Dressed to Kill (Unrated)

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The thriller genre has a long-established history of keeping audiences on their toes and delivering some well-timed scares. Intelligent mysteries, tight writing and expert acting are just some of the many elements that make up a quality thriller. 1980’sDressed to Kill is one of these finely tuned suspense films and now the unrated version of the film is out on Blu-ray so you better think twice about hopping in that cab with that attractive stranger.

Kate Miller (Angie Dickinson) is a lonely middle-aged housewife with strong sexual desires. The beginning of the film has her fantasizing about a steamy shower scenario followed by a lame real-life lovemaking session with her boring husband. Kate sees a psychiatrist, Dr. Robert Elliot (Michael Caine) to help her deal with her less-than-perfect existence. One day, Kate is spending the afternoon at an art museum and exchanges flirtatious stares with a mysterious gentleman. A passionate love affair eventually takes place at the man’s apartment followed by a grisly murder in the elevator. The rest of the film has the police investigating the killing, as well as the crime’s only witness and prime suspect, a sassy prostitute named Liz Blake (Nancy Allen) and the victim’s vengeful teenage son, Peter (Keith Gordon) who soon become the killer’s next targets.

Dressed to Kill is a taut and tense thriller that will definitely make you jump at times and keep you guessing all throughout. We follow Liz as she gets deeper and deeper into the mystery trying to clear her name while at the same time, trying not to get killed. The police investigation is led by a buffoon of a detective by the name of Marino (Dennis Franz) and the events of the plot will certainly maintain your interest until the end credits roll.

Writer/director Brian De Palma (ScarfaceThe UntouchablesCarrie) has an uncanny ability of making an audience feel absolute dread while at the same time, allowing the audience to sympathize with certain characters. Liz is being hunted throughout most of the film and every chase scene with her is filled to the brim with raw excitement. Aside from the fact that she pleasures men for money, she really isn’t a bad person. The audience is right there with her in her fight for survival.

The camerawork and lighting definitely set the mood for a nail-biting and edge-of-your-seat cinematic experience. De Palma’s style echoes that of the late great master of suspense Mr. Alfred Hitchcock. There is no doubt about it. From terrifying shower scenes to creepy and ominous music, Dressed to Kill could have easily been directed by Hitch. This film is basically a love letter to Hitch signed by De Palma.

The acting in this movie is alright; not great and not terrible. Angie Dickinson (Rio Bravo) and Nancy Allen (RoboCop) show an interesting combination of fear and strength in their performances. Oscar-winner Michael Caine (Hannah and Her Sisters) is undeniably the best actor in this film. He brings a certain charm and a touch of class to the proceedings. It’s unfortunate that he didn’t get more screen time. 

After more than three decades, DePalma’s Dressed to Kill is a perfect example of a film that has stood the test of time. The 80s were a great time for horror and thriller films. Gender roles became more ambiguous and women were seen as strong and independent. Angie Dickinson and Nancy Allen both display significant dominance in their respective roles and this is especially interesting because in the film, there is a back story concerning transgender people. If you want to get involved in an intriguing mystery that will give you a couple of jolts along the way, then Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill is the perfect movie for you.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

The bonus features for Dressed to Kill are truly killer. There is a making-of documentary which includes interviews with Brian De Palma, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen, Dennis Franz and more. There is an unrated, R-rated and TV-rated comparison featurette, a Slashing Dressed to Kill featurette and An Appreciation by Keith Gordon featurette. There is an animated photo gallery and lastly, a theatrical trailer for the film.

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