Dressed to Kill (1980)

dressed-to-kill-poster-review
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 9/10

Nice directing, Angie Dickenson

Nancy Allen, weak story

 
Movie Info

Movie Name:  Dressed to Kill

Studio:  Cinema 77/Film Group

Genre(s):  Mystery/Suspense/Horror/Drama

Release Date(s):  July 25, 1980

MPAA Rating:  R

dressed-to-kill-shower

I hate it when this happens

Kate Miller (Angie Dickinson) is bored with her life. She fantasizes about sex and her husband generally isn’t part of that fantasy. When her son Peter (Keith Gordon) is unable to go with her to the art museum, she meets a man for an unplanned afternoon of sex. Heading home, the unthinkable happens, and now Kate’s son and a young prostitute named Liz Blake (Nancy Allen) are looking for answers and Kate’s psychiatrist Dr. Robert Elliott (Michael Caine) might hold the answers. Finding the truth could lead to death.

Directed by Brian De Palma, Dressed to Kill was met with mixed reviews but has since become a classic. Angie Dickinson was praised for her short turn as Kate Miller but De Palma, Nancy Allen, and Michael Caine all received Razzie nominations for the film. The film also received some controversy for using body doubles for the nude scenes since many viewers were led to believe they were going to see then popular Angie Dickinson nude.  This controversy led De Palma to make Body Double in 1984.

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Detective Sipowicz…the Early Years

I can’t imagine why anyone would give De Palma a Razzie for Dressed to Kill because he is what makes the movie work. It feels like a very Hitchcock movie (in fact it borrows heavily from Psycho both in story outline and plot themes). The whole sequence in the museum is masterful. I love the picture in picture, the long period lacking dialogue and the visuals it inspires. The rest of the movie doesn’t quite live up to the whole thirty minute opening sequence, but it still is entertaining.

I admit that Nancy Allen is quite awful as Liz. She delivers her lines like some cardboard cutout. It is laughably bad which makes it strange that the Golden Globes tapped her as an up-and-coming star for that movie (despite already appearing in a major role in Carrie). Michael Caine also is pretty cheesy in the movie but both Angie Dickinson and Keith Gordon are great.  The movie also features an early appearance by Dennis Franz as Detective Marino.

The movie also stirred up controversy over their portrayal over transsexuals. De Palma had wanted to make Cruising (which also received criticism) and kept some of the story aspects. The movie kind of trivializes the whole idea and uses it as a source to just propel the story. Unlike Psycho, the movie doesn’t do as good of job establishing the ideas it presents (besides a brief Phil Donahue clip).

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Don’t kill me because I can’t act

De Palma found the successful shock ending of Carrie so good that he put it in Dressed to Kill (the movie also opens with a shower scene like Carrie to bookend the movie and give it a similar feel). It isn’t as successful here and seems a bit wasted especially since they did it at the bathroom scare at the beginning also. After the big ending, there is a tacked on fifteen minutes that could have been used in the original story portion for more development.  I am amazed that the very end is almost virtually the same shot as Carrie’s end (this time Allen gets the scare).

I am the first to admit that Dressed to Kill has problems, but the movie overall is entertaining. It has a lot of nudity and is considered a sexual thriller. The story does have some jumps and scares and is a great surprise slasher flick. If you’ve never seen it, check out Dressed to Kill.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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