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Dorian (2004)
Director: Allan A. Goldstein

review by Paul Higson

Harry Allan Towers followed tax incentives around the globe over the years, with an office forever in London and production very nearly everywhere else, from Egypt to the Isle of Man. Some said that he was running away from debts and gradually painting himself into a corner. Meanwhile, themes kept returning to his production schedule taking advantage of a retelling in a different location. One example is his rehashing of Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians beginning in an Austrian mountain hotel before moving to Iran and then a locomotive train travelling in Africa.

His 2002 production, Dorian (aka: Pact With The Devil), directed by Allan A. Goldstein, revisited Oscar Wilde's story of the vain and handsome young man who makes a wish on a portrait of himself and, in so doing, curtails the ageing process and defers the wrinkles and warts to said portrait. The image corrupts in tandem with his morality no longer impeded by fears of his own mortality. Towers had already produced a highly entertaining camp rendering of the story, Dorian Gray (1970), with Helmut Berger in the eponymous role and Massimo Dellamore directing. The 2004 release draws equally on the US television movie The Sins Of Dorian Gray (1983), directed by Tony Maylam, which also saw the tale transferred to the 1980s fashion scene and captured a similar glossy, soft trash television sheen and blandness.

The Sins Of Dorian Gray had also changed Dorian's sex with a female photographic model (Belinda Bauer) updating the self-obsessed monster. Here, we revert to a male Dorian, and it is Louis (Ethan Erickson) who has wrangled a bit of work as a floor assistant with top fashion photographer Bae (Jennifer Nitsch) during her 1980 shoot for the 'Savage' scent advertisement campaign. He is like everyone from the garbage man to the bag lady in this soft-focus glam alternative universe, bestowed of model looks, but unnoticed until Malcolm McDowell's malevolent Henry spots him. Henry is the narrator, and very possibly the devil. McDowell's stabbing syllables are the only thing that captivate in this irritating shambles. He coerces Louis into a new identity as Dorian the successful fashion model by appealing to his vanity with little scares. "By fifty, every man has the face he deserves," he threatens, then promising that, "Beauty can't be questioned. It has the divine right of sovereignty. It makes princes of those who possess it."

Unfortunately, Dorian has a reformed junkie girlfriend who looks too girl-next-door fresh to make plausible her heroin history. Still, she goes back on the junk one more time following an argument, just enough to kill, and so freeing him to a career that soars. Two years later, he is living the rock star lifestyle bedding models by the pair. He reveals his diseased portrait to Henry who tries to reinstate some order by teaming him up again with Bae. But he and Bae get too close and Henry manipulates him away from her and into kinky bourgeois circles for a deadly ménage à trois. Cue current villainy flavour of the month, Christopher Waltz as the husband. Murder follows, and Dorian becomes more uncontrollably evil, the Machiavellian presence of Henry never far from the scene of crime.

Dorian feels too much like a soft-sex movie which won't get its tits out. It is a yuppie horror at least a decade overdue and not wanted in its day, incorporating that ghastly upper class milieu of bored fatalistic kinky gentry that housed such insipid tales as James Bruce's The Suicide Club (1988), David Fairman's Cold Fish (2001), and Jean-Claude Brisseau's Les choses secretes (2002). The script might have read well, and is read well when narrated by McDowell, but the story demands that we spend most of our time with Nitsch who is dishwater dull. Characters do not age convincingly and the soundtrack is that accursed muzak that is only heard in jazz night clubs during private eye investigations in 1980s films. The editor is busy but the imagery is never interesting enough and the backdrop evokes the worst of the fashion world of the period without accurately bottling the pretentiousness which at the very least could have provided some amusement. It further suffers from the comparisons to the one film that was successfully set in this milieu, Irvin Kershner's The Eyes Of Laura Mars (1979), and another clear inspiration for Goldstein's Dorian. The Eyes Of Laura Mars is eminently watchable because it has the mystery, the thrills and the character, whereas Dorian can only flap hysterically in these directions.

Dorian on DVD




Pact With the Devil



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