Sunday, 28 July 2013

Blu-Ray Review: Dressed To Kill

Set in New York, Brian De Palma's psycho sexual thriller opens with a day in the life and death of frustrated housewife Kate Miller (Angie Dickison). Bored with the lack of bedroom excitement in her marriage, Miller visits a museum where a tense game of cat and mouse begins with a fellow visitor.
This beautifully shot 8 minute scene (shot without dialogue) culminates in a rather eventful taxi ride to an apartment where Kate gets the expert attention she craves, courtesy of her one afternoon stand.After leaving her sleeping partner, Miller checks out for the final time when a blonde knife wielding psychopath launches a bloody attack in a lift, with
classy hooker Liz Blake (Nancy Allen)
a prime witness to the carnage. Blake is subsequently accused of the murder by a police detective (Hill St Blues' Dennis Franz) and joins forces with Miller's son (Keith Gordon) in an attempt to unmask the killer, while suave shrink Dr Elliott (Michael Caine) refuses to divulge the true identity of a possible suspect.

It's a stylish, beautifully crafted ride and far more of a homage to the Italian Giallo thrillers of Dario Argento and Mario Bava than a flat-out Hitchcock imitation as has often been opined.
Witness the gory elevator murder which is beautifully shot, and has to be one of the finest sequences in De Palma's career. Here we have a razor slashing black gloved killer reminiscent of the aforementioned Italian thriller, though we'd better say that Dressed To Kill anticipated Argento's Tenebrae by two years.

I was lucky enough to catch Dressed To Kill during its opening week at UK cinemas in 1980 and, in my opinion, the film hasn't dated. It's well nigh impossible to pick out a single performance that didn't deliver straight down the line, and the film's tone and scenes of violence which really did push the envelope back then, are just as hard hitting today.
Add to this a haunting score from Pino Donaggio that is memorable in the extreme, and you have a film that easily repays multiple viewings.
Arrow Video's Blu-Ray presentation seems faithful to the original source material. Colours are often muted and some scenes are a little on the soft side, but the image is generally sharp, exhibiting good detail.
On the bonus material front, Dressed To Kill is blessed with the participation of all the main players with the regrettable absence of Michael Caine.

Symphony Of Fear.

This featurette sees producer George Litto discussing problems that beset the film, from finance to its controversial subject matter and the difficulties experienced in finding shooting locations.
It's a fascinating piece which also covers the involvement of Samuel Z. Arkoff.

Dressed In White

Here, Angie Dickinson talks about her favourite role and performance, recalling her experiences with the actors and with De Palma as comes over as genuinely proud of her involvement and accomplishment.
There are a few chuckles along the way (listen out and look out for her museum 'To-Do' list, which includes 'Pick up turkey') and overall, it's a delight to sit through. And yes, she still has the gloves!

Dressed In Purple

This is a wonderful interview with Nancy Allen who lovingly discusses the role De Palma (then her husband) wrote for her, and provides some great memories and smart ideas about her director's influences, with the name of Dario Argento cropping up.

Lessons In Filmmaking

An interview with Keith Gordon - now an accomplished director - who recalls Michael Caine's generosity and regrets they only shared one scene together. Gordon also mentions Dario Argento, along with the late Mario Bava and Roman Polanski as influences on Dressed To Kill.

The Making Of A Thriller.

A 45 minute documentary featuring observations and anecdotes from the aforementioned artists plus De Palma and Dennis Franz. Although some of their memories have been repeated from other sections of the extras, it's still essential viewing.

Unrated, R-Rated And TV Rated

This is a comparison of different takes of the more controversial scenes in this film. It's worth noting that Arrow's Blu-ray is the first time the uncut version has been made available for home viewing in the UK.

Slashing Dressed To Kill

De Palma and Gordon hold forth on the changes made to avoid the dreaded Adult Rating.

As usual, Arrow have generously included a collectors booklet which features work from Maitland McDonagh and an interview with poster designer Stephen Sayadim by Daniel Bird.
Arrow's Blu-ray is locked to Region B, and will prove a rewarding purchase for fans of this film.

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