DRESS TO KILL (1980)
One of Brian De Palma’s most divisive films, Dressed to Kill is a spine-chilling Alfred Hitchcock update for the late 1970s. Sexually frustrated wife and mother Kate Miller (Angie Dickinson) visits her New York psychiatrist, Dr. Elliott (Michael Caine), to complain about her unfulfilling erotic life. When she then goes to meet her husband at a museum, she meets an anonymous man whom she follows out to a cab. After an afternoon of satisfying sex, Kate discovers that the man has a venereal disease, but that information becomes a moot point when a razor-wielding blonde woman slashes Kate to ribbons in the elevator of the man’s building. Blonde prostitute Liz (Nancy Allen), who caught a glimpse of the murderer, becomes both the prime suspect and the killer’s next target. Brian De Palma plunders Psycho, with incidental grabs from Murder, Spellbound, and Vertigo. DePalma is not yet an artist of Hitchcock’s stature, but he does earn the right to a comparison. He has Hitchcock’s delight in bizarre and unexpected plot twists, and the chief delight of the first and best hour of Dressed to Kill comes from the series of surprises he springs on us. It is still a great movie. Michael Caine’s psychiatric office is located at 162 East 70th Street on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. n the late 1970s, Brian De Palma wrote a screenplay based on Gerald Walker’s article “Cruising”, but was unable to obtain the rights to the material. Cruising, the story of a series of brutal murders in the gay New York underworld, was subsequently adapted and directed by William Friedkin, while De Palma fashioned some of the elements from his own Cruising screenplay into Dressed to Kill. Both films were released, to great controversy (and after numerous battles with the MPAA to avoid X ratings), in 1980. As a young man, De Palma, at his mother’s urging, actually followed his father and used recording equipment to try and catch him with another woman. That incident inspired this film. In the Angie Dickinson shower scene, a body double is used. In 1982 “Dressed To Kill” had its television broadcast premier on NBC. During this broadcast, the following dialog slipped past the censors and was aired to millions: Dr. Elliot: “When was the last time you had sexual intercourse with your wife, Lieutenant?” Det. Marino: “What the fuck business is it of yours? Angie Dickinson said on The Tonight Show that of all the movies she was in, ‘Dressed To Kill’ is her favorite.