DRESSED TO KILL (1980) – Review


The doctor is in.

Dressed To Kill (1980) is an 80’s mystery/thriller, written and directed by Brian De Palma. The film stars Angie Dickinson (Police Woman, Pay It Forward), Michael Caine (Children of Men, Batman: The Dark Knight; Batman Begins), Nancy Allen (Carrie (1976), Robocop (1987)), Keith Gordon (Christine (1983), Dexter TV Series), and Dennis Franz (NYPD Blue 1993-2005 TV Series) in a classic, psychological crime thriller where a strange, tall woman wearing sunglasses murders a sexually repressed housewife, and is now after the prostitute who witnessed the murder.

Poor Kate (Dickinson), a sexually repressed housewife who fantasizes in the shower about making love to her husband while he shaves. Her glances are overly sensual, as she sensually massages a bar of soap over her delicate curves. Which may have been enough of a trigger to cause her husband to go in with her and privy viewers to an intense “love making” scene that leads to the bedroom, where Kate vocalizes her pleasures in an extreme manner as I watched her husband chaotic pelvic thrusts from beneath the sheets. As much as it is excitingly depicted–Kate does not gain any pleasure from her husbands’ romp. Therefore, she visits her psychiatrist to tell him about it. Dr. Robert Elliott (Caine), in his reserved and professional profile, listens as Kate describes her dissatisfaction with her husband “performance” in the bedroom. He insists that she tell him of her disappointments, and somehow the conversation turns into “do you find me attractive, doctor” and to this, of course, he says yes. However, unbeknownst to Kate, Dr. Elliott has a seedy side to his professional profile. Something himself must deal with on a daily basis.

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Eventually, Kate’s dissatisfaction leads her to a random encounter with a man–who takes her on a steamy taxicab ride–and eventually to an affair in a hotel. However, De Palma inserts a warning to women viewers subliminally by allowing Kate to find a medical record on the desk of the hotel informing her more or less that she has possibly contracted a venereal disease. Distraught, she bolts to the elevator–leaving her wedding ring behind. Of course, she has to retrieve her ring–alas, the tall, blonde woman in dark sunglasses will not allow for it. She brandishes her razor, and in intense–methodical fashion, proceeds to slash our sexually deprived housewife, to pieces. It would have been a perfect crime too if that annoying prostitute Liz (Allen) did not catch our blonde slasher in the act.

Liz had just been discussing with her “John” about an exciting new stock option when she witnessed a bloodied Kate sprawled on the floor of the hotel elevator and has now made the list of the blonde slasher. With the help of Kate’s son, Peter (Gordon), they find out that the murderer was connected to Dr. Elliott somehow. After several turn of events, they both find out a shocking connection to the blonde slasher and Dr. Robert Elliott.

De Palma’s Dressed to Kill is essentially about an individual with a split personality–a transvestite–who becomes vengeful whenever any woman sexually arouses the “man” side of her. De Palma’s delicate and carefully constructed thriller set viewers up to reflect on our on the interplay between what is morally equated with sex; and random sexual encounters–plays on our sexual foibles and the insatiable mannerisms we try to manage–give in to temptation, and suffer the consequences of it. I think that there is a lesson in this film somewhere, lest any of us wind up like poor Kate did in the movie.

Needless to say, Dressed To Kill also offered a few stereotypes; the neglected housewife, how the black men were portrayed as potential rapists; and how a woman can use her sexuality to get what she wants; or transvestites struggling with problems of their sexuality. In defense of all this–the film was made in the eighties, and “political correctness” maybe wasn’t emphasized back then as it is today in movies…or is it?

Brian De Palma invites you to a showing of the latest fashion…in murder. 

Dressed to Kill presents in a 1080/AVC-encoded transfer and it is consistent in its display and there is hardly noticeable grain or snow aspects to any portion of the film. I watched on a 50-inch plasma screen and it presented  impressively well. The audio is an immersion as well, you can hear the clicks of Kate’s heels as she descended the stairs from the museum and especially when she was “engaged” in her sexual encounters, the sound did not deviate–if anything it was just as the visuals, crisp, in the re-engineered DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. Overall, good transfer and viewers would be pleased to see Dressed to Kill (1980) once more.

  • Editor Rating

  • Rated 4 stars
  • Excellent

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  • Published on:
  • Last modified: 2016-08-07

Review Summary:

A 1980 psychological crime thriller where a strange, tall woman, wearing sunglasses murders a sexually repressed housewife and is now after the prostitute who witnessed the murder.

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