Dressed to Kill (1980)

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The Latest Fashion In Murder

Written and directed by .

AKA

France: Pulsions

Starts with a woman called Kate Miller (Angie Dickinson) knocking one out in the shower while fantasising about being raped by a stranger. She’s in therapy with psychiatrist Doctor Robert Elliott (Michael Caine) and at her next session she bemoans her husband’s lack of sexual prowess before hitting on Elliot who turns her down. She then goes to the Metropolitan Museum where her and a mysterious stanger, Warren Lockman (Ken Baker), flirt with each other. They end up getting a taxi to his place, Kate leaves her knickers in the cab, where they bump uglies. Later on, Kate wakes up and slopes off out of the apartment but not before snooping around and finding out lover boy has a venereal disease.

She gets in the lift and then realises she’s left her wedding ring in lover boy’s apartment so she has to go back. When’s she’s exiting the lift, a woman in sunglasses gets in and attacks her with a straight razor. A prostitute, Liz Blake (Nancy Allen), waiting for the lift comes across the slashed-up Kate; Liz also gets a glimpse of the killer and picks up the straight razor that the killer has dropped.

Doctor Elliott gets a phonecall from a transgender patient called Bobbi admitting the murder. He goes to the police station where he meets Kate’s son Peter (Keith Gordon). When Elliott goes in to see Detective Marino (Dennis Franz) Peter listens in to the conversation with his own homemade listening device. Detective Marino interviews Liz next telling her she’s a suspect. Peter continues to investigate and records patients leaving Elliott’s office with a time-lapse camera.

Bobbi is contacting Elliott and threatening to kill Liz.

A superb Brian De Palma film which I first saw as a kid. It’s a masterclass of a thriller. The cast is perfection; giants Michael Caine and Angie Dickinson aside, we also have Nancy Allen, Keith Gordon and Dennis Franz to enjoy so we’re literally spoilt by acting talent; I love the relationship between Nancy Allen and Keith Gordon and Dennis Franz is always great. Caine is Caine; when is Caine not sublime? Beautifully written, shot and directed, with a story that, even when you’ve seen the film many times as I have, never gets old. The music by Pino Donaggio is sublime, reminded me very much of the soundtrack of Carrie (1976) in its beauty. De Palma crafts long sequences without dialogue where you just feel like you’re safe in the hands of a master, Angie Dickinson at the Metropolitan Museum for example, and I was reminded that there is so much more to great filmmaking when the director is more than a corporate arse on a leather chair, void of any artistic merit, with dollar signs for pupils; like the wonderful Dario Argento, De Palma is so much more, an artist in the truest sense of the word.

We had many good directors – John Carpenter, Brian De Palma – but things have become polluted by business, money and bad relationships. The success of the horror genre has led to its downfall.

Dario Argento

I remember it was pretty contoversial years ago on video, because it’s an erotic thriller with swear words probably; I remember the ‘legs’ on the box staring at me from many a video shop shelf. However, I wasn’t allowed to watch it at first, I was pretty young, but let’s just say I was pretty determined; my parents often rented out the same tapes and I got to see it eventually when they were out one day. I’ve seen it numerous times since. Now, I own the Arrow version on Blu-ray and it is a joy to behold.

Also stars Robbie L. McDermott as Man in Shower, Fred Weber as Mike Miller, William Finley as Bobbi (voice), Sean O’Rinn as Museum Cabbie, Bill Randolph as Chase Cabbie, Samm-Art Williams as Subway Cop, David Margulies as Dr. Levy and Susanna Clemm as Betty Luce.

Other Brian De Palma classics:

Sisters (1973)

Obsession (1976)

Carrie (1976)

The Fury (1978)

Blow Out (1981)

Raising Cain (1992)

DressedtoKill(1)

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