Dressed To Kill
Director: Brian De Palma
Cast: Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen
Review by Brian M. Sammons
Am I the only one to notice that this film is basically an unofficial remake of Psycho? Sure I have seen mention in the past of director De Palma being a big admirer of Hitchcock, and that he makes Hitchcockian films, but no one has come out and said the plain old truth that Dressed To Kill is Psycho set in the 1980s, or at least, I’ve never seen anyone say as much. Well, some SPOLIERS are to follow, but only if you haven’t already seen this 30+ year old movie, or god forbid the 50+ year old Psycho. And seriously, if you haven’t seen both of these already, what the hell are you doing here? Go right now and watch them, I’ll wait.
Welcome back, now let’s play Name the Movie, complete with SPOILERS!
So a famous and recognizable woman is the star of the show. The unhappy lady has an affair and then gets slashed to death suddenly and without warning in a confined space about a third of the way through the film. The movie then switches to two others to both continue the story and investigate the murder, with one of the characters being related to the woman. The killer turns out to be a very tall and mannish woman, but really turns out to be a gentle, meek and mild man who likes to cross dress and has a split personality. Whenever a woman gets this guy aroused, his evil and crazy feminine side comes out to kill the object of his desire. Oh and there’s a very memorable shower scene in the film.
Ok, so what movie am I talking about?
Ha, trick question. That description works for both films. So don’t even begin to tell me Dressed To Kill wasn’t Psycho 2.0. Anyway, the recognizable woman mentioned above would be Angie Dickinson and Dressed To Kill begins with her taking that memorable shower I talked about. Only this time it is not only more sexy than scary, but also kind of silly as there is no way that the body they linger on so lovingly, some could say gratuitously, belongs to Angie Dickinson. Sure she’s an attractive woman, I would even go as far as she she’s a total MILF, but the obviously twenty-something flesh shown in the shower is not even a close match to Ms. Dickinson. But I digress, and perhaps obsess. Angie soon meets the business end of a straight razor in an elevator and the only witness to the crime is a young prostitute played by Nancy Allen. The hooker with the heart of gold is the psycho’s (ha, get it) next victim, but she is saved from a razor attack by the son of Angie’s murdered mommy, who just so happens to be a techo-nerd of the first degree. The unlikely duo soon team up to uncover the mystery of the large lethal lady with the razor. Surprise, surprise, it turns out to be Michael freakin’ Caine! Yes, the sizable British actor who made his bones playing tough guys in films like Zulu and Get Carter, the man who turned Bat-man’s butler into a soft spoken badass, puts on makeup, pumps, and a skirt to do the Norman Bates thing. Now if that’s not enough to get you to watch this movie, I don’t know what is.
Ok, so Dressed To Kill is derivative as all get out, but that doesn’t make it a bad movie. On the contrary, I really enjoy this flick. It is well acted, plotted, and directed. Sure at times it’s over stylized, but that can be said of most (all) of De Palma’s films. It is a thrilling, bloody, sexy, fun and at times funny film and watching it again for the first time in years, I really enjoyed it. Too bad the Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox is a bit of a disappointment.
No, by that I don’t mean that the High-Def upgrade was done poorly. In fact this movie looks better than ever. Nor is it a dreaded bare bones release, but it is a straight up re-release of the previous DVD edition. All the extras found on that disc from some years back are found here, so thankfully nothing was left off, as is sometimes the case, but then nothing new was added. That means if you already own the DVD of this film, there’s no real reason to upgrade unless you just a complete videophile. But if you don’t already have your own copy of Dressed To Kill then by all means pick this sucker up. This is the unrated version of the film, so you get all the bloody, fleshy bits the director wanted. There’s a making of documentary, a featurette that compares the unrated, R-rated, and TV edited versions of this film, a special by actor Keith Gordon who played the avenging son, trailers, photo galleries, and more. So it’s a nice collection of special features, I just wish there was some new stuffed in there somewhere.
Dressed To Kill comes out September 6th on Blu-ray for the first time. It is a thoroughly well-made and enjoyable film, and one that should be in the collection of any horror or mystery thriller fan. It gets a very high recommendation from me, you could even say it gets 4 skirt wearing psychos out of 5.
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