a world of "decadence." It still keeps the Victorian belief that sexual promiscuity is "evil." Berger is perfectly cast as the hedonistic Dorian, while Herbert Lom (as usual) steals every scene he's in as the painter of the infamous portrait. The leading lady does not fare as well in a role that has always proven to be quite thankless, while Italian legend, Isa Miranda, shows up to play an "older" rich predator, dripping in diamonds and fancy rags. The film was quite "scandalous" in its day, but by now has lost that "shocking" sting.

The DVD presents this opus in two languages, Italian (the main track), and in English. Since the film takes place mostly in London and the cast is actually speaking English, I found the Italian track distracting, so I switched to English and it worked better for me.

A highly recommended purchase.
6 people found this helpful
SV AlbatrossReviewed in the United States on June 29, 2022
1.0 out of 5 stars
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Awful movie, Low budget, not as described in the description but it was on a $.99 so it’s not like I’m out a lot of money. 10 minutes is all I can handle before I turned it off. Very slow and dry
B. WellsReviewed in the United States on September 29, 2011
3.0 out of 5 stars
Picture Perfect (The DVD, That Is)
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After perusing the reviews of other buyers recounting their problems with copies of "Il Dio Chimato Dorian", I was, admittedly, somewhat reluctant to purchase the DVD, even after reading that those problems had been corrected. However, for the price, I decided to take a chance, and I'm glad I did. The quality of the DVD is flawless, with none of the pixillation problems reported in earlier copies. Though stylistically, the film is somewhat dated, reflecting the time period in which it was made (swinging late sixties), the (corrected) digital restoration is amazing.

Aside from updating Oscar Wilde's classic to 1960's London, director Massimo Dallamano doesn't stray too far from the source material, although it may seem like it at times. Helmut Berger, perhaps the most beautiful man ever committed to celluloid, certainly looks the part of the dissolute and ruthless rake, and his performance as Dorian is credible, as well. His descent from callow youth into real evil doesn't seem too difficult a journey with the estimable Herbert Lom (Peter Sellers' nemesis in "The Pink Panther" films) urging him on every step of the way. Marie Lilljedahl makes a lovely impression as the unfortunate actress, Sybil Vane, whose brief screen time is spent, largely, undressed. A larger cast of European stalwarts move in and out of Dorian's orbit (and bed) before he gets his comeuppance in the final scene, which divulges from Wilde's novel.

The problems remaining with the DVD are the problems contained within the movie, itself. At 93 minutes, it still seems too long. There are slow scenes with characters who just aren't that interesting, while other roles should have been expanded; in some cases, the plot builds up the viewer to expect more than what eventually happens, making it a sometimes tedious and disappointing undertaking. Overall, I think "Il Dio Chimato Dorian" is best enjoyed as a period piece (NOT a Victorian period piece) with beautiful looking people doing naughty and, occasionally, unspeakable things to each other, and exhibiting a good deal of skin in the process. I've found much worse ways to spend $12.
5 people found this helpful
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