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Dressed to Kill Reviews

Page 1 of 25
Cory T

Super Reviewer

October 28, 2013
For a director regarded as highbrow and artfully mainstream, Brian DePalma can certainly tap into the sleazy turpitude of human nature. The grabber is Angie Dickinson's full-frontal nudity in a shower which is shown in high-key, erotic lighting (although the body double belongs to Penthouse Pet Victoria Lynn Johnson). 'Dressed to Kill' is a decadent treat for fans of giallo horror (the killer-with-the-black-gloves clichť is intact). DePalma's craftsmanship is undeniable in tracking shots such as one spectacular example in a museum gallery where we follow Dickinson as she is stalked by an incognito man with her glove. A leaflet indicating that the one-night stand has a sexually transmitted disease is another harbinger of DePalma's perverse sensibilities. On the prerequisite "dark and stormy night", DePalma manipulates his erstwhile wife, Nancy Allen, into carnal bait for the unhinged serial killer and the tightrope anticipation nearly singes the screen into ashes. The transvestite twist in the denouement has been lambasted as a cheat (due to a series of taunting answering machine messages) but I found it to be delightfully loopy and a glowing tribute to the absurdist tendencies of DePalma's mentor, Alfred Hitchcock. A dream sequence somewhat disengages the enterprise, but overall, 'Dressed to Kill' is a kamikaze tour-de-force of kitchen-sink melodrama alongside slasher mainstays.
cosmo313
cosmo313

Super Reviewer

September 19, 2007
This steamy erotic thriller represent Brian De Palma's lurid homage to Hitchcock's Psycho...and it's quite a film!

Psychologist Dr. Robert Elliott finds his world totally flipped upside down when a patient of his, a sexually frustrated housewife named Kate Miller, is brutally slaughtered by another one of his patients- an unhinged transgender individual named Bobbi. On top of that, a witness to the murder- a young prostitute named Liz has become Bobbi's next target.

Liz isn't helpless though, as she finds comfort in the arms of Kate's revenge-driven teenage son Peter who is bound and determined to bring Bobbi to justice.

While the film references/homages plenty of movies (many of them Hitchcock's), Psycho is the main one. What I love about all this is how this puts its own spin on things, and creates a great work of art that functions as both homage and a stand alone thriller.

The film's content and subject matter really drew a lot of criticism from the LGBT and feminist communities, but, regardless of where one stands on the issue, it is undeniable that this film succeeds in being provocative.

It is also one of De Palma's best, featuring some outstanding cinematography/camera work, and some great music from frequent collaborator Pino Donaggio. There's a wonderful sense of mood, tone, atmosphere, and dread, and it amazed me just how riveting and suspense this gets sometimes.

Michael Caine is good as Elliott, Nancy Allen is strong as Liz, and Angie Dickinson is quite something as Kate. I also enjoyed seeing Dennis Franz as a slimy detective.

The effects are terrific, and the film really delivers the goods when it comes to sex and violence. But thankfully the film is also actually about something, and not just a visceral thrill ride. There are some great sequences here, but my favorite has to be the museum sequence. It's stunning.

Definitely give this one a watch, because it's great.
Nicki M

Super Reviewer

November 20, 2008
Didn't mind this, but something about it didn't quite sit right with me. Perhaps I am overanalysing it, but I really got the feeling that the director of this does not like women a great deal. My comments are based on the unrated DVD version, I have not seen the theatrical one, perhaps it was not as exploitive.
The opening scene is an extended "dream" of middle aged Kate (Angie Dickinson) in the shower, quite graphic, soaping herself down while her husband totally ignores her. Maybe it is meant to be moving, but actually the portrayal of her was pathetic and made you feel that she was ridiculous - really quite cruel to film an older woman like that, no matter how good her body might still be! There would have been nicer and just as effective ways to get that point across in a story. At any rate.......... SPOILERS............................... Kate is disposed of shortly into the film, and you kind of feel it is because she has been a bit of an old slapper and had some anonymous sex with a stranger in a motel. That the focus is then immediately shifted to the young and beautiful Nancy Allen is a second slap in the face to women.
Don't get me wrong - Nancy Allen is what works in this movie. Even I felt it was a little dull prior to her appearance. She is very attractive and watchable and she does a good job as young prostitute, Liz. (See what I mean about this movie - old slapper, and young prostitute. Nice on the stereotypes!). I actually never really believed her as a prostitute, but anyhow, still she isn't bad in this. I am not sure this movie does the transexual community a lot of favours either, what with the killer being a cross dressing man! I won't say more than that and ruin it.
So I would say, okay thriller, silly ending and questionable intentions, but worth it for Nancy Allen.
blkbomb
blkbomb

