Dressed to Kill


Action / Crime / Drama / Mystery / Romance / Thriller

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 84%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 74%
IMDb Rating 7.1 10 26803


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January 29, 2015 at 02:14 PM



Michael Caine as Doctor Robert Elliott
Angie Dickinson as Kate Miller
Mark Margolis as Patient at Bellvue Hospital
Keith Gordon as Peter Miller
1.63 GB
23.976 fps
1hr 45 min
P/S 5 / 20

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by johnm_001 10 / 10

One of the Best

"Dressed To Kill", is one of the best thrillers ever made. Its dealings with sex and violence make this a film for adults. Brian De Palma, once again, proves why no other director can match his use of the camera to tell a story. He directs many scenes without dialog, and he tells much of his story, strictly through the use of his visuals, and Pino Donnagio's brilliant score. Filmed in Panavision, the film MUST be seen in widescreen, as De Palma uses the entire width of the film to tell his story. Cropped, on video, "Dressed To Kill", is barely the same movie. Solid performances from its cast, superb direction, and, perhaps, the finest film score ever written, make "Dressed To Kill" a must see.

Reviewed by garthbarnes-83945 9 / 10

De Palma's best known, but not best Hitchcock homage. Style triumphs over substance but it's still good fun.

Spoilers Ahead:

When this was released there was an uproar over the shower scene which today is quite tame. It has the DePalma signature watch for the little girl staring at Kate in the elevator. It makes Kate very uncomfortable, the mother senses this reproves the little girl who still stares at Kate, incessantly. It is an exact parallel to BLOW OUT, remember the scene with the black angel of death towering over Sally. DePalma hints that the little girl sees death hovering, invisibly, hovering over Kate. This is right before she pushes the button that leads to her doom, Elliot dressed as Bobby wielding a straight razor. It is like PSYCHO in that a promiscuous women meets her doom; as we hear enunciated by slimy detective Marino."There are all kinds of ways to get killed in this city, if you're looking for it. We got some hot pants broad cruising around town." This has always been the hilarious paradox of the misunderstood DePalma. Beneath all the sex and violence, Brian is just as deeply moral as his master Hitch. As in Psycho, with Marian, here Kate turns on the wrong man. It starts so innocuously, she simply asks Dr. Elliot if her finds her attractive and would like to sleep with her; watch Elliot look in his little desk mirror, this happens also with Liz later in the film, they both flicked the switch to Bobbie the other half of Elliot.

It is fascinating to watch the film over and watch for Bobbie sightings. As the glove is dangled from the cab, the camera pans backwards to Kate's face, you will see Bobbie dressed to kill in the pan across. Also, when Kate first goes down, watch the stairs frosted red glass, you will see Bobbie looking though it at her. There is an earlier moment that triggered Kate's doom, she is rummaging through her lover's drawer, listen to the sweet music, it changes gradually; then she sees he has VD and the music switches to terror. She jumps up and bolts leaving her ring behind which starts her doom. It is so evocative of Marian in PSYCHO. She also turns on the wrong man; he, also, is a split personality which is insanely jealous. Bobbie is hidden all through the movie; it is always fun to return to the movie and find her. Fate saves Liz, quite unexpectedly, one of the big scares in the movie. Watch as she turns, to see the light lightning reflect off of the straight razor, a little God imagery, she sees Bobby wielding the razor. This time he / she is shot and it scares the crap out of you.

Like Hitch, DePalma uses multiple camera views including Hitch's trademark God's Eye. My favorite is when the elevator door open, the image loses focus and we center on the razor what artistry the man has? How about the empty shoes at the end, DePalma is a genius, always an under-appreciated one. Yes, he imitates Hitch, so what? If only more directors did, what better movies we would have. I had to take one star away for the dreadfully boring art museum piece, an homage to VERTIGO, but just awful. It is boring, tedious and interminable. The whole does he or doesn't he, sorry who cares? It brings the pacing of the film to a screeching halt. This movie would have been a ten without this poorly made scene interpolated into what was a fast moving narrative. One of DePalma's biggest mistakes in a movie. You are doing a tribute to PSYCHO; let's do one tribute at a time, shall we? I recommend that you go check the mailbox, make a sandwich, but kill ten or twelve minutes and come back. If you don't, it is so bad you will be tempted to turn it off.

