Friday, March 8, 2013

DORIAN GRAY 1970

Playwright Oscar Wilde’s only novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (published in 1890) has been adapted to film at least ten times; not counting several silent versions and numerous movies made for television. Of these, I've seen a kind of low-rent, Dark Shadows-esque version produced by Dan Curtis in 1973; a visually well-turned-out and significantly altered 2009 British theatrical adaptation for the Twilight generation; and the uniformly excellent 1945 film version which boasts George Sanders playing what is essentially Addison DeWitt five years before there was an Addison DeWitt.
Each film possesses its own unique assortment of assets and liabilities, but by no stretch of the imagination could any be labeled the definitive translation of Wilde’s allegory of the corporeal vs. the spiritual. So, being that as far as I know the definitive adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray has yet to be made, I proffer this, my absolute favorite version of Wilde’s oft-told-tale: the irresistibly loopy Dorian Gray - 1970. A film that stands head and shoulders above the rest for its appealingly tawdry Eurotrash aesthetics, its flawless evocation of Swinging 60s mod, and its flagrant, unabashed sleaze factor.
Loaded with entertainment value every bit as visually exquisite and shallow as its protagonist, Dorian Gray (titled The Secret of Dorian Gray or The Evils of Dorian Gray in Europe) is a deliciously prurient Italian/German collaboration produced by American schlockmeister Samuel Z. Arkoff (the “brains” behind virtually every Beach Party or outlaw motorcycle gang movie made in the 60s) and released through his American International Pictures.
Helmut Berger as Dorian Gray
Herbert Lom as Henry Wotton 
Marie Liljedahl as Sybil Vane / Gladys Mormouth
Richard Todd as Basil Hallward
Margaret Lee as Gwendolyn Wotton
Directed by onetime Sergio Leone cinematographer Massimo Dallamano, Dorian Gray is Oscar Wilde’s Victorian Gothic provocatively updated to Swinging Sixties London at the peak of the Sexual Revolution. Fairly faithful to the novel’s Faustian plot about a handsome young innocent led down the path of hedonism and debauchery whose portrait comes to reflect the decay of his soul while he himself remains the unsullied ideal of youth and beauty; Dorian Gray is, in every and all aspects, a Dorian Gray that could only have come out of the late 60s.
Mac Daddy Dorian
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS FILM
There is something conceptually so perfect about positing Dorian Gray smack in the middle of the youth-obsessed 60s. Removed from the wholesale repression and prudery of Victorian era morality, this particular incarnation of Dorian Gray proposes what seems to me to be a far more compelling question: When arbitrary ethical judgments of good and bad are replaced with the freedom to do what one wishes in a world which worships self-fulfillment, beauty, youth, and living for today, of what authentic value is a moral code?
In the year this film was released, folk rocker Stephen Stills had a Top 20 hit with a song containing lyrics espousing the then-popular "free-love" philosophy of the younger generation - “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” (Which in itself was a retooling of an E.Y. Harburg lyric from a song from the 1947 Broadway musical, Finian’s Rainbow: “If I’m not near the girl I love, I love the girl I’m near.”) The timbre of the times literally reflected the philosophy of Dorian Gray's Henry Wotton: life is to be enjoyed freely and openly, and youth is a briefly bestowed gift best utilized to its fullest while one possesses it.
Prince Charming and Juliet
Prior to embarking on a long-term love affair with himself, Dorian falls in idealized love
with virginal (albeit not for long) aspiring actress Sybil Vane
The 60s atmosphere of moral relativism would seem to suggest that this particular incarnation of Dorian Gray was perhaps conceived as a means of addressing Oscar Wilde’s themes in a manner relevant to the changing times. To reflect upon what distinctions exist, if any, between being liberated or being a libertine. Alas, from the film’s first gaillo-influenced frames (gaillo being a stylized genre of Italian thriller), it’s clear that this Dorian Gray is less interested in exploring the complex themes of aestheticism vs. morality so much as exploring how far the newly relaxed standards of cinema censorship can be pressed into the service of chronicling Dorian’s heretofore only-hinted-at depravities and sins of the flesh.
Desire Under the Elms
PERFORMANCES
Italian cinema’s long history of dubbing and post-synching dialog frequently makes it tough to access actors’ performances. Dorian Gray’s multi-national cast speaks its dialog in English, but the entire film is dubbed by other actors (save for Herbert Lom, who provides his own voice). This might spare audiences the sometimes ear-gnarling clash of dueling accents you get with many international productions, but it also tends to rob performances of a great deal of vitality. This is especially true of the dynamic Helmut Berger, who possesses a sexy, melodic voice and whose charming Teutonic lisp I greatly miss.
Action films and mostly-silent spaghetti westerns fare better under this practice, but a dialog-heavy film like this — with its attempts at Wilde-ishly witty banter — make for a particularly clumsy aural experience. The effect of all these somewhat flat, disembodied voices is that already dodgy performances are rendered thoroughly ineffectual (I’m sorry, but lovely Marie Liljedahl seems like a pretty awful actress in any language), and potentially good performances (Berger, Isa Miranda, Renato Romano) are de-fanged and neutered. In its place is a form of acting I tend to associate with those Hammer horror films from the 60s: underlined and over-indicated to the point of pantomime.
"Do you want to sell it, Mr. Gray?"
In a minute, randy millionairess Patricia Ruxton (Isa Miranda) will make it obscenely clear
she isn't talking about real estate
Happily, Dorian Gray, having been fashioned as an erotic exploitation film from the get-go, isn't really a film fueled by its performances. Like a trash novel by Sidney Sheldon or Jacqueline Susann (fans of Valley ofthe Dolls would love this), Dorian Gray is a movie devoted to surface gloss. And on that score - from its photogenic cast, sumptuous color photography, lavish locations, outrageous mod costuming, and climate of glamorized sleaze - Dorian Gray more than delivers.
Tearoom for Two
Dorian Gray, Sexual Outlaw
THE STUFF OF FANTASY
A hurdle for any screen adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray is the casting of a Dorian whose looks correspond to enough people’s wildly subjective notions of male beauty so as not to render the narrative absurd, or at the very least, puzzling. For my money, director Dallamano hits pay dirt with the casting of Helmut Berger. A man so staggeringly beautiful that he makes personal fave Joe Dallesandro (certainly one of the most gorgeous men to have ever walked the planet) look like Ernest Borgnine.
Something not possible in earlier adaptations, contemporary Dorian Gray becomes a porn star!
Protégé and life-partner of director Lucino Visconti, Berger appeared prominently for the director in The Damned, Ludwig, and Conversation Piece. Dubbed by the press at the time as the most beautiful man in the world, Helmut, smooth, slim, and marvelously devoid of tattoos, was like the Richard Gere/Ewan McGregor of his day...he couldn't keep his clothes on.
In the 70s, female stars were jumping out of their clothing in record numbers, but one had to rely almost exclusively on Andy Warhol-produced Paul Morrissey films to catch male nudity of any consequence. Lucky for us connoisseurs of male pulchritude, Helmut Berger obligingly doffed his trousers in film after film. A fact that certainly leaves me wondering to what degree my affinity for this film is tied to the filmmakers taking every opportunity to feature our leading man in various states of undress. I'll have to think about that.

