February 6, 2016

Blu-ray Review: Dressed To Kill (1980)

(aka De Palma Porn)
Release Date: July 25th, 1980.
Country: USA
Rating: R
Written by: Brian De Palma.
Directed by: Brian De Palma.
Starring: Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen, Keith Gordon, and Dennis Franz.

Carrie, Scarface, Blow Out, Body Double, The Untouchables, Raising Cain, Carlito's Way, Mission: Impossible... nobody did Thrillers better than Brian De Palma did in back in the day. His visual style was so unique and effective that you could tell when you were watching a De Palma flick after only a few seconds, and that realization was always a welcomed feeling.

When it was released in 1980, Dressed To Kill was killed by critics, garnering multiple Golden Raspberry Award nominations for worst actress, worst actor, and worst director. Now, when I saw this movie as a kid, I remember being terrified of the killer in the blonde wig, and shocked as hell at the reveal of who it was at the end. If I had to guess, I'd say that Dressed To Kill was my first exposure to Gialli films, even if it was one of the American persuasion.

Shows you what kind of taste I had as a kid.

Kate is a 50-year-old housewife who is sexually frustrated. Her husband has seen her naked so many times that he doesn't even pay attention to her when she's diddling herself in the shower, and when they do make love, it's bland and lifeless. So frustrated is she, that she even sees a therapist about it, which only makes things worse; because when she tries to bang her Doctor, he politely refuses. The woman just wants to get laid, and no one will oblige her!

Pissed-off at the men in her life, Kate heads to the Metropolitan Museum, because art dispels horniness or something. While there, she meets a sexy stranger, and ends up baning him in a cab outside. Later at his hotel, she finds a paper that says he has an STD and freaks out... not that it matters all that much, because she's about to get murdered in the elevator Giallo-style by a blonde chick with a straight-razor.

While Kate is being slashed to death, another whore (the kind who actually gets paid for sex) named Liz happens upon the elevator, and sees the tail end of the murder. When the blonde chick drops the straight-razor, the dumb hooker picks it up and runs, which instantly makes her the prime suspect in the gruesome crime. If Detective Sipowicz has anything to say about it, she's going down! (No hooker pun intended.)

Having witnessed the murder, Liz becomes the target of the mysterious blonde. She almost kills Liz on the subway, but Kate's son saves her. Meanwhile, Kate's therapist, Dr. Elliot, begins receiving threatening calls from one of his transsexual patients named Bobby, who has stolen his straight-razor, and is using it to kill his other patients.

It's all really complicated and involved.

If we're being honest about it, Dressed To Kill is a pretty schlocky movie. Many critics have dismissed this De Palma classic as being a low-grade exploitation flick dressed up as a classy Thriller, and they're not completely wrong. This movie exists mainly to showcase De Palma's penchant for long tracking shots; his back and forth tension-building cuts; his use of odd camera angles; and to show as much lurid sex, nudity, and subject matter as possible.

So yeah, it's pretty exploitational, and it's definitely got more style than it does substance, but dammit, it's still a great Thriller on top of it all. And for the record, we absolutely consider this movie a Giallo, even if it isn't Italian-made.

Michael Caine and Dennis Franz are both great in this one, even if their characters have far less screen time than Angie Dickinson and Nancy Allen's do. As for the ladies, I can't say that either of their acting was all that good here, not with a straight face I can't, but they still made for likable (or at least sympathetic) characters, especially Nancy Allen. She's always had that sweet, ditsy quality about her, and we love it.

It was fun to see  young, pre-Christine Keith Gordon in this one too. 

***BEWARE ENDING SPOILERS*** As creepy and intense as most of the movie was, it sure did end with a whimper. The whole thing with there being two blondes in wigs, and the rather quick reveal of the killer's identity, was anti-climactic as hell. The exposition dump afterwards, where the characters basically sat and explained what had just happened, kinda sucked too.

Good ending overall, but surely De Palma could have come up with something better.

This movie would never get made today.

I have to imagine that the politically correct idiots who run around the Internet playing Morality Police today would have a dismissive field day with this movie. Dressed To Kill features a transsexual killer; two women who are essentially murdered for their sexuality; men call women whores; there's a group of black guys who chase after a woman to do her harm... So it's sexist, misogynistic, trans-phobic, patriarchal, and racist. And I'm sure about 100 other things, according to the Sensitive Sally's of the world.