On the whole, it is an excellent film. BLOW OUT is far superior, but this is still a very well made piece of work. I think Hitch would have been very flattered by it. It captures the essence of PSYCHO.

Reviewed by Brandt Sponseller 7 / 10

Worth viewing, but it hasn't aged well

Kate Miller (Angie Dickinson) is having problems in her marriage and otherwise--enough to see a psychologist. When her promiscuity gets her into trouble, it also involves a bystander, Liz Blake (Nancy Allen), who becomes wrapped up in an investigation to discover the identity of a psycho killer.

Dressed to Kill is somewhat important historically. It is one of the earlier examples of a contemporary style of thriller that as of this writing has extensions all the way through Hide and Seek (2005). It's odd then that director Brian De Palma was basically trying to crib Hitchcock. For example, De Palma literally lifts parts of Vertigo (1958) for Dressed to Kill's infamous museum scene. Dressed to Kill's shower scenes, as well as its villain and method of death have similarities to Psycho (1960). De Palma also employs a prominent score with recurrent motifs in the style of Hitchcock's favorite composer Bernard Herrmann. The similarities do not end there.

But De Palma, whether by accident or skill, manages to make an oblique turn from, or perhaps transcend, his influence, with Dressed to Kill having an attitude, structure and flow that has been influential. Maybe partially because of this influence, Dressed to Kill is also deeply flawed when viewed at this point in time. Countless subsequent directors have taken their Hitchcock-like De Palma and honed it, improving nearly every element, so that watched now, after 25 years' worth of influenced thrillers, much of Dressed to Kill seems agonizingly paced, structurally clunky and plot-wise inept.

One aspect of the film that unfortunately hasn't been improved is Dressed to Kill's sex and nudity scenes. Both Dickinson and Allen treat us to full frontal nudity (Allen's being from a very skewed angle), and De Palma has lingering shots of Dickinson's breasts, strongly implicit masturbation, and more visceral sex scenes than are usually found in contemporary films. Quite a few scenes approach soft-core porn. I'm no fan of prudishness--quite the opposite. Our culture's puritanical, monogamistic, sheltered attitude towards sex and nudity is disturbing to me. So from my perspective, it's lamentable that Dressed to Kill's emphasis on flesh and its pleasures is one of the few aspects in which others have not strongly followed suit or trumped the film. Perhaps it has been desired, but they have not been allowed to follow suit because of cultural controls from conservative stuffed shirts.

De Palma's direction of cinematography and the staging of some scenes are also good enough that it is difficult to do something in the same style better than De Palma does it. He has an odd, characteristic approach to close-ups, and he's fond of shots from interesting angles, such as overhead views and James Whale-like tracking across distant cutaways in the sets. Of course later directors have been flashier, but it's difficult to say that they've been better. Viewed for film-making prowess, at least, the museum scene is remarkable in its ability to build very subtle tension over a dropped glove and a glance or two while following Kate through the intricately nested cubes of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

On the other hand, from a point of view caring about the story, and especially if one is expecting to watch a thriller, everything through the museum scene and slightly beyond might seem too slow and silly. Because of its removal from the main genre of the film and its primary concern with directorial panache (as well as cultural facts external to the film), the opening seems like a not very well integrated attempt to titillate and be risqué. Once the first murder occurs, things improve, but because of the film's eventual influence, much of the improvement now seems a bit clichéd and occasionally hokey.

The performances are mostly good, although Michael Caine is underused, and Dickinson has to exit sooner than we'd like (but the exit is necessary and very effective). Dressed to Kill is at least likely to hold your interest until the end, but because of facts not contained in the picture itself, hasn't exactly aged well. At this point it is perhaps best to watch the film primarily as a historical relic and as an example--but not the best, even for that era--of some of De Palma's directorial flair.

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