Brian DePalma’s campy, kinky thriller “Dressed To Kill”, is one of the reasons why I love movies in the first place. This is pure cinema, and an amazing demonstration of the many possibilities of the film medium. DePalma created one of the most slick and atmospheric thrillers of the 80’s that simply got lost in the wake of “Friday the 13th”. It had the misfortune of being released the same time as the infamous slasher, and just could not compete. However, that does not mean that “Dressed To Kill” is any less of a film. Quite the contrary. DePalma crafted a near-masterpiece here, and it looks and sounds better than ever.
Echoes of “Psycho”, “Vertigo”, and “Klute” pop up here and there, but this is 100% DePalma all the way. It’s an obvious love song to Hitchcock, and that’s just fine in my book. And if ever a movie is an example of the wonders and necessity of widescreen presentation, this is it. The chopped, formatted version is just plain insulting. You are cheating yourself out of half the movie. There are so many praises I could heap on “Dressed To Kill” that I wouldn’t even know where to start.
Angie Dickinson brilliantly plays an unhappily married woman adrift in sexual fantasies. This is Dickinson’s shining moment on film- she’s 100% convincing, and turns in a bravura performance. After seeing her psychiatrist, played by the delicious Michael Caine, she’s cruised and picked up in a museum (which is a WHOPPER of a scene, by the way… this is hands down one of the greatest scenes ever filmed, all without a single word being spoken.). I won’t tell you what happens next, but let’s just say it concerns a murderous, razor-weilding transexual on the loose. Yes, that’s right. A murderous, razor-weilding transexual…
Nancy Allen memorably plays a hooker with a heart of gold, Dennis Franz perfectly plays the sleazy cop determined to find the killer, and Keith Gordon wonderfully rounds out the cast as Dickinson’s son. The camerawork is nothing short of spectacular- most notably in that now-infamous ‘museum’ scene. Pino Dinaggio once again crafted a stunningly beautiful yet nerve-jangling score, the use of colors and shadows are incredible, and the movie crackles with smart, snappy dialogue. Everything about “Dressed To Kill” works perfectly.
Slick, stylish, and scary, “Dressed To Kill” offers some truly chilling scenes that scared the pants off my little brother and me when we stumbled across this on HBO late one night. Brian DePalma has created a polished, almost hallucinatory nightmare- one that I think is finally receiving the respect and attention it deserves.
DePalma received tons of criticism by critics and feminists alike for the violence in this movie, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen in any other horror movie. I never truly understood what all the fuss was about. This is one of my favorite movies, not only of the 80’s, but of all time. A truly creative effort that was obviously influenced by the works of Hitchcock and Argento, but so what? It still manages to come off as an entirely original work of art. This film gave me endless nightmares as a kid- I’ll never forget the image of ‘Bobby’, quietly stalking Nancy Allen in that shower. I know I’ll never look at nurses’ shoes the same way again. A top notch, terrifying good time!