Dressed to Kill (1980)

Article 2456 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-23-2007
Posting Date: 5-3-2008
Directed by Brian De Palma
Featuring Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen
Country: USA

A housewife gets picked up by another man, and is then murdered in the elevator while leaving his apartment building. The housewife’s son and the hooker who witnessed the killing combine forces to find the killer.

In a sense, it’s really unfair to compare De Palma’s movies to Hitchcock’s, but De Palma seems to demand it. So let me say this; I’ve seen PSYCHO several times, and I thoroughly enjoy it each time, whereas this is the second time I’ve seen DRESSED TO KILL, and I care for it less than I did the first time. But then, I’ve never warmed up to De Palma; when Hitchcock gets stylistic, he does so with a natural sense that doesn’t detract from the movie as a whole, whereas De Palma’s forays into style often leave me with the sense of someone showing off. Which is not to say that it doesn’t often work; the sequence that begins in the art museum and ends in the elevator works brilliantly, and I admire how not a word is uttered during long chunks of this. But the stylistic trappings of the rest of the movie leave me cold. The split-screen sequence here is nowhere near as effective as the one in SISTERS, and when he goes into stylistic overdrive during the last ten minutes of the movie (after the story is ostensibly over), you know what he’s up to (especially if you’ve seen CARRIE), and you know it’s going on far too long. Borrowings from PSYCHO include a lead actress vanishing early in the story and the presence of two (count ’em, two) shower sequences, two initially minor characters teaming up for an investigation in the second half of the movie, and a lengthy explanation of the murderer’s particular form of madness. Still, he does have a shrewd ear for music; Pino Donaggio’s score adds a lot to the proceedings.


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