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Dressed to Kill
Dressed to Kill
Actors: Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen, Keith Gordon, Dennis Franz
Director: Brian De Palma
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
R     2001     1hr 45min

To condemn Dressed to Kill as a Hitchcock rip-off is to miss the sheer enjoyment of Brian De Palma's delirious 1980 thriller. Hitchcockian homages run rampant through most of De Palma's earlier films, and this one's chock-...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen, Keith Gordon, Dennis Franz
Director: Brian De Palma
Creators: Ralf D. Bode, Brian De Palma, Gerald B. Greenberg, Fred C. Caruso, George Litto, Samuel Z. Arkoff
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 08/28/2001
Original Release Date: 07/25/1980
Theatrical Release Date: 07/25/1980
Release Year: 2001
Run Time: 1hr 45min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 15
Edition: Special Edition
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: Spanish, French

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Movie Reviews

'Pure Cinema' thrill-machine, one of De Palma's best
Libretio | 10/03/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)


(USA - 1980)

Aspect ratio: 2.39:1 (Panavision)
Theatrical soundtrack: Mono

Brian De Palma's superb thriller borrows the plot structure of PSYCHO (1960) to tell a completely original story in a manner which Hitchcock would surely have admired. The 'Pure Cinema' approach deployed here also evokes the best work of Dario Argento, though De Palma clearly has his own agenda. His script attends the fall-out from a terrifying attack on a frustrated housewife (Angie Dickinson) by a razor-wielding maniac who then turns his/her attentions to the sole witness, a streetwise hooker (Nancy Allen) who teams up with Dickinson's teenage son (Keith Gordon) when she becomes a suspect in the case.

A masterful example of visual storytelling, DRESSED TO KILL employs constantly roving camerawork to propel complex characters through a series of bravura set-pieces (the museum, the elevator, the subway, etc.), filmed in breathtaking Panavision by the late cinematographer Ralf Bode. At a time when most current scope movies are designed primarily for TV - which rather defeats the whole purpose of scope photography! - it's a revelation to see the entire width of the 2.39:1 frame being used to define characters and advance the plot through an accumulation of visual tricks and counterpoints. Pino Donaggio's memorable score provides an often thunderous accompaniment to the on-screen horrors, and it's refreshing to find a grown-up cast (including a restrained Michael Caine) making the most of a scenario which addresses mature themes in an intelligent manner. This intense thriller refuses to sacrifice integrity for the sake of cheap shocks, but it still manages to scale the dizzying heights of genuine horror.

De Palma and the film's principal contributors charted the film's production in a number of documentary extras included on the original US DVD edition, and while some of their comments may have seemed a little too self-congratulatory at the time, they also provided fascinating insights into De Palma's working methods and the motivation behind some of the devices employed by the director to tell his story. In a special section detailing his collision with the MPAA, De Palma wearily defends the film from charges of misogyny and explicit violence, and his views are supported by the likes of Angie Dickinson, amongst others. Besides, anyone who thinks THIS is misogynist obviously hasn't seen the likes of THE NEW YORK RIPPER (1982), RED TO KILL (1994), or some of the more squalid dregs from the Japanese sex-and-torture subgenre. Now THERE'S misogyny for you!!
