Dressed to Kill (1980) (Second Printing) (Blu-ray Review)
Directed By: Brian De Palma
Starring: Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen
Rated: UR/Region A/2:35/1080p/Number of Discs 1
Available from Criterion Collection
After wife and mother Kate Miller discusses her sexual frustrations with her psychiatrist, she goes to meet her husband at a museum. At the museum, she meets a strange man who she follows to a cab and then has sex with him at his apartment. After the affair, Kate is brutally murdered in the elevator by a blonde woman with a razor. A blonde prostitute named Liz caught a brief glimpse of the killer, but when she comes forward with this information, she becomes the prime suspect to the police and the next victim to the murderer and Liz teams up with Kate’s son to find the real killer.
I want to point out from the start here that this is a review of the “Second Printing” of Dressed to Kill. Now, you can tell this by looking at the credits on the back of the case, but you should also be able to tell by the fact that this one has great details in the transfer and the other was a mess. So, if you are all about the transfer, this one is about as perfect as you can get for something like this. Now, how about the movie? Well, some have called it De Palma does Hitchcock and you sure see a lot of Psycho in the style and similarities in this movie. You could also call it De Palma does Giallo for a number of reasons as well. There is lots of style, lots of nudity, and a mystery story of sorts with very brutal moments of violence. I’ve seen basically the same stuff in many Dario Argento films, which also borrow from Hitchcock as well, so all comes together here to make Dressed to Kill about the most American Giallo film I’ve ever seen, even if it isn’t meant to be one or claims to be one. You also can’t ignore the pretty neat little twist at the end that I actually didn’t see coming, seeing as how this was my first time seeing the film. From top to bottom I found this one to be a really interesting and beautifully shot film. If you don’t believe me, just make sure you pay attention to the background in a number of shots. There is often things going on back there that you might not have noticed while watching.
Another call for the Psycho comparison comes from the way that the story here is being told. We spent the first thirty or so minutes of the movie dealing with a character who is important to the story, but not really the star of the movie. As a matter of fact, our leading lady (played by Nancy Allen) doesn’t even get THAT much screen time if you compare it to the norm. Maybe that is why Dressed to Kill stands out in such a good way, because it isn’t the norm. There isn’t much normal about the movie for now, much less when it was released in 1980. There is suspense, there is a twist, some neat blood here and there, but above all else a dreamlike film in a number of ways that keeps you interested and never does get boring as far as I’m concerned. I admit there are other Brian De Palma films that I do like better than Dressed to Kill, but I did really like what I got here with this none the less. This film is nothing less than a prime example of how to be a master with the camera and the little details that often get missed. This isn’t a perfect film, I’m not saying that by any means. I am saying that going after the flaws of the film would just seem petty and nitpicky, taking away from what the movie does do extremely well. Rest a sure that if you seek out Dressed to Kill you won’t be disappointed and that is all that matters.
– Interviews with Brian De Palma, Nancy Allen, George Litto, Pino Donaggio, Victoria Lynn Johnson, and Stephen Sayadian
– Original Trailer
– Version Comparison showing the differences in the R rated, Unrated, and TV versions of the film
– An Appreciation by Keith Gordon
– Slashing “Dressed to Kill” Feature
– Defying Categories: Ralf Bode
– The Making of “Dressed to Kill” Documentary
– Leaflet – an illustrated leaflet featuring Michael Koresky’s essay “The Power of Two”
Quality of Transfer: 99%