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Dressed to Kill
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by Jack Sommersby

"Less Filling but Looks Great"
3 stars

Not the director's best but an interesting curio.

Angie Dickinson's frustrated Manhattan housewife Kate Miller has the ultimate bad New York day in Brian De Palma's ludicrous/luxurious Dressed to Kill. Her morning starts out with being on the receiving end of one of her lousy-in-bed husband's "wham-bang specials," then a nonproductive session with her psychiatrist Dr. Robert Elliott (Michael Caine) who gives rather lackluster marital advice, then atypically allows herself to be picked up by a handsome-looking gentleman at the Metropolitan Museum of Art resulting in sex in both a taxi and later at the man's apartment, after which she discovers in his desk a report from the city health department he's infected with a venereal disease, and trying to get of the building as quickly as she possibly can she's slashed to death by a blonde-haired, sunglass-wearing, overcoat-clad woman wielding a straight razor, which is partially witnessed by high-class call girl Liz Blake (Nancy Allen) who just got through seeing a john in the building. Obviously De Palma, who wrote and directed, and a feverish admirer (some would say, imitator) of Alfred Hitchcock, is playing the same trick Hitchcock did in Psycho in having the second-billed Dickinson unexpectedly knocked off by the thirty-minute mark; and while the negligibly scripted Dressed to Kill isn't nearly in the same league as that Hitchcock masterpiece, it can be quite enjoyable if you're in the right mood for something that's equal parts suspense and black comedy. (Also, you need to seriously check your brain at the door so as to ignore oodles of logic loopholes, chiefly the killer somehow knowing Kate has left her wedding ring in that apartment and has to go back up to the seventh floor where the killer is conveniently waiting when the elevator door opens.) The movie is a classic example of style over substance, but that's kinda okay because De Palma, with his seductively gliding camera and canny split-screen compositions (with the villain definitely psychologically split) is a technical virtuoso adorned with a wicked sense of humor. Some have complained the whodunit angle is fudged because the identity of the culprit is fairly obvious, but they're missing the point: since the conscious side of the multi-personality killer isn't aware of his or her subconscious side, it's fun watching the visual clues De Palma affords us, like in the sly use of mirrors throughout; De Palma wants us in on the joke, all right, so serious mystery fans with little imagination would be advised to look elsewhere. Still, Dressed to Kill, clocking in at an hour and forty-four minutes, is fairly long and somewhat protracted for a single extended joke, and it lacks the nastily perverse kick of his intentionally crude 1972 Sisters where a deranged personality also figured into things. The movie is more a conceptual exercise than anything else, but, with first-rate performances (Keith Gordon's bereaved son Peter is particularly fine) and stalwart work behind the camera (Jerry Greenberg's acute editing couldn't possibly be bettered), it's the kind that jumpstarts your senses and tickles you pink at the same time - there isn't a single frame that hasn't been knowingly designed to elicit a pleasurable response. Can I heartily recommend it? No. Overall, De Palma keeps things too loose when he would've been better off rounding off the corners and tightening the screws, and he cheats with unctuous dream sequences with little regard as to how dreams actually work (people simply don't have them from another person's point-of-view and then to theirs all of a sudden), but as a guilty pleasure Dressed to Kill admirably succeeds on a purely superficial level. The damn thing is helplessly titillating from start to finish.

The Blu-Ray by the Criterion Collection should leave die-hard fans absolutely ecstatic.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=33790&reviewer=327
originally posted: 09/27/20 18:14:30
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USA
  25-Jul-1980 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A


Directed by
  Brian De Palma

Written by
  Brian De Palma

Cast
  Michael Caine
  Angie Dickinson
  Nancy Allen
  Keith Gordon
  Dennis Franz



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