Having been too young to see this film when it first was released in 1980 as I was 11-years-old, it was a film that fell between the cracks and I never saw. The rerelease of it on blu-ray afforded me the opportunity and I have to say I was shocked. Now, I am by no means a prude. Quite the opposite, actually. I love films that are raw and honest in any sense of the words. Still I was shocked by the sexuality in Brian De Palma’s (Scarface, Mission: Impossible) film. I am aware that De Palma was well-known for his films that went from violence to thrillers. Still surprised when the film opens with a shower scene in which Angie Dickinson pleasures herself while watching a man shave and fantasizes about a rape. Then we move on to a prolonged sex scene between the woman and her husband. Talk about coming (leave that alone!) out like gangbusters!
Kate Miller (Angie Dickinson – Rio Bravo, Pay it Forward) is a middle-aged New York housewife. She is at her therapist’s complaining about how frustrated she is with her husband’s (Fred Miller) sexual abilities. After her session she takes a cab to the museum where she encounters a stranger and then has a sexual encounter with him. Afterwards she sees papers in his apartment which indicate that he has a sexually transmitted disease. Rushing to get out she forgets her wedding ring. Getting out of the elevator to go back to his apartment she is slashed to death by a tall blonde woman wearing sunglasses. The only witness to her murder is a high-priced prostitute, Liz Miller (Nancy Allen – Robocop, Carrie). At the same time she becomes the number one suspect and the killer’s next target.
Manhattan therapist Dr. Robert Elliott (Michael Caine – Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Dark Knight) is living every person in his profession’s worst nightmare. A psychotic killer begins attacking all the women in his life. Worse yet is that the person is using a straight razor from his office. Things are about to go from bad to worse for the therapist.
My God! Every character in Dressed to Kill is a sleazeball. No pure good guy/gal here. Kinda fun!
Without much dialogue in the first 30 minutes of the film, De Palma develops and maintains the tension. This despite the fact that you are aware of who the killer is. And despite the fact that it pretty much is a remake or homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. De Palma is manipulating you from the get go. No matter, done in a skillful way the film still keeps your stomach in knots.
-The Making of Dressed to Kill
-A Conversation Between De Palma and filmmaker Noah Baumbach
-Profile of Cinematographer Ralf Bode
-Interview with Actor-Director Keith Gordon from 2001
-Gallery of Storyboards
-Essay by Critic Michael Koresky