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32 out of 40 people found the following review useful:

Surreal, bloody, erotically charged odyssey

8/10
Author: fertilecelluloid from Mountains of Madness
17 February 2006

When you compare what Brian De Palma was doing in the 80's to what passes for entertainment today, his films keep looking better and better. "Dressed To Kill, "Blow Out", "Body Double", "Scarface" and "Carlito's Way" are all superb works of a cinematic craftsman at the peak of his powers. The guy had a long run of better than average films. This is pure Hitchcock with an 80's dash of lurid perversion, an affectionately told tale of lust and murder with plenty of twists, huge helpings of style, a stunning Pino Donaggio score, and a trashy, giallo-inspired plot. De Palma's love of complex camera-work and luscious, blood-smudged visuals helps overcome the logical holes while the terrific performances of Dennis Franz, Keith Gordon (a good director in his own right), Nancy Allen (De Palma's wife at the time) and Michael Caine make every scene special. Let the virtuoso take you on a surreal, scary, erotically charged odyssey and you'll enjoy every frame of "Dressed To Kill".

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42 out of 62 people found the following review useful:

Stunning exercise in audience manipulation,possibly even MORE effective than it's model,Psycho

Author: DrLenera
30 March 2005

Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho may be one of the most influential movies ever-for a start it was at least partially responsible for the whole subgenre of 'slasher' movies and the shower scene has inspired more homages than you can count. Brian De Palma's thriller Dressed To Kill is basically a semi remake of Psycho,right from the structure of it's story to it's villain right down to certain specific scenes. It's also an absolutely stunning piece of audience manipulation and perhaps more importantly a cracking thriller. Watch this film knowing about the Psycho element and as long as you don't mind some graphic sex and violence you should have a whale of a time. In fact,to a modern audience it may very well be more effective than Psycho {and this is coming from a big Hitckcock fan}.

De Palma's intentions are apparent right from the beginning,which shows a naked woman, played by Angie Dickinson 'enjoying herself' in a shower,with huge close ups of her breasts {not Angie Dickinson's though}. A man suddenly surprises and assaults her. Than we cut to Angie and her husband having loveless sex on a bed. This whole opening sequence has it all-the Psycho reference,the slight twisting of that reference,the dreamy eroticism,the sudden shock,the surprise. It shows De Palma,more than anything else,playing with his audience,manipulating them like puppets on strings. Yes,like Hitckcock,but sometimes going further. Basically,if you like this opening sequence,you will enjoy the rest of the film.

While there definitely IS a plot {quite a familiar one,but you should know this by now},it is Dressed To Kill's set pieces that stand out,that show De Palma's brilliance. There's a dreamlike and subtly erotic sequence in an art gallery where Dickinson is picked up by a stranger,an incredible murder in a lift which is shocking without showing THAT much blood,a thrilling chase in an underground train station where the heroine is pursued not just by the killer but for a while by a gang of youths,a very scary ending about which I won't go into {except that it features another shower scene!}but where the tension is ramped up to an incredible degree. Here,De Palma is BETTER than Hitchcock.

Although the best scenes are those without dialogue,where De Palma just lets Pino Donnaggio's lush,darkly beautiful score take over the sound,there is quite a bit of fun to be had in the often deliberately humorous dialogue,and the really rather cute relationship between nerdy Keith Gordon and tough as nails Nancy Allen,who make a great team. The identity of the killer is not exactly hard to spot,perhaps more work could have been done here,but going by the cheeky attitude of the film in general this may have been intentional.

When Dressed To Kill originally came out it was heavily criticised for being misogynist,especially with the first third of the film {just in case you HAVEN'T seen Psycho,I won't go into detail}. I've always believed that this part of the film is about the possible dangers of indulging one's fantasies. De Palma is NOT a misogynist anyway really,think of the many memorable heroines of his films. Even if you disagree, see Dressed to Kill to see an oft criticised but occasionally brilliant director at the height of his powers.

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53 out of 84 people found the following review useful:

Worth viewing, but it hasn't aged well

7/10
Author: Brandt Sponseller from New York City
21 February 2005

Kate Miller (Angie Dickinson) is having problems in her marriage and otherwise--enough to see a psychologist. When her promiscuity gets her into trouble, it also involves a bystander, Liz Blake (Nancy Allen), who becomes wrapped up in an investigation to discover the identity of a psycho killer.