Super Reviewer

August 14, 2011
Bobbi: Don't make me be a bad girl again!†

"The Latest Fashion in Murder"

Dressed To Kill is a suspenseful, captivating and interesting thriller from "Master of the Macabre," Brian DePalma. The film is extremely violent and sexually graphic. At the time of it's release, it sparked a lot of controversy from women, gays and some critics. Today, it doesn't seem all that controversial, but Psycho was once "controversial" too, so what are you going to do.

The film is extremely †well-done and has many noteworthy scenes. The art gallery scene where this no dialogue for probably between 5-10 minutes is remarkable and possibly my favorite scene in the entire film. Then there's the ending which is very DePalma. Remember the ending to Carrie. We think it's over and then DePalma says Boo! one last time.†

If I wanted to gripe about something in Dressed To Kill it would have to be that the acting is a little spotty in places; mostly from Nancy Allen, Keith Gordon and Dennis Franz. Even though these actors didn't give amazing performances by any stretch of the imagination; they don't really take too much away from the film. DePalma's direction is as close to flawless as any human can get. Michael Caine and Angie Dickinson are really good in my opinion; although I may be a little biased on Caine's behalf since he is one of my favorite actors.†The plot is basically a murder-mystery. A blonde woman has stalked and killed one woman and is trying to kill a witness to the murder. I wasn't all that surprised when we find out who's behind it all. It was fairly obvious, but I didn't really care about being fooled during this movie. It was just a fun ride and I loved every minute of it.†

I haven't seen every DePalma film(I'm working on it), but of the ones I have seen this probably comes in my top 3 of his works with Casualties of War and Scarface. DePalma definitely deserves praise as a director even if his career has gotten a little bumpy. The guy has crafted some pretty amazing films.
AJ V

Super Reviewer

January 10, 2011
A great cast, a scary story, and it's such a good homage to Hitchcock too. I'm glad I finally watched this movie all the way through. It is a bit slow at times, and maybe some people will find it predictable, especially if someone told you the end (I read about it before watching). If you like Hitchcock and great thrillers, you should see this movie, it's good.
Ken S

Super Reviewer

May 5, 2007
A pulpy sleazy 70's gem.
cancercapricorn2002
cancercapricorn2002

Super Reviewer

July 2, 2007
Brian DePalma's Dressed to Kill is often described as a slasher movie. And that is fair enough. However, I think it more accurately can be labelled a giallo that happened to be made in the U.S. This film clearly owes more of a debt to Italian movies like The Bird with the Crystal Plumage than to the later American slashers like Halloween. Many of the ingredients of the Italian giallo movie are present in this film - the psycho-sexual undertone, the androgynous black leather clad killer, the fluid camera work, the prominent musical score and the mystery element (whereas in slashers we often are fully aware who the maniac is). If Dario Argento had made a movie in America at this time, it might well have looked a lot like Dressed to Kill.

Also, similar to the Italian prototype, the film is not strong on narrative or script; some of the dialogue is very clunky indeed. However, this not a movie that is too concerned about such things. Dressed to Kill is, first and foremost, an exercise in cinematic style. DePalma has often been accused of ripping off Alfred Hitchcock and in this movie more-so than most. While the shower scenes that bookend the film are clearly homages to Psycho, DePalma adopts the approach, first advocated by Mario Bava in Blood and Black Lace, of stripping away as much of the story as possible and, instead, focuses even more on cinematic style and violent imagery.