THE STUFF OF DREAMS
Someone once said, "Everyone has trash, but what distinguishes us is the quality of our trash," (it sounds like something John Waters would say). I apply this philosophy to my taste in movies. I'm well aware that a great many of  the films I get the biggest kick out of are films many would perceive as pure cinema trash, but there's not a soul in the world who could convince me that my particular brand of trash isn't some of the most superior trash you're likely to come across. It's often the very best that the worst has to offer.
The striking actress Beryl Cunningham portrays Adrienne, Dorian's amoral partner-in-blackmail
In Dorian Gray you have the typical youth-directed sexploitation stuff American International released with assembly-line regularity in the 60s and 70s (Three in the Attic, Angel, Angel , Down We Go), only  this time cloaked in the veil of literary significance. In most aspects superficial (those centering on the libidinous exploits of Dorian), the film does right by its conceit in updating the tale to modern times. But it fails to go much below the surface in examining even a fraction of the ideas and concepts its premise suggest.
Curiously, its the passing of time which has granted Dorian Gray the subtextural gravity it lacked in 1970. Albeit perhaps, uncomfortably.
Actor Helmut Berger has gone on record about his disdain for Los Angeles and Hollywood, and has thus, outside of a small part in The Godfather: Part III and a year's penance on TV's Dynasty in 1983, mostly worked in Europe. High living (literally...drug and alcohol abuse) eventually got the better of him, and like Marlon Brando, that other physical specimen who ceased to care for maintaining a youthful appearance for the comfort of his fans, Helmut did the unspeakable...he allowed himself to age naturally.
Renato Romano portrays Dorian's boyhood friend, Alan Campbell, a chemist
Certainly his current condition is to some degree a result of youthful excesses, but at almost 70 years of age, part is merely due to a thing that has become increasingly rare among public figures: actual aging. A phenomenon practically unheard of in Hollywood, our culture reveres beauty so completely that an individual who allows his looks to "go" is considered more a figure of pity than one who pathetically clings to eternal youth.
Personally, I find Helmut Berger's current relaxed-into-himself countenance very refreshing, and it speaks of a self-image perhaps a good deal healthier than the plastic-surgery nightmares that proliferate in Hollywood today. I've read many online comments about how sad it is that Berger has failed to maintain his looks as he ages, but little speculation along the lines of how he might be happier and more at peace with himself now than in his cocaine-thin days.
Helmut Berger in his 60s  /  Berger at 25 
The questions about inner vs. outer beauty that Oscar Wilde dramatized so artfully years ago (and if you've never read The Portrait of Dorian Gray, I heartily recommend it) are still with us... maybe now more than ever. In our looks-obsessed culture in which beauty is so often seen as a virtue, is youth really a thing worth trying to hold onto forever, prizing it above all? And what value does beauty have to the possessor (we on the outside benefit from gazing upon it) if there's not also peace of mind? It's a pity that Dorian Gray, an exploitation film distracted by its own sensationalism, failed to delve deeper into the many questions raised by its enduringly appealing premise.