Dressed to Kill is somewhat important historically. It is one of the earlier examples of a contemporary style of thriller that as of this writing has extensions all the way through Hide and Seek (2005). It's odd then that director Brian De Palma was basically trying to crib Hitchcock. For example, De Palma literally lifts parts of Vertigo (1958) for Dressed to Kill's infamous museum scene. Dressed to Kill's shower scenes, as well as its villain and method of death have similarities to Psycho (1960). De Palma also employs a prominent score with recurrent motifs in the style of Hitchcock's favorite composer Bernard Herrmann. The similarities do not end there.

But De Palma, whether by accident or skill, manages to make an oblique turn from, or perhaps transcend, his influence, with Dressed to Kill having an attitude, structure and flow that has been influential. Maybe partially because of this influence, Dressed to Kill is also deeply flawed when viewed at this point in time. Countless subsequent directors have taken their Hitchcock-like De Palma and honed it, improving nearly every element, so that watched now, after 25 years' worth of influenced thrillers, much of Dressed to Kill seems agonizingly paced, structurally clunky and plot-wise inept.

One aspect of the film that unfortunately hasn't been improved is Dressed to Kill's sex and nudity scenes. Both Dickinson and Allen treat us to full frontal nudity (Allen's being from a very skewed angle), and De Palma has lingering shots of Dickinson's breasts, strongly implicit masturbation, and more visceral sex scenes than are usually found in contemporary films. Quite a few scenes approach soft-core porn. I'm no fan of prudishness--quite the opposite. Our culture's puritanical, monogamistic, sheltered attitude towards sex and nudity is disturbing to me. So from my perspective, it's lamentable that Dressed to Kill's emphasis on flesh and its pleasures is one of the few aspects in which others have not strongly followed suit or trumped the film. Perhaps it has been desired, but they have not been allowed to follow suit because of cultural controls from conservative stuffed shirts.

De Palma's direction of cinematography and the staging of some scenes are also good enough that it is difficult to do something in the same style better than De Palma does it. He has an odd, characteristic approach to close-ups, and he's fond of shots from interesting angles, such as overhead views and James Whale-like tracking across distant cutaways in the sets. Of course later directors have been flashier, but it's difficult to say that they've been better. Viewed for film-making prowess, at least, the museum scene is remarkable in its ability to build very subtle tension over a dropped glove and a glance or two while following Kate through the intricately nested cubes of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

On the other hand, from a point of view caring about the story, and especially if one is expecting to watch a thriller, everything through the museum scene and slightly beyond might seem too slow and silly. Because of its removal from the main genre of the film and its primary concern with directorial panache (as well as cultural facts external to the film), the opening seems like a not very well integrated attempt to titillate and be risqué. Once the first murder occurs, things improve, but because of the film's eventual influence, much of the improvement now seems a bit clichéd and occasionally hokey.

The performances are mostly good, although Michael Caine is underused, and Dickinson has to exit sooner than we'd like (but the exit is necessary and very effective). Dressed to Kill is at least likely to hold your interest until the end, but because of facts not contained in the picture itself, hasn't exactly aged well. At this point it is perhaps best to watch the film primarily as a historical relic and as an example--but not the best, even for that era--of some of De Palma's directorial flair.

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44 out of 68 people found the following review useful:

Sleazy, Predictable But Very Entertaining

7/10
Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
31 October 2005

A great suspense movie with terrific slow camera-work adding to the dramatics makes this a treat to watch and enjoy. Director-writer Brian de Palma does a super Hitchcock-imitation (many called it a "ripoff") with this film and the 2.35:1 widescreen DVD is a must to fully appreciate the camera-work (and several scenes with people hiding on each side which are lost on formatted-for-TV tapes).

The downside of the movie, at least to anyone that has some kind of moral standard, is the general sleaziness of all the characters, including the policeman played by a pre-NYPD Dennis Franz (who has hair here!).

The opening scene is still shocking with a fairly long shower scene of Angie Dickinson that is quite explicit, even 25 years after its release. The film has several erotic scenes in it as Dickinson (if that is really her on the closeups) and Nancy Allen are not shy about showing their bodies.

There is not much dialog in the first 20 minutes and no bad language until Franz enters the picture after the murder. The first 36 minutes are riveting and even though it's apparent who the killer is, it's still very good suspense and fun to watch all the way through, particularly for males ogling the naked women.