Brian De Palma has crafted a classic suspense/thriller
Eric | Tennessee | 05/25/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Brian De Palma is a director praised for his visual style and originality. Unfortunately, his style rarely has had the chance to mix with a great script (the major exception is The Untouchables). He's been on a slump recently, as he just came out with the critically drubbed Mission to Mars and the absolutely atrocious Snake Eyes. Though if one wants to see exactly how fine a director he is, you should check out his films in the 80's, which was definitely the time of his heyday. De Palma is particlarly good at crafting suspense, as I noticed when I watched Body Double, his last erotic thriller. That was a seriously underrated film and it made me want to watch some more of his suspense/thrillers. Dressed to Kill seem to have the most resemblance to Body Double so I chose to watch that film. Now, I didn't think Dressed to Kill could possibly match Body Double's suspense but to my surprise, Dressed to Kill is just as great a film, as it's suspense is, to some regard, even more unnerving.The film begins surrealistically as we see a woman taking a shower. She runs her hands over body sensuously and the expression on her face is obviously one of pleasure. The score that runs in the background at the time is a pleasant one, but this sensuous bubble is burst when a man steps behind this woman, grabs her, and begins to rape her in the shower, and the scene makes a sudden change as we see a man having sex with the same woman on a bed. We find out the woman's name is Kate Miller (Angie Dickinson) and that she has marital troubles. She sees a psychiatrist named Dr. Elliott (Michael Caine) about these problems. In a session early in the film, she tells him that she no longer enjoys sex with her husband. Afterward, she goes to an art museum where she meets a man she feels attracted to. In true De Palma fashion, the camera pans around the entire museum as we see Kate playing a game of cat-and-mouse with this man. When Kate believes she's lost him, the man appears in a taxi, and Kate enters inside, to which they then have a sexual tryst inside. Later, she awakens inside his apartment, apparently having the spent the whole afternoon with this stranger. As she is putting her clothing back on (the stranger is asleep) she finds a health report inside a drawer stating that he has contracted a venereal disease. Shocked and scared, Kate leaves the apartment and heads for the elevator. In what is one of the film's most suspenseful and shocking sequences, Kate realizes she has left her wedding ring in the apartment and heads up through the elevator again. As the door opens, a blonde woman with a razor creeps in and slashes her to death. It's a shocking scene as the audience begins to believe that Kate is the film's protagonist, until she is killed just a half hour into the film. Her murder is witnessed by a prostitute named Liz Blake (Nancy Allen) and her life is now in obvious danger from this blonde woman known only as Bobbi. With the help of Kate's brilliant son Peter (Keith Gordon), Liz attempts to find the killer and her identity.After a slow first 25 minutes, Dressed to Kill is filled with unbearable suspense for the next 75 minutes. The last 3 minutes of the film are particularly nerve wracking. There are so many great suspense sequences that work throughout the entire film, all the way from the elevator scene to a chase into the subway. Those scenes should give any viewer a good scare. It's certainly what one would describe as edge-of-your seat suspense. I know those sequences freaked me out, and those last few minutes in the film is a true heart-pounding nerve jangler. This is what De Palma is good at and he should make more films like this. The film's acting is also quite good. The film's main protagonists, played by Nancy Allen and Keith Gordon, are likeable characters and there's a certain romantic tension that develops between them. The chemistry between both characters works well. Michael Caine also delivers a good performance as the psychiatrist who begins to suspece a patient of his as the murderer. Fun to watch is an early role for Dennis Franz as the detective on the case. Angie Dickinson, though only in the film for a short time, develops her character into a sympathetic one, despite her adulterous behavior. From the plot description above, it may seem like the film has a lot of nudity, and in truth, there is. But it never gets too explicit and it's place in the film is appropriate and it works well. Is this an erotic thriller? Well, it is somewhat like one but it doesn't really rely on a lot of sex to maintain the viewer's attention (there's really only one sex scene in the movie) such as a movie like Basic Instinct. Instead, the film is more of a psychological thriller, as it relies more on suggestion than explicit detail to scare the viewer.Is Dressed to Kill De Palma's best suspense/thriller? Well, it's at the very least as good as Body Double. Both films have certain similarities and similar tones. There are certain aspects that work better in one film than another. For one example, the sex and nudity in Body Double does get a little gratuitous and sleazy in the second half (There's even nudity in the closing credits) while it never gets that way in Dressed to Kill. Body Double has a more ominous and creepy musical score and a very interesting protagonist (that's not to say the protagonists of Dressed to Kill aren't interesting because they are). Double's plot twists are also extremely unpredictable while one of Dressed to Kill's twists becomes obvious at least half way through the film (though I didn't think that hurt the movie). But it's really not fair to compare those two. They're separate films and should be considered on what each has to offer. I would very much highly recommend you watch both movies, definitely late at night and with no more than one other person."