But take a look at the film now, through the prism of 43 years having passed. Like a real-life Dorian Gray, Helmut Berger in this movie provides a record of himself in a state of near-perfect youth. A moving portrait frozen, unchanging, and captured on film for all time. Knowing now what we couldn't have known in 1970 (what ultimately becomes of Helmut's celebrated beauty, his battles with drugs and alcoholism and the toll they take on his face, body, and mind) raises the very issues Oscar Wilde's novel proposed all those years ago, and makes us question our own attitudes about beauty, aging, and the value we place upon such things.
"The world belongs to the young and beautiful," Wotton tells Dorian. Perhaps that's true. But it's an ownership with a very short lease. Beauty is indeed something, but it's sobering to ponder, when considering Helmut Berger's troubled life and how little peace his good looks brought him, how obviously beauty isn't everything.

Copyright © Ken Anderson

28 comments:

  1. A terrific post about a film I absolutely must see!

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    1. Thom! I think this is your first post! Welcome to the asylum. And you couldn't have picked a better film. This one has your name written all over it. A camptastic classic. I'm glad you liked the post and hope you get around to seeing this.

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  2. Yes I love Dorian Gray too - as per my own review of it here:!

    http://osullivan60.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/dorian-gray-just-gigolo.html

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    1. Hi Michael
      Enjoyed reading your review of this film and especially liked the DVD cover billing Helmut Berger as "Helmet." Very nice too that as a Londoner you have an experience of the city at this time (Roman Polanski, Elton John, Joni Mitchell...how great is that?) Thanks for sharing it!

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  3. I've never seen this, but I know I would THOROUGHLY enjoy it! Thanks so much for the post on it. I need to seek it out. I didn't enjoy Helmut on Dynasty, but have liked his work in several movies. I would NEVER, NEVER have recognized him in the more recent photograph. I have no issues at all with him aging naturally and actually applaud it, but what wonders a decent haircut (and realistic haircolor) could do... Unless one really grooms it well, men of a certain age should keep their hair short. It takes years off (without surgery or procedures!) Thanks again for the great post and pictures.

