I wasn’t nearly as impressed with Dressed to Kill as others have since it doesn’t offer much mystery and the psychological elements which De Palma is normally a master of (look no further than Blow Out), isn’t very enticing either. I guess Angie Dickinson and Nancy Allen excelled in their roles as Michael Caine, while not entirely remarkable, still manages to turn in a sufficient (and unique) performance.
Dressed to Kill
— Criterion Collection —
Genre(s): Thriller, Drama, Mystery
Criterion Collection | Unrated – 105 min. – $39.95 | September 8, 2015
THE MOVIE – 3.5/5
Plot: Fashionable Manhattan Dr. Robert Elliott (MICHAEL CAINE) faces the most terrifying moment of his life, when a psychotic killer begins attacking the women (ANGIE DICKINSON and NANCY ALLEN) in his life — with a straight razor stolen from his office. Desperate to find the murderer before anyone else is hurt, Elliott is soon drawn into a dark and disturbing world of chilling desires. And as the doctor edges closer to the terrible truth, he finds himself lost in a provocative and deadly maze of obsession, deviance and deceit — where the most harmless erotic fantasies… can become the most deadly sexual nightmares!
Some call him a hack or copycat others say he’s merely honoring Alfred Hitchcock. Either way, Brian De Palma certainly can make a beautiful and interesting looking movie even when the script falls short. De Palma employs the same style to each one of his movies with forced perspective, having both the foreground and background in focus, or playing with shadows keeping the viewer in suspense about what will happen next. He’s also the master of the long, over-drawn shots seemingly going forever; sometimes it works, sometimes… not so much.
With Dressed to Kill, he uses all the tricks in his book and it’s mostly successful. The problem is, the story itself isn’t all that engaging nor is it unpredictable because when the twist is revealed near the end, it’s doesn’t come to much of a surprise, though to be fair De Palma doesn’t exactly try to hide it either instead focusing on the darker elements of sexual desires and the human psyche, a theme he has used throughout his career including his follow-up, Blow Out which for me was a far better film that brings more emotion to the characters compared with Dressed.
Overall, Dressed to Kill is an adequate thriller but certainly nothing special as the twist near the end was obvious and even so, the other elements that De Palma likes to employ doesn’t have near the dramatic effect compared with his other works. No doubt there are far worse ways to spend 100-minutes so I’d give this a slight recommendation if only to admire De Palma’s masterful direction, shame the script couldn’t keep up. That said, as an erotic film noir, it works quite well.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 4.5/5
This release comes with a fold-out essay booklet.
* Brian De Palma (19:25; HD) – is a new interview, by filmmaker Noah Baumbach, with the writer/director conducted in 2015 as he discusses his created choices in the film.
* Nancy Allen (16:11; HD) – another new interview with Allen as she recalls the highlights and challenges of working on Dressed to Kill in her first leading role.
* George Litto (12:02; HD) – Litto discusses producing three De Palma classics (Obsession, Dressed to Kill and Blow Out), in an interview conducted in 2015.
* Pino Donaggio (15:41; HD) – The composer talks about his haunting score and his long professional relationship with De Palma in this interview also conducted in 2015 for the CC.
* Victoria Lynn Johnson (8:42; HD) – Former model and 1978 Penthouse Pet of the Year, Johnson recalls her brief but highly memorable role as Angie Dickinson’s show-scene body double.
* Stephen Sayadian (10:15; HD) – The photographic art director for the original Dressed to Kill one-sheet poster, describes the creation of that iconic design and delves into the importance of poster-driven promotion at the time.
The Making of Dressed to Kill (43:51; HD) is a 2001 documentary detailing the production of the film and includes interviews with De Palma and Actors Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen, Keith Gordon, and Dennis Franz, and producer George Litto.
Defying Categories: Ralf Bode (10:40; HD) – Filmmaker Michael Apted and experimental video artist Peer Bode remember the late cinematographer Ralf Bode and discuss his working methods.
Slashing Dressed to Kill (9:49; HD) – This 2001 featurette examines the cuts made to the film in order to avoid an X rating in 1980.
An Appreciation by Keith Gordon (6:04; HD) – This featurette, made in 2001, features actor and director Keith Gordon discussing the many filmmaking techniques on display in Dressed to Kill.
Storyboards – Here we get a gallery of storyboards showing the film’s original opening and the Dr. Elliott/Liz split-screen sequence.
Version Comparison (5:14; HD) – This featurette compares the various visual and audio differences between the R-rated theatrical cut, the director’s preferred unrated version, and the television edit.
Trailer (2:10; HD)
VIDEO – 4.75/5
As described in the fold-out booklet, this release was supervised by Brian De Palma and is a new digital transfer created in 4K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from the 35 mm original camera negative as well as a 35 mm interpositive for additional footage for the unrated cut.
Thankfully Criterion moved quickly as the original release had major issues with stretching and color grading and it appears to be corrected here. The detail levels are fantastic throughout while the natural film grain only add to the appeal while colors are finely balanced while never seemingly pumped up or oversaturated. There were no major instances of dust marks, scratches or other ailments making for the best this movie has ever looked, including the MGM/Fox Blu-ray release.
Note: This corrected release has a new UPC (sticker) of 715515154413 and on the back cover states along the technical info “Second Printing 2015” though it’s hard to reach with red text against a black background. The disc itself also has “Second Print” for additional confirmation.
AUDIO – 4.5/5
Also an upgrade from the MGM/Fox release was a return to a mono track. This monoaural track was remastered from the original 35 mm tracks and any instances of clicks, thumps, hisses and crackles were gone. Why this is better than the initial release was that it spread the soundtrack across 5 channels which to me kind of distorted things whereas this release keeps to how the film was shown (heard) in theaters and at home.
OVERALL – 4.5/5
Overall, I wasn’t nearly as impressed with Dressed to Kill as others have since it doesn’t offer much mystery and the psychological elements which De Palma is normally a master of (look no further than Blow Out), isn’t very enticing either. I guess Angie Dickinson and Nancy Allen excelled in their roles as Michael Caine, while not entirely remarkable, still manages to turn in a sufficient (and unique) performance. The Criterion Blu-ray release speeds past the MGM/Fox Blu-ray released a few years back with good features and an upgrade in both the video and audio transfers.
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.