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28 out of 45 people found the following review useful:

One of the Best

10/10
Author: johnm_001 from USA
13 October 2000

"Dressed To Kill", is one of the best thrillers ever made. Its dealings with sex and violence make this a film for adults. Brian De Palma, once again, proves why no other director can match his use of the camera to tell a story. He directs many scenes without dialog, and he tells much of his story, strictly through the use of his visuals, and Pino Donnagio's brilliant score. Filmed in Panavision, the film MUST be seen in widescreen, as De Palma uses the entire width of the film to tell his story. Cropped, on video, "Dressed To Kill", is barely the same movie. Solid performances from its cast, superb direction, and, perhaps, the finest film score ever written, make "Dressed To Kill" a must see.

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10 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

De Palma's best known, but not best Hitchcock homage. Style triumphs over substance but it's still good fun.

Author: Infofreak from Perth, Australia
20 January 2003

'Dressed To Kill' was Brian De Palma's third Hitchcockian thriller, and his most successful. I don't necessarily mean artistically successful, but it still remains one of his best known movies, and is the one on which his reputation as "that Hitchcock" guy mainly rests on. De Palma has made all kinds of movies in his long career but it says a lot for the impact 'Dressed To Kill' had on audiences for him to be stereotyped like that by many movie lovers. In 'Sisters' De Palma paid tribute to 'Rear Window', in his underrated 'Obsession' it was 'Vertigo', and this time around 'Psycho' is the major inspiration. Some critics of De Palma complain he is more interested in style over substance, and in 'Dressed To Kill' there is some truth in that. You will probably guess the murderer after the first 20-25 minutes, then think to yourself "no, that's just a red herring and there will be an unexpected twist later on". You might then be a bit let down when the your initial guess turns out to be correct after all, but there are enough thrills and dazzling sequences throughout to keep most thriller fans happy. Michael Caine and Angie Dickinson are both pretty good in their respective roles, but Nancy Allen ('RoboCop') gives the real outstanding performance in the picture. De Palma would subsequently give her another good role in 'Blow Out' opposite John Travolta. Also strong are Keith Gordon (who went on to star in John Carpenter's 'Christine') and Dennis Franz ('NYPD Blue') in supporting roles. Personally I don't think 'Dressed To Kill' is as good as 'Sisters', but I still think it's first rate exploitation thriller and definitely worth watching. Not De Palma's most interesting movie by a long shot, but still one of his most watchable.

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12 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Designer knockoff...

3/10
Author: Merwyn Grote (majikstl@aol.com) from St. Louis, Missouri
8 March 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It is difficult to know just how to judge Brian DePalma's films. He is undeniably talented, and is capable of creating masterful works of kitschy dark humor like CARRIE and THE PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, elegantly stylized suspense thrillers like OBSESSION and slick colorful popcorn epics like THE FURY and THE UNTOUCHABLES. Yet, much of his filmography is dominated by cheesy trash, marked by sloppy plotting, self-consciously showy set pieces and sometimes embarrassingly awkward drama. Often, too often, he focuses his attention on one or two sequences on which he can sate his penchant for flamboyant camera stunts and the rest of the film is slapped together with narratives and scenes that are as rickety as a rope suspension bridge from an old jungle movie.

His tendency to plagiarize, er, uh ... pay homage to Alfred Hitchcock is well known, but he is not all that discriminating in his thefts. He steals the set up for DRESSED TO KILL from Hitchcock's PSYCHO, imitates a bit of VERTIGO and even shoplifts from FAMILY PLOT, but the bulk of the film has no great respect for the master's work. It is like stealing the crown jewels to use the gems as trinkets on a dime store charm bracelet. The bits and pieces of Hitchcock that DePalma flashes on screen are meant to be nothing more than little trophies.

Like PSYCHO, the film is a two-part story; part one being a personal drama about a woman in emotional turmoil and the second half a thriller. But one of the reasons DRESSED TO KILL doesn't work is that DePalma doesn't seem to get what makes PSYCHO great and he totally fumbles act one. In PSYCHO, Hitchcock carefully structured the Janet Leigh story to be a compelling, self contained drama, separate, yet firmly connected to the Anthony Perkins thriller that followed. DRESSED TO KILL gives us this long and ultimately pointless shaggy dog act one involving Angie Dickinson as Kate Miller, a desperate housewife looking for some hot sex in the afternoon. DePalma has never shown any intrinsic gifts for comedy, yet he repeatedly goes for ill-considered humor to no real effect. When Kate serves up a smirky sexual innuendo to her teenage son, you can't help but cringe. Her discovery that she might have been exposed to a venereal disease seems aimed at getting a tasteless laugh, Even her lurid masochistic sex dream comes with a punchline.