And I say who cares.

It's a movie, and as adults, we have the option of not watching something if it doesn't jibe with, or offends, our beliefs and views. Of course there are many people who would rather bitch and moan about their feelings and tell the rest of us what we can, can't, and shouldn't be able to watch and enjoy, than simply avoid whatever material they find distasteful, so preach to us they surely will.

Objectionable or not, art is art, and not you, I, or anyone else should be able to censor it because it hurts our precious little feelings. People really need to keep their self-entitled bullshit to themselves.

*Sorry for the rant, but that all popped into my head while watching this movie. 

The elevator kill was pretty great, and there were one or two other moments of "gore" throughout, but this is not a very bloody movie at all.

Dressed to Kill opens up with a lengthy shower scene in which Angie Dickinson is soaping herself up in the shower; and by "soaping herself up" I mean "rubbing herself all over in ecstasy." She was almost 50 when she shot that scene, and and damn did she ever look good. Nancy Allen looked pretty good in her very own shower scene too.

This Blu-ray boasts a new 4K transfer scanned from the original 35mm camera negative, with a 35mm interpositive also being used for some additional footage, and it was all supervised by Brian De Palma himself. In short, it looks great, and it's exactly how the director intended it to look. The lossless audio track is also superb.

Special Features:

  • New, restored 4K digital transfer of director Brian De Palma’s preferred unrated version, supervised by the director, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New conversation between De Palma and filmmaker Noah Baumbach
  • New interviews with actor Nancy Allen, producer George Litto, composer Pino Donaggio, shower-scene body double Victoria Lynn Johnson, and poster photographic art director Stephen Sayadian
  • The Making of “Dressed to Kill,” a 2001 documentary
  • New profile of cinematographer Ralf Bode, featuring filmmaker Michael Apted
  • Interview with actor-director Keith Gordon from 2001
  • Pieces from 2001 about the different versions of the film and the cuts made to avoid an X rating
  • Gallery of storyboards by De Palma
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Michael Koresky

Overall this is another excellent disc by Criterion.

Dressed To Kill is definitely Brian De Palma's most derisive movie. Some love it for it's Early 80's, Giallo-infused sensibilities; while others dismiss it as being a cheap and sleazy exercise in excess. Well we say screw the haters, because this is one fantastic Thriller. It may not pack the shocking punch now than it did 35 years ago, but it stills entertains like few other Thrillers of that time period, or even this one, manage to do.

If you have yet to see this De Palma classic, then you should definitely check out the Criterion Blu-ray


Dressed To Kill is available now on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD.


Nancy Allen and Angie Dickinson are classic Horror Hotties, which is why we gave then their own post, that you can read right HERE.

Retro Horror Hotties: The Ladies of Dressed To Kill (1980)

If nothing else Dressed to Kill pushed plenty of sexual boundaries for a movie released in 1980. That opening shower scene with Angie Dickinson was about as close to porn as it got in mainstream movies back then, and both she and Nancy Allen playing "women of questionable morals" was definitely controversial to say the least. Add a transsexual murderer to that already racy mix, and it's no wonder that the MPAA originally gave the movie an X-rating. Fucking fascists.

We were all very sheltered back then.

The fact that Angie Dickinson was almost 50 years old when she bared it all (and we do mean bared it ALL), makes it all the more impressive. She was a classic actress by the time she took the role in Dressed To Kill, and it made quite a splash when she did.

Nancy Allen was just 80's hot.

So lets take a quick look at The Ladies of Dressed To Kill, just because we want to.

Trailer: You Are Not Alone (2016)

"As seen from the first-person POV, Natalie, a recent college graduate, reconnects with friends and family as she visits her hometown over the Fourth of July. The town is inundated with news of a dangerous sociopath who is in the midst of a spree killing and reportedly within the area. Experience what happens when Natalie crosses paths with said killer."

Now here's a movie that's been on our TBA list for years; round about three years, to be exact.

You Are Not Alone on a Slasher flick shot in P.O.V. style, and I have to admit that it looks fun as hell. Check it out below.

You Are Not Alone hits DVD & VOD in the UK on February 22nd.