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    1. Hi Poseidon!
      Yes, this is a film I think you'd thoroughly enjoy and would have seen by now but it's been so criminally out of circulation. Because I think Berger is such an absolute knockout, when I started doing online research for this piece, I confess to having had been shocked by Berger's modern photos. I always thought he would have been one of those guys to age like Farley Granger. It was only later when I started to see clips of him and read interviews did I come to see that, although eccentric and with issues, it's great that he has let go of that hanging onto youth thing that has made so many American male stars terrifying. I wish some of his YouTube interviews were in English, he seems like quite the lively interview subject.

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  4. Herbert Lom died last year in his late 90s, after a great career.

    An amusing companion piece to Dorian, is 'Goodbye Gemini' another 1970 piece of classic Trash, where Martin Potter (from Fellini's Satyricon) and English starlet Judy Geeson are an odd pair of siblings and the film similarly covers decadent 70s London, in fact they go to the same pub and see the very same drag act as in Dorian ! Perhaps they were all there the same night .... Goodbye Gemini is now an offician dvd release here in UK (Region 2) with an accompanying booklet as though its a rediscovered lost classic!

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    1. Goodbye Gemini link:

      http://osullivan60.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/summer-re-runs-utter-trash.html

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    2. My, you do write about some great movies on your blog! I have to visit it more often (You even review another of my Nicolas Clay faves, "The Night Digger"!) On the strength of your post I immediately put "Goodbye Gemini" on my Netflix list. I am a big fan of Judy Geeson and that whole 70s British period is irrepressible to me. I remember wanting to see this film when it came out and played at one of the exploitation grindhouses on Market Street in San Francisco.
      Also, how can I pass up another opportunity to see that drag act from "Dorian Gray" ("Hello, my name is Bone!") whose “act” consists almost entirely of graceless high kicks performed in unflattering, although I’m sure, quite comfortable, flats, and whose black helmet wig makes him bear a strong resemblance to 60s pop star, Joanie Sommers.
      Alas, I'll miss out on the accompanying DVD booklet. As you hilariously point out, yesterday's forgotten exploitation programmer is today's rediscovered lost classic! Thanks, Michael!

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  5. Ken, your timing is indeed impeccable. Your "Dorian Gray" post came just ahead of the weekend where I managed to catch another screening of the earlier "The Picture of Dorian Gray" at the cinema. I very nearly rewatched the 1970 film "Dorian Gray" the night before going to the theatre, but decided to leave it for another evening. However, this weekend I indeed got around to rewatching "Dorian Gray".

    I've seen a few different film adaptations of the Oscar Wilde novel, including this one, and imagine how pleased I was to discover that Marie Liljedahl(!) had a role in this film. Yes, I'm probably the only person you'll ever encounter who will go out of their way to watch a film just because it features Marie Liljedahl. She did such a small number of films so even if you've only seen her in a few movies, you've already covered much of her catalogue.

    (It may interest you to know that Marie Liljedahl starred alongside fellow "Dorian Gray" actress Maria Rohm in an earlier feature, the Jess Franco work "Eugenie...The Story of Her Journey into Perversion", surely one of the all-time great names for a motion picture).

    I recall the first time watching "Dorian Gray", I was dreadfully disappointed when Miss Liljedahl exited the picture so early...so imagine how happy I was when she reappeared as a different character, looking even more breathtaking than normal! What I did not expect was that Miss Liljedahl would be damn near upstaged when, an hour into the film, a hitherto-unknown-to-me Beryl Cunningham would materialise in the film. She's absolutely astonishing.

    (Because of her appearance in "Dorian Gray", I purchased a fairly dodgy slice of schlock entitled "Island of the Fishmen", and let me tell you, it's nowhere nearly as fun as it sounds, and pretty much wastes Beryl Cunningham and her physical charms--but most satisfying, Ken, that your remembered to mention her role in "Dorian Gray").

    I'm not sure if this film can be compared to the aforemention "The Picture of Dorian Gray". They're from two completely different worlds, two different periods, and I enjoy them in very different ways.

    The pictures of Helmut Berger remind me of another celebrated male beauty who has aged considerably (and it would seem, more or less naturally) over the years, Alain Delon (and unlike Mister Berger, he has his natural hair colour). It does seem more permissible in our society for men to age naturally than for women. With this in mind, one could even imagine a female "Dorian Gray" set in the present day.

