Dressed to Kill. Film Review

dressed-to-kill-blurayDRESSED TO KILL

DIRECTOR: Brian De Palma     

SCREENPLAY: Brian De Palma

STARRING: Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen, Keith Gordon

CERTIFICATE: 18         

RUNNING TIME: 100 Mins        

FORMAT: BluRay (Region B)

Reviewed by Guy Adams

I can never really decide what I think about Brian De Palma. Excusing such “straight” Hollywood fare as MISSION IMPOSSIBLE or MISSION TO MARS, he’s made a solid career out of channelling a fusion of Hitchcock and the Italian Giallo movie. When he’s on form he does it incredibly well, when on autopilot you’re left feeling you’d be much better off just watching the films that inspired him. The problem is, he tends to show that sort of inconsistency within each film so you can’t even pick the movies when he gets it right and ignore the rest.

DRESSED TO KILL is a perfect example. It’s PSYCHO with extra dollops of sexploitation thrown on top. There are moments when it’s utterly inspired (the lengthy chase scene with De Palma’s then wife, Nancy Allen, culminating on the New York subway includes several moments of thriller perfection), moments when it’s simply baffling (Keith Gordon as the geek kid, inventing gadgets and looking angry) and moments when its simply embarrassing (the opening sequence where Penthouse model, Victoria Lynn Johnson doubles for Angie Dickinson in the shower, slowly soaping her pubic hair at you in an attempt to convince you how terribly sexy the movie’s going to be).

Ironically, if this was no more than a sleazy little “erotic” thriller none of its faults would particularly stand out, it would just be a solid and entertaining example of the genre with all the predictable steam, saxophone music and grunting that such a movie thrives on. Because of its stand-out moments (and I suppose, the fact that De Palma has, in some corners anyway, cultivated a reputation as a great filmmaker) you find yourself somewhat confused and divided as a viewer, unsure what filters to put in place when watching.

This uncertainty has dogged him throughout his career. For the most part, critics have been kind, except when awkwardly wondering whether he might be a terrible misogynist or not (Oh, I don’t know… You can point the finger at any horror/thriller where beautiful women exist as potential stab wounds and accuse it of the same thing but a review isn’t the place to handle the subject…)

Needless to say I can’t discuss a word of the plot without spoiling something. Would it help if I mentioned it’s about a murder? It’s climactic scenes are terribly famous but on the off chance you’re not familiar with why, far be it from me to ruin them for you.

Like with most of De Palma’s work, the interesting stuff justifies sitting through the uneven moments and, like all of Arrow’s discs, no stone is left unturned in an attempt to present a lavish package. There are interviews with most of the cast as well as a general “making of” feature, a comparison between the variously rated versions and a featurette on what De Palma had to change in order to avoid the commercial suicide of an X rating. A solid presentation of an uneven, but ultimately worthwhile movie.

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