A really good thriller
Pranay C. Shrivastava | MUMBAI, MAHARASHTRA India | 05/18/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Watching a really good thriller is like enjoying a feast after a day long fast. Absolute Satisfaction !!! This movie embodies all the elements of a great thriller ... * A taut script * Well Developed Characters * Hard hitting acting. The story begins with Angie Dickinson, a bored housewife largely unsatisfied with her husband who yearns for more. On one of her visits to the museum she befriends a strange man and has an affair with him. She enjoys her time spent with the stranger realising how much she was missing when she is with her husband and on one such occassion while returning home she is brutally murdered in an elevator. A young lady (Nancy Allen) catches a glimpse of the murderer and she initially becomes a suspect and later a prime witness. Giving away any more of the story would be a crime as the several twists and turns this movie takes are what make it so engrossing. A tad slow moving at times the movie picks up the pace almost immediately before the viewer realises with some finely nuanced performances by Michael Caine,Angie Dickinson,Nancy Allen and Dennis Franz among others. The suspense is maintained throughout the film and makes you want to watch it again and again. This movie is an absolute must for a collector and I hope the Special Edition does some justice to this fine movie. Also recommend watching the following ... * The Usual Suspects * Out of Sight * The Rear Window."
DePalma's Razor Sharp Erotic Psychological Thriller!
R. A. Bean | knoxville, tn usa | 10/30/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"1980 was a very good year for some groundbreaking films in different genres that completely reshaped and redefined the genre they represented. Ridley Scott's sci-fi noir thriller "Blade Runner", Stanley Kubrick's haunting psychological ghost story horror film "The Shining", and Brian DePalma's erotic psycological slasher thriller "Dressed To Kill".
Written & directed by DePalma, this chiller did for elevators what Hitchcock's "Psycho" did for showers two generations before it, and still has people sqeamish of elevators; and for good reason.
This is a film about voyuerism, paranoia, erotica, sexual perversion, sexual deviancy, sexual identity, psychology, fear, sexual escapades, and murder. Starring Angie Dickinson (tv's "Police Woman"), Nancy Allen (DePalma's "Carrie", "Home Movies", and "Blow Out, plus being DePalma's wife), Micheal Caine, Dennis Franz (DePalma's "The Fury", "Blow Out", and "Body Double", plus tv's "Hill Street Blues" & "NYPD Blue"), and Keith Gordon (DePalma's "Home Movies" and Carpenter's "Christine"), DePalma tells a story of a sexually frustrated housewife who is only trying to find sexual satisfaction and has a one night stand, then gets sliced the f**k up in an elevator by a transexual with a sexual identity crisis.
The film starts with, not one, but two back-to-back erotic sex scenes, the first as the film opens and Kate Miller (Dickinson) is in the shower, soaping herself in a very erotic way as her husband is shaving right outside the shower curtain. Then a man starts raping her from behind and she starts screaming, only to come to reality where she is lying in bed with her husband doing his 'business' on top of her, and she is faking the entire time, then he's done, and rolls over and goes to sleep.
She checks in on her son, Peter Miller (Gordon, playing a character that DePalma has said was based on himself at that age, a nerdy science geek with a computer, well, a machine that he built, called a differential analyzer), then she goes to see her therapist, Dr. Robert Elliott (Caine), and proceeds to tell him about her sexual frustration with her husband, flirting a bit with Dr. Elliott. She then visits a museum in one of the films many highlights of great visual storytelling, with over a twenty minute long take with hardly any dialogue at all. She meets a man, then a cool/frustrating game of cat-and-mouse begins, and the museum is like a maze, and DePalma uses this set piece to his best benefit, swirling the camera this way and that, and starting what will become a sucession of awesome flashbacks, shown in dual optor projection, so you see the present along with the flashback all in one scene.
After losing one glove behind, Kate leaves the museum in frustration, only to see the man awaiting her in a nearby cab, his arm extended, waving the missing glove (this is right after she takes off her OTHER glove and tosses it down), and she heads for the cab. Look close and you'll see a very quick glimpse of 'Bobbi', the killer, in this scene, once as the camera is slowly turning to show the cab, then after Kate gets in the cab, a gloved hand reaches out and picks Kate's glove up.?.?.
