Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Warner Archive Grab Bag - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY on Blu-ray and HIGH BARBAREE on DVD ""

Friday, December 19, 2014

Warner Archive Grab Bag - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY on Blu-ray and HIGH BARBAREE on DVD

I haven't read much in the way of Oscar Wilde, so I was unfamiliar with his source novel. It all feels very "writerly" with characters (especially George Sanders) giving these evil and yet existential monologues to each other. Very poetic and flowery language is used. What ultimately plays out is like a period Twilight Zone, but a it's something of a slow burn kind of affair. An interesting choice that the filmmaker makes is to show the picture itself in full color a couple times and within the context of this otherwise black and white movie it certainly makes the picture stand out in a big way. Apparently inserts of the painting were done in vibrant 3-strip technicolor, making them all the more jarring when they occur. It even adds a level to the supernatural quality the picture has. George Sanders easily runs away with the show as the subtly  dastardly Lord Henry Wotton. It may be one of Sanders' greatest screen performances. Hurd Hatfield, who plays Dorian Gray, is something of a blank slate so he didn't do much for me. I get that he's supposed to be this way, but it really did make it tricky for me to emotionally engage and feel the full impact of the story. Nonetheless, the film is still quite haunting and memorable. The last color shot of the painting is still a bit disturbing and will stay with me for some time.

Special Features:
This disc has some nice supplements making it an nice package:
-An Audio commentary with Angela Lansbury and film historian Steve Haberman. A nice mix of information from Haberman and personal recollections from Lansbury.
-"Stairway To Light" (11 mins) -A short film about French doctor Phillipe Pinel who helped make changes in the way the mentally ill were treated in the 18th century.
-"Quiet Please" (8 mins) a Tom & Jerry cartoon about a dog trying to take a nap and telling Tom that he will do him physical harm if he's not allowed to do so without outside noise. So if course Jerry must do all he can to wake the dog.

HIGH BARBAREE (1947; Jack Conway)
Van Johnson plays a bomber pilot whose plane is shot down over the open ocean. He and co-pilot Cameron Mitchell float about at sea and Johnson's character recalls his life and how he met his love (June Allyson). It's pretty cute little tale that begins back as far as when the the two were a young boy and a young girl. There's a wonderful/suspenseful scene with the two characters as children that involves a water tower early on that is pretty memorable. Both sets of child actors they found to play the characters as youths were pretty solid, affable kids. Van Johnson's "Uncle Thad" (as played by Thomas Mitchell) tells the boy and girl the tale of a secret island called High Barbaree. He swears it exists though it is uncharted and doesn't appear officially on any maps. Uncle Thad is a sailor and also a steady drinker/ His "Scottish friends" come to visit often and often leave him with some trouble to sort out. The whole story, especially with the kids, feels of some sort of Mark Twain-y Americana. It's almost like Huckleberry Finn and his kid girlfriend, but with a somewhat less mischievous Huck (it is Uncle Thad who has a bit more of a wild side at times). Overall a charming tale that is only hindered for me personally by Van Johnson who I find a bit bland for some reason. Worth a look though and one to watch in tandem with THE REFORMER AND THE REDHEAD.

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