The film treats Kate like a pathetic joke and introduces her to one humiliation after another, before disposing of her and her story entirely. Unlike Leigh's Marion Crane, Dickinson's Kate Miller is pitiable, but not very sympathetic. Despite a nice performance by Dickinson, her character is nothing more than a trivial plot device. Yet, this disposable beginning is the best thing about DRESSED TO KILL. Though it is treated with all the subtlety of second-rate soft-core porn, this part of the film at least provides some guilty pleasure sleaziness to it. When the film gets to its slasher movie core, DePalma clumsily stitches together a lame series of sequences involving a cross-dressing killer, improbable coincidences and a vaguely homophobic plot littered with treacherously illogical holes and punctuated with embarrassingly bad dialogue. And the less said the better about the almost comatose performance by Michael Caine as a compromised psychiatrist and the creepy work of Dennis Franz in what would be the first of many stereotyping roles as a vulgar, unpleasant police detective.

When the film came out in 1980, it was greeted with mixed reviews, though a good number of top critics embraced it on purely stylistic grounds. And on one viewing, without much time for thought, the film moves along nicely if improbably from one contrived moment to the next. But great, or even good thrillers should be able to endure repeated viewings; knowing all a film's secrets should not lessen the enjoyment of watching it more than once. Indeed, the more a film like PSYCHO reveals about itself the more there is for the viewer to enjoy. But the striptease that DRESSED TO KILL does over repeated viewings only prompts the viewer to see that the pseudo-sophisticated style DePalma drapes over his tale is only meant to hide an already lifeless mannequin.

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13 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

A Bad Hitchcock rip off

4/10
Author: erwan_ticheler from Amsterdam, Holland
17 July 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

Brian de Palma is a director who made very good movies like THE UNTOUCHABLES and CARRIE,but DRESSED TO KILL has got none of the tension and good acting of those films.

The film is a remake of Hitchcock's classic PSYCHO but it also has copied scenes of VERTIGO and,very strangely,CARRIE.The acting is not good,not even Michael Caine gives a good performance.

The movie starts like a cheap erotic flick and goes on like one.Fans of De Palma will probably say that this is good but I think that it perverts Hitchcock's work,in which the sexual references were much more subtle and therefore,in the end,much better worked out. The museum scene is overlong and a definite copy of the scenes with Kim Novak in VERTIGO.The killing of Angie Dickinson is a copy of the shower scene in PSYCHO as is Dickinson's character(a woman who is prominent in every scene until she gets murdered half way).The scene in which Caine's motives are explained is literally a copy of the final scene in PSYCHO.The final scene is a copy of De Palma's own movie CARRIE,why did he do that,you ask.

The tricks,that are numerous in the film,are not necessary.They are just to show of.

No,this isn't a good film. 4/10

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19 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

prime form, trite contents

7/10
Author: dbdumonteil
31 October 2006

In France, it's considered polite from French critics to genuflect to the apparently cohesive chain of films Brian De Palma left behind him. However, a good proportion of his films are marred by bombastic effects "Carrie" (1976), "the Fury" (1978) "Scarface" (1983) without mentioning his borrowings from Hitchcock. Here, in "Dressed to Kill", it's impossible not to think of "Vertigo" (1958) for the long sequence in the museum while the key moment in the lift makes inevitably think of the shower anthology sequence in "Psycho" (1960). About our involved film, I don't want to revive the old debate: does De Palma rip off Hitchcock? Instead, i would tend to be generous and to classify "Dressed to Kill" in the category of De Palma's winners alongside "Sisters" (1973) and "Obssession" (1976). With however some reservations and they're the ones I previously enumerated which fuel the bickering between De Palma's rabid fans and his detractors.

If there's one sure thing in "Dressed to Kill" which can generate general agreement among film-lovers, it's De Palma's virtuosity in directing. He wields his camera just like a filmmaker expert is supposed to do. His sophisticated camera work brilliantly fuels the suspense which entails a rise of the tension and a discomforting aura. The audience is easily glued in front of the screen. This is helped by the use of several long silent sequences during which everything depends on looks and gestures. By the way, in "Psycho", there were also long silent, suspenseful parts...