The cab scequence is VERY erotic, almost "Basic Instinct" erotic, but so much more tastefully done, as the guy proceeds to go down, if you get the idea. Kates screams her head off with pleasure!
Later that night, she awakens in the hotel room and starts gathering her things, proceeding to get dressed and leave. She remembers her panties were left in the cab (in another split dioptor scene). Oh, no!! She then stops at a desk in the room to write a 'thank you & goodbye' message to the guy, and discovers papers inside the desk from the local health department disclaiming that "you have contracted a venereal disease", which of coarse means chances are that Kate now has contracted the same disease as well...Oh, the horrors!!
She gets on the elevator (again, there is a quick shot of 'Bobbi' hiding behind an emergency door as Kate is awaiting the elevator). Kate remembers she left her wedding ring in the hotel room (in yet another brilliant split dioptor shot)...Oh, NO!! So, she has to go back up and retrieve it. When the doors open, there stands 'Bobbi' and 'her' straight razor (who we find out later she stole from Dr. Elliott), and is, yes, 'dressed to kill'! This slasher moment puts any and/or all other slasher films to shame (except "Halloween" and "Psycho") in just one scene! And, this is where DePalma splits the story from being Kate's to now being Liz Blake's (Allen), as he cuts to her and her 'john' (she's a professional call girl) waiting for the elevator a floor below. As the doors open, there is a moment where the two women's eyes meet in the elevator mirror, then the gleaming razor blade catches Liz's attention, and she see's the killer, all filmed in glorious slow motion, with an awesome score by Pino Donnagio. Liz grabs the razor blade after 'Bobbi' drops it, the elevator doors close, and now Liz is a murder suspect.
This is where the film turns into an awesome cop procedural, with a very hard-a** detective Marino (Franz), whose questions to Liz are fast, rapid, rabid, vile, and hilarious all at the same time. Yes, this is also satire, for DePalma puts irony and satire in all of his films. And, at the police station, DePalma makes use of another great set piece to show one person listening to another, as another listens to yet another, making it a game of who's listening in on who.?.?. And, the way he filters all of these transactions through pane glass brilliantly mirrors his split dioptor effect already used, and an upcoming split screen that he will eventually use.
Peter and Liz meet, and Peter and Dr. Elliott meet, and Peter takes it upon himself to investigate the doctor, believing his mother may have been killed by one of his patients; as does Detective Marino. But, he also suspects Liz, maybe not of murder, but of something. Meanwhile, Liz is spied upon by 'Bobbi', and Dr. Elliott is getting wierd messages on his answering machine from 'Bobbi' hinting at the crime 'she' just committed, even admitting to stealing the doctor's straight razor. In a split screen shot that lasts for a very good time, Liz is on the phone with her 'boss' trying to get the phone number of the man who was with her when the elevator doors opened, for he was a witness as well, but he took off running, and Liz has no success finding him. On the other side of the screen, 'Bobbi' is seen standing outside Liz's apartment building with binoculars, spying on her, as Liz, on the other side of the split screen is shown making more phone calls, talking to her 'boss' again, trying to line up a 'dinner and date' for the next evening. Then it shows Dr. Elliot on the other side of the screen listening to his answering machine, and checking and noticing his straight razor IS missing. Meanwhile, both sides have an episoed of tv's "Phil Donahue" playing in the background, and it is dealing with Phil talking to a transexual who has had the final operation; and, as both characters, Liz and Dr. Elliott continue going about their business, oblivious to the tv screen, still shown in brilliant split screen, the tv show starts getting larger and larger on both sides of the film as the subject of transexuality is being discussed. And, then the film goes back to 'normal', cutting to Liz going out for the evening, being followed by a blonde woman, maybe the very same blonde woman she saw in the elevator, and that killed Kate Miller. She sweet talks the young cabbie into running a red light, leaving the blonde woman behind, but when she arrives at the subway station, there is 'Bobbi' awaiting her, thus leading on an extremely breathless/breathtaking subway ride, with her running from 'Bobbi' the whole ride. I won't spoil the outcome of this scene for anything.
