Released by: MGM
Released on: September 6, 2011.
Director: Brian De Palma
Cast: Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen, Dennis Franz, Keith Gordon
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Brian De Palma’s Hitchcockian thriller starts off with a middle aged woman named Kate Miller (Angie Dickinson) in the shower. She lathers up and shows off the goods, heads out into the bedroom, and then feigns her enjoyment as her husband mounts her. Her marriage is dead and she knows it, but at least she got a cool kid out of the deal in the form of science geek Peter (Keith Gordon). Later that day she heads to her shrink’s office for her regular session with Dr. Elliott (Michael Caine). She does her best into trying to talk him into bed, but it’s not going to happen, he tells her it’s not worth risking his marriage over even if he does find her very attractive. Kate needs something though, so she heads to the art museum where she winds up hooking up with a guy, screwing around with him in a cab and then heading back to his place for some quality time in the bedroom. When she finishes up, she’s brutally murdered in the building’s elevator by a ‘blonde woman’ – the only witnesses to this event being a hooker named Liz (Nancy Allan) and her john, who takes off never to be seen again.
The cops are called in, of course, and Detective Marino (Dennis Franz) figures Liz could very well be a suspect. Liz knows better, however, and decides to do a bit of snooping around on her own, and then eventually with some help from Peter. There’s the matter of that blonde woman though, the one who hacked Kate up with a straight razor – she keeps leaving strange messages on Dr. Elliott’s answering machine. Elliott suspects that the killer could be a former patient of his named Bobbie – but he’s not saying much more than that.
Stylish, sexy and often downright sleazy, Dressed To Kill may borrow a lot from Hitchcock’s Psycho and Dario Argento’s giallo films but it does so with a good sense of fun and it remains an entertaining watch. While it’s true that you won’t have too much trouble figuring out who the killer is (in hindsight, they really didn’t do a very good job of hiding it!) the film still gets by thanks to a couple of grisly murder set pieces (Dickinson’s death is particularly nasty though again we think of Psycho as it’s basically the shower scene relocated) and no shortage of skin on display. Whether it’s the opening shower scene (which obviously uses a double as a stand in for Dickinson, as we never see her face connected to her naughty bits!) or Nancy Allan’s black lingerie clad attempt to seduce Michael Caine, De Palma’s movie makes sure that sex is at the front of the viewers mind from start, quite literally, until finish.
There’s also a remarkably tense scene in which Nancy Allen’s character arrives home only to notice that the blonde woman she believes to be the killer is waiting for her. This leads to a great chase around Manhattan and then into the New York City subway system – we won’t ruin how it plays out as it’s a highlight of the film but here De Palma shows us just how good he can be at building suspense and how he hasn’t just aped Hitchcock’s style at this point in his career but actually learned from it.
Performances are strong across the board with Dickinson in fine form as the distraught wife and Caine doing a fine job as the clinically inclined psychiatrist. Nancy Allen steals the show as the immensely likeable prostitute and her camaraderie with Keith Gordon works better than it has any right to. Dennis Franz basically plays the same curmudgeonly cop he’s become typecast as but he does it well and if he’s rough around the edges we know his character’s heart is in the right place. As derivative as all of this might be, it’s a fun movie and it holds up well.
Dressed To Kill arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 2.40.1 widescreen 1080p high definition transfer. This is a movie that has always looked soft. It was shot that way and it’ll always look that way as it’s part of the style De Palma employed in this film (and a few others). As such, detail isn’t as mind blowingly improved over DVD here as it has been on other catalogue titles, however, those familiar with the film and its high gloss soft focus look will appreciate the upgrade. Detail is definitely better as is color reproduction as are black levels and skin tones. Texture is stronger and overall the image is just more solid and more film like than it appeared to be on DVD.
The primary audio option on this disc is an English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix, though an alternate French language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is included as are subtitles in English SDH, French and Spanish. There aren’t really any complaints to toss around here, the movie sounds very good. Dialogue is clean and clear and the score sounds strong as well. No problems with any underlying hiss or distortion in the mix, and surrounds are used well to build atmosphere throughout the movie.
Extras are carried over from the previous special edition DVD release, so we don’t see anything new but we do get some good stuff starting with the surprisingly comprehensive forty three minute documentary, The Making of Dressed To Kill. Here we get interviews with director Brian De Palma, producer George Litto, and cast members Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen and Dennis Franz, all of whom speak quite fondly about the movie. Also of interest is a five minute Unrated, R-Rated and TV-Rated Comparison featurette that shows how editing was used to create the three versions of the film. The ten minute Slashing Dressed to Kill featurette deals with the censorship issues that the film ran into when it was first released and the last featurette, the six minute long An Appreciation by Keith Gordon segment, is just what is sounds like – Gordon’s appreciation for the film put down on record.
Rounding out the extras is a still gallery, the film’s original theatrical trailer, pop-up menus and chapter selection.
The Final Word:
De Palma has made better and more interesting movies than this one, but Dressed To Kill still holds up as a slick and sleazy thriller with some great performances and style to spare. MGM’s Blu-ray debut looks and sounds very good and carries over all of the extras from the DVD release, making this one worth the upgrade for fans of the film.