Theatrical Release: July 25th, 1980
Blu Ray Release: September 6th, 2011
Review by James Klein
Considered one of Brian De Palma’s best films (although it was nominated a few Razzie’s when originally released) Dressed to Kill has finally come out on blu ray and MGM/20th Century Fox has put out one..ahem…killer disc. The 1980 murder mystery that was heavily inspired by the works of Hitchcock (this could be considered almost a Psycho remake) and the Italian Giallo film remains one of my personal favorites by De Palma and for those who have never seen it, you can finally watch it on high def and in the original Unrated version as it was meant to be seen.
This stylish nightmare of a murder mystery centers on middle age woman Kate Miller (Angie Dickinson) who lives a dull life with her second husband and her nerdy teenage son. While she may love them, her sex life is unfulfilling and she has several fantasies regarding her sex life with other men. While she tells this to her psychiatrist (Michael Caine) she still goes out one afternoon to an art museum and hooks up with a stranger who satisfies her every desire. When she leaves his apartment to go home, she is brutally attacked and killed in the elevator by a strange woman with a straight edge razor. Catching a glimpse of the killer is call girl Liz (Nancy Allen) who tells the police what she saw but is considered a possibly suspect in the case. Liz and Kate’s teenage son (Keith Gordon) soon team up to try and catch who the killer is before he strikes again.
While the film does have a few silly moments such as a doctor explaining who the killer is and its motives near the end of the film or the Carrie-esque jump ending, or even Angie Dickinson’s overacting in a shower scene, Dressed to Kill is everything you could want in a murder mystery. Brain De Palma’s ultra stylish direction such as split screen effects and flowing camera work are beautifully done and is helped by cinematographer Ralf Bode’s own style (he had previously done Saturday Night Fever before this). The elevator scene in itself is the highlight of the film which De Palma storyboarded every shot, each planned perfectly and with the help of Pino Donaggio’s excellent score, this could rival the shocking punch that the shower scene in Psycho had. Bold words I know but just wait until you see the scene if you haven’t.
Dressed to Kill‘s heavy themes of sex, lust, mid-life crisis are very prominent but don’t get too much in the way of what the film really wants to say or do: to scare. While not exactly a horror film, the film does have many shocking moments and some creepy scenes (the nurse being attacked near the end is shot like an Italian Giallo). Dressed to Kill was given an X rating before release so De Palma had to tone down much of the violence and sex to get an R rating. This blu ray is the X rated version (now Unrated) with all of its graphic nature still intact.
The blu ray looks beautiful and MGM/20th Century Fox has done well with this disc. The colors look crisp and the grain of the old film stock that was used at that time is still there. While most of De Palma’s earlier films had a soft focus, dream-like look to it thus making the film not as clean as some would have desired, it still has never looked this good. The sound is also top notch and the 5.1 works quite well although some of the music cues may be a bit too loud at times. The supplementals from the previous DVD are carried over such as a well detailed making of, trailers, a brief interview with Keith Gordon, and my personal favorite supplemental; a look at what the X rated, R rated and TV version looks like side by side during the sex and murder scenes. It’s interesting to see what the MPAA found so offensive back in the day (R rated films couldn’t use the word “cock” I guess).
After much wait, Dressed to Kill is given a release worth killing for. If you enjoy a good murder mystery that is fast paced and filled with plenty of sex and violence, this one is for you.