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    1. Yay! Another person whose seen this oddity! You really have had an Oscar Wilde weekend, it would seem. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the film and especially your interest in the taking note of Mses. Marie Liljedahl and Beryl Cunningham. Great taste! And you're a braver soul than I in seeking out their other works. I like that you seek out some of the rarer films out there.
      On my list of actors I would have liked to have seen as Dorian Gray in their prime is definitely the young Alain Delon, who I really didn't recognize in his maturity, but was pleased he hadn't done a Barry Manilow on himself.
      Early 80s Julian Sands would have been great, but I think I like best your idea of a sex-change Dorian Gray for the botox set. It could show the dark side of what was turned into black comedy in "Death Becomes Her." That's a helluva idea, Mark. Unless I'm unaware of it, I can't believe someone hasn't done a female version of this tale by now. Thanks for a fun and informed post!

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  6. Oh, Ken......... In this version she's an actress whose "screen test" keeps aging!!!

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086315/?ref_=fn_al_tt_4

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    1. Poseidon
      well, that answers my last comment...to a fare-thee-well!
      OMG! I had no idea the sex-change option on Dorian Gray had actually been done yet. And this one sounds positively dreadful(which, as you know, can mean absolutely fabulous). What a premise-an aging screen-test! I'm in heaven already.
      From the cheesy cast (scenery chewers Michael Ironside AND Tony Perkins in the same movie) to the fashion and hairdo-disaster possibilities posed by its 1983 production date...well, this bears further inspection. Thanks a heap for bringing this to our attention. It's only fitting that it would take Poseidon to plumb the depths to unearth this particular "treasure". Much appreciated!

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  7. Argyle, here! Always reading, not always able to contribute to the (fascinating) discussion. I seem to remember from back in the days when I was completely obsessed with Greta Garbo (having not actually seen any of her films) or, more accurately, the idea of Greta Garbo, that she was interested in doing a version of "The Picture of Dorian Gray." But I think she was interested in portraying him as a man. (Crazy Greta!) This might have been after her unplanned retirement when there were lots of half-baked film ideas for her floating around. Not sure it would have been all that interesting. This also reminded me of that other often remade transformation story "The Beauty and the Beast" of which GG is reported to have said (when Jean Marais takes on the male role at the end), "Give me back my beast!" A comment, I guess, on conventional standards of attractiveness versus the poetic.
    Anyway, I think I've seen this version (on TV, eons ago) but don't recall much other than that awesome lavender necker-chiefed portrait. Which then reminds me of a series of paintings of the seven deadly sins that I remember from childhood. I thought they were by Pavel Tchelitchew, but a quick google doesn’t come up with anything. Still, they were always my idea of what the portrait would end up looking like, which was always my fascination with the story. What could be so visually horrible? This leads me to suggest (and I try to avoid the “let’s do a remake” mentality) David Fincher as director for the female remake. Having seen only some of his work, he seems to really understand the visual overlap of the beautiful and the dreadful.
    Back to the subject at hand, I also went through a Helmut Berger phase which is probably what got me through this “Dorian Gray.” Far be it from me to suggest titles for your discerning attention, Ken, but I would love to read you on “The Damned,” a personal favorite. But please just stay on your path; your choices are consistently remarkable.
    I could go on, but enough said. Thanks, Ken!!

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  8. Always a pleasure, Argyle
    Your bringing up Greta Garbo is really very apropos in this discussion of a female "Dorian Gray." You seem to have a taste for the obscure that rivals my own, so perhaps you remember that flop Billy Wilder film from 1978 titled "Fedora" about a reclusive actress with a "secret" about how she maintained her youth? It reminds me of the kind of film you might have seen when you were young, or possibly sought out, given its intriguing subject. Based on a story from Thomas Tryon's book, "Crowned Heads", I saw the film perhaps only once or twice when it came out and have only the sketchiest memory of it, but as I recall it fits in with at least the themes of a modernized take on Dorian Gray take and was at least in part inspired by the many legends surrounding Garbo. (By the way, I love that Garbo quote, one I was unfamiliar with until you mentioned it and I Google-researched it).
    In all the versions of Dorian Gray I've seen, I've never encountered a director capable of doing what I think the film needs to do : indict the viewer in proceedings. I think the film should make audiences look at their own part in perpetuating beauty myths that make us a society that pays supermodels obscene amounts of money for doing essentially nothing but being genetically gifted, yet we all like to think we are above equating beauty with virtue. The easy moralizing of Dorian Gray is a cheat if the viewer isn't left questioning how much leeway (morally and every other way) we give the beautiful.
    Oh, and as for "The Damned" (a great recommendation, entirely up my alley) can you believe I only just saw this marvelous film for the first time last year??? I loved it and will definitely be writing about it when I get it on DVD (my criterion for what I write about is movies I like enough to own). I thank you for once again providing me with food for thought (Garbo as a male Dorian Gray!), and insight into your tastes and interests. I always welcome your input, Argyle. Infrequent makes it all the more special. thanks for your loyalty. My movie choices can be a little trying, but I sense a kindred spirit. :-)