But the main drawback in De Palma's 1980 vintage is that the quality of the plot can't be found wanting and appears to be a rehash of many formulaic, corny ingredients pertaining to an incalculable number of murder stories. The prostitute is the sole witness of the crime. Then, she's suspected by the police and has to act on her own (with a little help from the victim's son from the scene in the subway onwards)) to track down the murderer and to prove her innocence. Apart from the fact that De Palma uses a type of character who for once isn't demeaned at all, it's a menu which smells the reheated. And the filmmaker ends his film on a sequence that echoes to the opening one. Yes, it's superbly filmed but when one discovers its real function, one figures: "it's almost gratuitous filler". Perhaps De Palma wanted to stretch his film beyond one hour and a half when at this time the viewer knows (and even before) who the killer is.

The two central mainsprings in De Palma's set of themes articulate hinges on manipulation and voyeurism. The latter theme is well present in "Dressed to Kill" from the first scene onwards which makes the film almost look like a soft porn movie. And the filmmaker isn't afraid to film his main actress and wife Nancy Allen in her underwear. I find his approach about this theme rather doubtful. But maybe the first sequence was conceived to be a mirror of the viewer and De Palma wanted to stir his peeping tom side.

I don't want to demean at all De Palma's work. His prestigious work in directing which entails a communicative treat to film redeems the global weakness of the story and its doubtful aspects. Twenty six years after, the controversy he aroused amid movie-goers isn't ready to subside.

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22 out of 39 people found the following review useful:

It's a rip-off, but a stylish and mostly enjoyable one.

Author: Li-1
25 July 2003

** 1/2 out of ****

Director Brian De Palma has never helmed a truly original film his entire career, but let's face it, he's just as good as anybody else when it comes to crafting palpable suspense, and it's this talent of his that makes his more blatant rip-offs immensely watchable. Dressed to Kill is one such example. Taking a few cues from Alfred Hitchcock, it's an erotic thriller that (mostly) emphasizes character and suspense over sleaze.

Angie Dickinson stars as Kate Miller, a sexually dissatisfied wife (though quite loving mother) who needs some things to spice up her personal life. She relates her problems to her psychiatrist, Dr. Robert Elliot (Michael Caine), to the point of almost prodding him to sleep with her, but he refuses. On a random day in an art museum, she encounters a mysterious man with whom she plays a little game of cat-and-mouse. Following him to a cab, they enage in a tryst inside the taxi, all the way to his apartment, where they proceed to go at it for several more hours. Then as she awakens to leave, she finds out through a little note by the health department he's got STD's! In a panicked state, she runs to the elevator, but is brutally murdered by a tall, blonde woman brandishing a razor blade. The rest of the film focuses on Miller's son, Peter (Keith Gordon), who teams up with a gold-hearted prostitute (Nancy Allen) to find his mother's killer.

Dressed to Kill doesn't get off to the best start. For the first half-hour, the sexual frustrations of this middle-aged woman are less than captivating, and until the elevator scene, this is a snoozer. But the remaining 2/3's or so of the picture is often first-rate entertainment, delivering an abundance of suspenseful moments and shocking violence.

The film improves drastically when it focuses on the relationship between Gordon and Allen. Both deliver good performances, and there's a non-sexual chemistry between them that works superbly. Too bad De Palma doesn't really focus on this interesting couple until the last half-hour.

The last five minutes are among the film's most suspenseful (and you get to see Allen naked!), though I think we're all in a little agreement when we say that the final shock is a bit gratuitous. Also excessive is the film's resemblance to a certain Hitchcock film. Even without that resemblance, though, Dressed to Kill would still have been predictable. I mean, come on, I knew the identity of the killer in a heartbeart. You'll figure it out just as fast, too.

Pino Dinaggio's score is chilling and among his better works. De Palma graces the screen with his usual camera work, there are a lot of uninterrupted shots and split-screens. A lot of people see Dressed to Kill as a "have safe sex" message, which I could kind of agree with, even though Dickinson's character would still have been offed in a horrible manner even without that tryst.

The first of De Palma's two erotic thrillers, Dressed to Kill happens to be the weaker of the two. Yeah, it's often suspenseful and entertaining, but Body Double stands out more, with better pacing, suspense, and direction. My advice, take a look at both and decide for yourself.

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