Repainting the “Picture of Dorian Gray”

The Vault of Horror seems pleased by the news that Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is slated for a remake. Oliver Parker, who directed a couple of Wilde’s stage comedies, will helm the filmed remake of his considerably more sinister novel, about a young man who gets his wish that his portrait would age in his place. Not only does the painting reveal the march of time that leaves no trace on his face; it also betrays the corruption of his soul.

The story has been filmed several times, including a well-regarded 1945 version starring Hurd Hatfield, George Sanders, and Angela Lansbury. This black-and-white version had a nifty gimmick, depicting the painting in insert close-up films in Technicolor, creating a lurid, jarring effect. Dan Curtis (of DARK SHADOWS fame) did a made-for-television version in the 1970s with Shane Bryant. And there was also an execrable (but fascinating) Euro-trash version that updated the story to the 20th century and tossed in lots of homosexuality (a motif touched on only briefly in the book, when a man declares his love for Dorian).

What more there is left to wring out of the tale, I’m not sure. I used to think a female version would be cool, but then somebody did a forgotten one for TV, so I gave up on that idea. Director Parker says he is “going for the horror-thriller angle of the story,” which is problematic, since the original tale has little outright horror or suspense. The horror stems from Gray’s moral corruption, not from any overt brutality or shock effects. Oh well, we’ll just have to wait and see…

About the Author

Steve Biodrowski

Cinefantastique's Los Angeles Correspondent from 1987 to 1993 and West Coast Editor from 1993 to 1999. Currently the webmaster of Cinefantastique Online, I also run a website called Hollywood Gothique that covers Halloween Horror and Sci-Fi Cinema Events in the Los Angeles area.

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