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  9. I would have gladly bought into Greta Garbo as Dorian Gray. I think that she could have carried of such a performance with the greatest of ease. She was, for want of a much more descriptive term, more masculine that Hurd Hatfield, the actor who would portray the lead role in "The Picture of Dorian Gray". That said, her Swedish accent might have been something of a stumbling block for playing a character in turn-of-the-century England.

    This reminds me of how disappointed Raquel Welch was when she found out that in "Myra Breckinridge", she wouldn't be playing both Myra and Myron. I must confess, I too was disappointed by this--before seeing the film, I was under the distinct impression that she was to play Myra/Myron all the way through. It would've been a real hoot to see if Raquel Welch could play both characters with at least some modicum of verisimilitude (although I must confess, I do like the bit where Rex Reed as Myron looks into the window and sees Dancin' Myra reflected back at him--plus in hindsight, the idea of a film critic being involved in a film that was torn apart by critics is deliciously ironic, but I digress).


    "Dorian Gray" was released the same year as "Myra Breckinridge"--what a wonderfully tripped-out year for cinema-going 1970 must have been.


    I'll have to look around for "The Sins of Dorian Gray"--it doesn't surprise me the gender-variation of Oscar Wilde's novel has been attempted before (although I thought I was really on to something there!--also there exists more than one gender-variant version of "Dr. Jekyll" committed to film). Strange though, that it hasn't been done more often. Of course, there was "Countess Dracula", starring the late Ingrid Pitt, which plays with the idea of a countess seeking eternal youth (and despite its title, has nothing to do with vampires, and is closer to the real-life case of Countess Bathory).


    Indicting the audience in the proceedings is a tricky thing to do, Ken. I believe this is what audiences mean when they say they "don't like being preached to".

    (Of course, I think that this is often shorthand for the viewer not liking the film simply because it left them with a guilty conscience--something probably far more valuable than a film that simply re-enforces morally dubious beliefs held by the mainstream, but try telling this to Joe Movie-Goer in the year 2013)

    Filmmakers are probably aware of this, and the dilemma is when making a film such as "The Picture of Dorian Gray", how does one hold the audience to scrutiny when the history of film has so often traded on the physical charms of its players?

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    1. The only time Raquel Welch ever got to achieve her Myra Breckinridge/cross dressing dream was when she starred on Broadway in "Victor, Victoria" for a brief time in the 90s. I wish I'd seen THAT!

      And yes, the 1970 was virtually the official year that Hollywood lost its mind. Hollywood was so at a loss for what audiences wanted that it green lighted anything it thought would attract young people. Chaos reigned.

      And yes, as you point out, there is a great challenge posed in having an industry that trades in beauty being able to make a convincing adaptation of a book that is critical of it's value. (Like the Great Gatsby dilemma when it comes to the glamorization of wealth.)

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    2. I've seen a FILMED PLAY version of "Victor/Victoria" on DVD, starring Julie Andrews. Now if only somebody had the foresight to film one, JUST ONE, Raquel Welch performance so that it can find its way to DVD. Things like this should not be lost in time. Can you imagine how difficult it must have been for the costume and make-up people to make Ms Welch look, erm...manly?

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  10. Am I dreaming? I have never heard of this film! Helmut Berger in funky 1970s threads and meeting men in strange places in swinging London?! I have to get ahold of this as soon as possible - Teutonic lisp or no Teutonic lisp!