Peter has developed the film he has filmed of patients coming and going outside Dr. Elliots office, and he shows it to Liz, and she goes to Detective Marino, who acts as if he still doesn't believe her, but hints that maybe she could break into Dr. Elliot's office and steal his patient list, so she does.
And, this is one of the most memorable erotic scenes in film history!
Decked out in a raincoat with black under garments underneath, Liz proceeds to talk to Dr. Elliot about fictional (though she tells him they are real) erotic dreams she's been having, meanwhile flirting with the good doctor the entire time, and undressing as she talks about the dream. Matter of fact, the whole set up of telling him the dream s**t is supposed to get him aroused so she can seduce him then try and either get him to tell her about the patient that may have killed Kate, and/or sneak and steal his patient list like Dectective Marino advised. Meanwhile, it is dark, raining, and storming outside the office, making it even more erotic than imaginable. And, even more terrorfying!
Peter is outside the office, wiping rain from his face as he tries to watch from afar through a window that Liz has opened the blinds on for him to be able to see in. Again, it's a matter of who's watching who, like the police station when it was a matter of who's listening to/spying on who. The pacing is dynamic in this scene, tension building up so great, it could make a person have a stroke wanting for it to climax already; but, DePalma, the ultimate Master Of Suspense, isn't about to let up until it's time to let up!
Again, I'm not gonna go any further, for I don't wanna give away anything to anyone who's maybe never seen this classic masterpiece, except to say 'Bobbi' is caught, a great exposition scene is done, explaining who 'Bobbi' REALLY is and why the murder happened, and what will become of 'Bobbi'.
But, I will add that the film then proceeds into a dream sequence of 'Bobbi' killing a nurse and escaping the mental institution, and going straight for Liz. The way DePalma films a mental institution (like he did in "Sisters") is out of this world, for he makes you feel as if you are right there inside a very REAL madhouse, with inmates that look just like anything you could ever imagine ever seeing in an insane asylum.
Many people rag on the dream sequence, saying that it is too much like the ending of "Carrie", but they are wrong...It is the final scene in which the character(s) having the dream awaken(s) that is a bit too close to "Carrie". The dream sequence is possibly the best part of the film, and that's saying a LOT, because this film is loaded with awesome scenes every which way you look at it. Plus, I think it is extremely brilliant the way DePalma book-ends this film with dream sequences, the first one with Kate in the shower, and the last one with Liz in the shower, and they're both very suspenseful scenes in one sense or another.
Produced by DePalma's friend, George Litto, who had produced "Obsession", and "Blow Out" after this one, this is an excursion into psychological erotic madness that is as grotesque, gory, twisted, perverted, demented, deranged, horrorfying, spellbinding, sensual, elegant, thrilling, bloody, and scary as anything anyone that likes this genre of film would ever want in a film.
This is the film that got women's groups calling DePalma 'mysoginistic', saying he was too violent towards women in his films all because he filmed one woman (maybe two???) getting murdered in a very classy manner, yet there were all of these cheesy slasher flicks having women running around as naked as the day they were born, making them act like airhead bimbo's, getting cut all up like spaghetti, but that seemed to be OK; but they wanted to pick on DePalma for this classic masterpiece??? HUH??? REALLY???
This was also the first film that Depalma had to duke it out with the MPAA over ratings (they wanted to give it an X), so he cut it into an R-rated version (which I, personally prefer), but the DVD features both, the R and the Unrated (X) versions of the film, and they're on the same side of the disc, so you don't have to flip it over. And, this is loaded with a lot of great special bonus features!
HIGHLY recommended! Two Thumbs And A Big Toe!!
Thank you & happy Halloween! ;-)
PS: A bit of film trivia: DePalma used a 'body double' for Angie Dickinson's nude shower scene, which in turn inspired his 1984 classic "Body Double", which was his cinematic 'answer' to critics who wanted to bash him, reproaching his decision for using a body double in this film."