Ever watch one of those movies that you don’t quite get or understand the first time around? You are certain that the movie is decent and the plot moves along well. But the problem is there are plot holes and the viewer is sure of them. Until they watch the movie a second time. Then either the viewer realizes the movie is brilliant or still full of plot holes. Well, today I encounter one of those films, Dressed to Kill and I think this one has filled out nicely.
It is another morning. Mike Miller (played by Fred Weber) shaves his face with a straight razor and we pan to the very nude Kate Miller (played by Angie Dickinson) taking a shower. She watches him intently and then starts to touch herself (this is unrated kids, we get to see a whole lot of Angie). As she becomes more aroused and more into herself, she doesn’t notice that there is now a man behind her. He takes her aggressively and she cries out in pleasure as we fade to black.
Kate wakes up to Fred doing what men do on top of her. He finishes quickly (also something that men do) and gets up to take a shower. Kate gets up too and checks on her son, Peter (played by Keith Gordon) who apparently stayed up all night to work on his project for the city science championships. They discuss binary numbers and then Kate is off to go see her therapist and perhaps take in an art museum for her lunch.
Kate shows up at Dr. Robert Elliott’s (played by Michael Caine) doorstep for her appointment. She starts off the session by talking about her mother and the usual parental psycho babble. Then the conversation changes and leads directly into her relationship with her husband. The sexual part of the relationship. She admits he is boring in bed and then asks the Dr. if he finds her attractive. Robert says yes. Kate follows up by asking the doctor if he would sleep with her.
Robert looks into the mirror on his desk and says yes. Kate continues to pry by saying, well why don’t you? The doctor quickly quips he can’t because he is married and doesn’t want to jeopardize his marriage. The session soon ends without further conflict. Mrs. Miller moves on to the art museum and sits down at a bench to stare at the paintings and prepare a grocery list for Thanksgiving. She does some people watching and soon a man, Warren Lockman (played by Ken Baker) sits down beside her.
Kate looks at Warren for a moment and removes one of her gloves which reveals her wedding ring. Warren gets up and goes off to look at more paintings. Kate is not satisfied with this and soon follows him around the museum. This starts an elaborate game of cat and mouse. It eventually leads outside where Kate finally catches up with Warren who is in a waiting cab. Warren pulls her into the cab and passionately kisses her. This leads to the type of event you would expect to find in Taxi Cab Confessions on HBO.
The scene shifts back to an apartment building where the clock is just about to hit 7 pm. Kate hastily gets up with Warren passed out next to her. She gets dressed and gets her druthers together. She finally decides to write a note to Warren to thank him for the lovely time. She puts the notepad back in the drawer only to discover a very terrible secret. Kate, very upset leaves quickly but realizes in the elevator that she left her wedding ring in the apartment. She quickly presses the elevator button to go back up. Little does she know that this elevator ride will be her last.
The above tale (with certain important details left out on purpose) represents one half of the story. The second half deals with what happens after Kate meets her fate. We are introduced to two important characters in Liz Blake (played by Nancy Allen), a high-priced call girl and Detective Marino (played by Dennis Franz), the police investigator who looks into what really happened with Kate Miller and her demise.
I first saw this movie a couple of years ago (it was made in 1980). I had bought the special edition dvd and felt upon the initial viewing that the film had too many plot holes. I soon got rid of the dvd seeing no real reason to watch it again. I was wrong in my initial critique. On further analysis, this movie has very few inconsistencies. In fact, it is nothing short of brilliant. It probably also helped that I had watched another Brian De Palma thriller named Blow Out recently.
That movie interestingly enough also starred Allen and Franz. But the important thing was I started to understand why DePalma did certain things and shot scenes the way he did. It was as if a light bulb had gone off in my head and I started to get Dressed to Kill. It had a terrific cast and really tells a great murder mystery. It certainly plays homage to Hitchcock in its presentation but does not stand out as a copycat at all. It just requires you to think a bit and watch the film a couple of times.
The video is in 2.35:1 widescreen presentation at 1080p resolution. They cleaned up the print quite a bit and it looks particularly good here. Color is strong and it was hard for me to find a scene where I felt the picture was too soft or suffered from any sort of pixilation. To be honest, this is on right on par with the job that Criterion did on Blow Out which should tell you that when it came to presentation, Fox treated this as a quality catalog release.
For the audio portion, we get a 5.1 DTS-HD track for English (also included is a French mono track). Sound is also excellent here. The remaster does justice to the track and really impresses in the quality of dialog and music. Surrounds are used sparingly but add to the immersion of the scenes. There should be no problems interpreting the words and enjoying the action unfold. Subtitles are also included for English SDH, French and Spanish.
- The Making of a Thriller Documentary 43:51: A strong documentary from 2001 (that’s when all of these features were made) involving the likes of DePalma, Dickinson, Franz and Nancy Allen (who is still gorgeous). DePalma talks about how he used the screenplay, Cruising for inspiration. Brian made the movie with 6 million (it subsequently made almost $32 million at the box office). There is also talk of the opening sequence to involve castration which I am glad it stayed on the cutting room floor. It is interesting to see Angie Dickinson being so frank. She also reveals that they used a body double for her, a Playboy model named Victoria Lynn.
- Unrated, R-Rated, Tv Rated Comparison Featurette 5:14: A comparison between the three versions of the film. As expected, the TV rated one is laughable at best (and honestly changes the intent in some places). The most interest here comes from the differences between the Unrated and R rated cuts.
- Slashing Dressed to Kill Featurette 9:49: A discussion with DePalma and others over the cuts that were done to the movie to get it from X (a little different back then than it is now. The unrated cut of the movie would fit into the NC-17 rating today) to the desired R rating. Brian was understandably upset at the cuts he had to make but luckily when this was released in Europe it had no cuts which explains how the dvd and subsequent blu-ray came to be.
- An Appreciation by Keith Gordon 6:06 : Keith Gordon played Peter in this movie and when the film was shot he was in his early to mid teens. Of course, now he is grown up. Keith shares with us some of the intricacies of the film and how DePalma did things. This actually alerts the viewer to a lot of things they might have missed in the film.
- Animated Photo Gallery 6:13: It is not that animated. Basically it is a picture gallery that swipes to the next picture automatically. There is some good stuff here though.
- Theatrical Trailer 2:10 : This focuses a lot on the museum scene in the trailer. It also paints a different tone to the movie in my opinion but I will let you be the judge on that one.
Notes: Quick note, but yeah this is another Fox catalog release. The extras are quite good but the presentation is lousy with a typical grey background. Throw that in with an eco-case and you have your typical Fox catalog level blu-ray.
I suspect that Fox timed this release to coincide with Scarface on blu-ray which was of course DePalma’s most famous direction. It just so happens that one is in transit to me (not for review, but for general enjoyment) as well. So you could say I have had quite the handful of DePalma to watch lately. In such, I have gathered a deep appreciation for his films and will seek out more as time goes on and I find ones I am particularly interested in.
Dressed to Kill is a wonderful adult thriller with great characters acted by some fantastic actors and actresses. It tells a coherent story, just be warned that you may have to watch it a couple of times to get all of the important details. The disc package is equally impressive with wonderful video, audio and a good assortment of extras to look through. This gets an easy recommendation to the intelligent viewer. Sure, there is a lot of nudity, violence and sex but the story is meaty and packs a punch.