    Thanks Ken for rediscovering another lost gem! I love films made or set in the late 60s and early seventies.

    -Wille

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    1. Yes Wille, you definitely need to see this film! If Helmut doesn't get you, the almost painfully colorful 70's decor and costumes will. My screencaps don't even do the film justice. It's a genuine lost trash gem. It's like a time capsule back to 1970.

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  11. I share your love for this film--and I am not ashamed to admit it's my fave adaptation. (Yes, the 40s one is classic but focuses so much on the romance subplot that was expanded by Wilde for the book version of his story some think as an act of deflection along with a myriad of minor changes that it never feels authentic to me. And the recent version with the over the top gay elements doesn't work for me either. OK, not that this version is remotely authentic...) I had seen it as a teen on late night tv, so was thrilled to realize a year or two ago that it was on DVD... Fascinating to think of Helmut making this and his Visconti masterpieces at the same time. (Also, I appreciate and agree with your statements about his appearance now that he's aged.)

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    1. Hi Eric
      I'm hearing more and more (now that this version is becoming more widely-known) how this is a favored adaptation for many people.
      I am not overly fond of the 1940 version, and I feel as you do about the most recent incarnation.
      I think this was the first Helmut Berger film I ever saw (yes on TV, like you). I was hooked.

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  12. Ah, Helmut Berger. I haven't seen this one and I'm not sure I could stomach watching an Italian dub. I had that experience with Helmut when years ago I was lured by his face into a revival movie theater to see Ludwig... which I didn't know is four hours long and dubbed in Italian. Dubbing takes so much out of the performance. The most grievous time I ever had was when I went to Orson Welles' The Trial at that same theater and the movie was dubbed in French. Watching Tony Perkins dubbed in a French, when he himself *spoke* French and thus hypothetically could've done the dub himself was so horrendous that I had to leave the theater. And I LOVE that film!

    Back to your excellent review: I couldn't stop laughing at the line where you said Berger's beauty makes Joe Dallesandro look like Ernest Borgnine, and that is why I had to comment. Bravo!

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    1. Hello Calliewanton
      I know what you mean when it comes to dubbing. If it's an actor I know well, nothing is more disconcerting than hearing a different voice emerge from their bodies.
      That, or recognizing a familiar American voice coming from a European actor (many years ago I watched a Carroll Baker film from her Euro period, and one of her co-stars was dubbed by Bernie Kopell of "Love Boat"...ruined it for me completely.)

      I hope you perhaps get your hands on a subtitled version of this film (should one exist), for it's a very enjoyable timepiece.
      Can't tell you how much I appreciate your reading this post and being so kind as to compliment me while sharing your easy to relate to comments. Thanks!

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  13. Hello Ken,

    I've only recently been able to find a copy of this film with English subtitles after wanting to see it for ages thanks to your overview. As always your taste was sublime and I loved it.

    I was wondering if you have seen the recent documentary about Mr Berger which sounds fascinating and shocking. There doesn't seem to be a dvd release of it as yet here in the UK, and I'm not entirely sure that I'd want to see it through to the end by the sound of it anyway. It does sound obscenely compulsive though.

    Kindest regards

    Nick, England.

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    1. Hi Nick
      Glad to hear you were able to track down a copy of the film. I remember seeing the trailer for the Helmut Berger documentary- it looked kind of scary. But the DVD has no US release date that I could find. Now that you're reminded me of it, my curiosity about it as been renewed. But...like you say, it looks to be a bit of a trainwreck, maybe I should just leave my image of Berger frozen as it is, like Dorian Gray.
      Thank you so much for commenting and for the kind words. So glad you enjoyed the post!

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    2. I feel the same way, I'd rather see him in one of the many fine films he made during the 70's such as The Romantic Englishwoman.
      I agree about the documentary trailer, the poster for the film also looks a little alarming and more akin to a horror film, possibly fittingly.

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    3. True. There's always a chance that the documentary humanizes the "perfect" image he projects from the screen and those flawless 70s photos; but I'd hate it if it were a morbid showcase for how far he's gone off the rails. I think I'd have to read some critiques of it. Should you hear anything positive, please clue me in!
      Thanks

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