DePalma is a master of potent imagery and there are a number of extremely effective set pieces here. The opening and closing shower scenes are both beautifully shot and very sinister indeed. The gallery sequence is masterfully choreographed and expertly shot. And most striking of all, is the elevator sequence, especially where Nancy Allen appears and is witness to the murder; the use of mirrors, closeups of eyes, the flashing blade and slow-motion photography all combine to produce one of the most unsettling but bravura short sequences imaginable. All of these scenes mentioned are also notable for having absolutely no dialogue in them at all. This just re-emphasises the point that this film is not about the writing but about the look and the atmosphere.

Don't check this film out if you like water-tight plotting - there are some plot holes here (there is even a bit of a cheat regarding the killer's identity in one of the split screen sequences). However, if you like movies that are frightening, lurid and beautifully shot then Dressed to Kill is a must. It is where exploitation movies and high artistic visual flair collide in a beautiful and bloody fusion.
Conner R

Super Reviewer

December 9, 2009
I love Dressed To Kill. It‚??s just an amazing plot and perfectly shot from Brian De Palma. No one shoots a film like him and this particular movie showcases his talent better than any other. I really loved Nancy Allen‚??s performance in this, it‚??s actually one of my favorite performances in a thriller. While I don‚??t particularly love the politics behind the killer, I understand that it was an ode to Psycho and not exactly a reflection of De Palma‚??s actual thoughts. The thing that makes it work so well is the way it flows and the fact that there‚??s never a dull moment.
_kelly .

Super Reviewer

February 2, 2008
"So Fucked Up" highlight: shower/mirror scene
Chris G

Super Reviewer

March 22, 2008
For those of you that don't remember Brian DePalma when he was first starting out in big name features, let me tell you that he loved to rip off Alfred Hitchcock. Dressed to Kill is a prime example of what Hitchcock might have done if he had the R rating at his disposal.
Drew S

Super Reviewer

January 14, 2008
This is a strange, strange movie. Is it Brian De Palma's attempt to lend artistic value to camp? A poorly-acted surrealist homage to Hitchcock? Or an attempt at a transsexual thriller? All I know is that I was really digging it up until the shitty ass ending. It goes on FOREVER. There's a psychological explanation of the killer's behavior lifted right out of Psycho, Nancy Allen babbling incessantly about the nature of a sex change operation, and the longest "one last scare! HAHAHA" sequence in the world. The film could have ended gracefully, and with ten minutes to spare, but I guess De Palma was feeling long-winded that day.

Anyway, I love how retroactively ingenious this is. The plot is built like a house of cards, entirely around coincidences, and it's so ridiculous that it actually works - and well, too. It's an incredibly exciting movie, even outside of the loony transvestite slashings, and it doesn't hurt that De Palma is his typical brilliant self behind the camera. If you fixed up the 27-year-old film and fashions, you could easily pass this off as an exceptional looking modern movie.

Anyway, I'm really not sure what this movie is. It sure fulfills all the requirements for camp, like the God-awful performances; seriously, Nancy Allen, your career's waiting for you in Hell. At first I wondered Michael Caine was there since he's normally a great actor, but I checked his IMDB page and he's done a surprising amount of shit. I guess he's one of those "do whatever comes my way" actors. The violence content is surprisingly low for camp, though, so I guess it's just a suspense movie with really bad movie elements.

I'll never be totally sold on Brian de Palma but this almost makes me want to give Blow Out another shot. Almost.
Stephen M

Super Reviewer

December 7, 2007
It really annoys me when you get smart-ass cinephile types dismissing De Palma's work as mere Hitchcock pastiche, just to display the little knowledge they've acquired. At his best, De Palma just uses Hitchcock as a jumping-off point for his own style of suspense virtuosity, which is closer here to Dario Argento and the Italian giallo tradition. Nobody ever mentions it, probably because they're too busy ranting about shower scenes and cross-dressing, but the scene which most closely mimics "Psycho" is the psychiatrist's explanation of the crimes near the end.

I'd love to give this five stars but I just can't. Some of the acting is a bit wobbly, with Michael Caine alternately excellent or amateurish depending on the scene; his meeting with Dr Levy on the staircase is terrible. Though he's been accused of misogyny many times, the most offensive thing I find here is De Palma's depiction of the inside of the insane asylum, though it could be argued that the scene in question is just the nightmare of a character who would know no better.
Lafe F

Super Reviewer

August 2, 2007
Brian DePalma's masterpiece of erotic murder suspense and mystery. It had me on the edge of my seat throughout. A classic.
Dr Blood †

Super Reviewer

June 23, 2007
Sexuality, violence and excitement together create one of the most horrifying and erotic films Hollywood has ever made.
deano
deano

Super Reviewer

November 29, 2006
Stupid erotic and bloody thriller.
Joey S

Super Reviewer

November 30, 2013
It's a little too derivative of Psycho, but Dressed to Kill is a consistently creepy and suspenseful thriller that's sleazy and excessive in just the right way to make it a bloody good time.
Eduardo T

Super Reviewer

March 2, 2012
On my first viewing I fell in love with it. It does sound strange to say I fell in love with it but I'm a strange person. The film was very awkward and this is probably the most awkward film to watch with your parents. Back in the 80's this stuff was less tolerable. People probably left the theater shocked and disgusted. Forget that Brian DePalma stole this from Alfred Hitcock. He didn't even steal it. It was a homage not a rip off, there's a difference. But I have to say that I enjoyed this better. Considering that it was a DePalma film it should have been even more slow paced. I loved the art museum scene and the no dialogue. I also loved the original music score, it added to the dramatic feeling. I can see why this back then would have angered real life transvestites but I don't wear skinny jeans so I'm not one. The part that I hated the most about the film was the acting. That is DePalma's weakest directorial aspect. He needs to direct his actors better. The murdering scene in the elevator was brutal and hard to watch. But I did enjoy it for some reason. The costume design was also good especially for the men. I can see why it angered feminine groups. Don't get your panties in a notch. The best part of the whole film had to be the plot twists. I would have never have suspected it. I was about to give this a low rating because of the end. At the end it drags on a little bit longer after the resolution. At first I thought they added another conflict but no it turns out to be a dream. I recommend this for hard core fans of Brian DePalma and for people with large attention spans.
Alec B

Super Reviewer

January 30, 2013
DePalma's masterfully trashy homage to "Psycho". While I understand the accusations of Transphobia, I guess I'm willing to forgive it because its all kind of a fantasy film . . . well that and its absolutely ridiculous.
Danny R

Super Reviewer

December 27, 2009
An elegant, sensual, exotic thriller that is mesmerizing for it's sheer filmmaking brilliance, Brian De Palma was at the height of his powers here with this picture which is pure visual cinema. The strange tale of a mysterious straight-razor wielding blonde transexual who has murdered Kate Miller, a sexually frustrated housewife played brilliantly by Angie Dickinson, who was the patient of a Manhattan psychiatrist Dr. Robert Elliott, played to perfection by Sir Michael Caine. A young prostitute named Liz Blake, played marvelously by Nancy Allen witnessed the bloody murder in an apartment building elevator, she also caught a glimpse of killer, and now has this psychotic out to kill her too. Dennis Franz gives a superb supporting performance as the sarcastic Detective Marino who wants to use Liz as bait to draw the killer out, so now Liz is force to join forces with Kate Miller's son Peter, played by Keith Gordon in a solid performance to discover who this mysterious blonde killer is, and if it could be a patient of Dr. Elliott. This film also benefits greatly from its voluptuous imagery, thanks to the extraordinary dream-like cinematography by the late Ralf D. Bode, and a lush and chilling score by Pino Donnaggio. Brian De Palma's masterful direction is what gives the film it's tight suspense, he draws us in with a subversive glee and we are hooked. A brilliant psychological horror film with a murderous wit. DePalma has gives us a very scary look into the dark side of eroticism. Highly Recommended.
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