Saturday, December 5, 2020

Dressed to Kill

Movie Name:
Dressed to Kill
Year of Release: 1980
Director: Brian De Palma
Starring: Michael Caine, Nancy Allen, Keith Gordon, Angie Dickinson, Dennis Franz, David Margulies, Susanna Clemm, Ken Baker, Norman Evans
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Crime
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
After a prolific directorial output in the 70s (9 films released between 1970 and 79), director Brian De Palma started the 80s with "Dressed to Kill", one of his own scripts, which turned out to be well received at the box office and with the critics. The narrative introduces us to the character of Kate Miller, a beautiful housewife now in her second marriage, following the death of her first husband in the war. We accompany Kate as she goes about her day, firstly with a trip to her therapist, where she discusses how her husband fails to satisfy her sexually, and where she flirts with her therapist, Dr. Robert Elliott. Following that interaction, she goes to the museum, where she once again flirts with a man she casually meets there, and whom she goes home with, following a brief game of foreplay. As Kate is about to leave her lover's building, she's brutally attacked by a tall blonde woman in the elevator and eventually killed. The final stages of this gruesome event are witnessed by Liz Blake, who escapes and recounts what she observed to the police. Turns out Liz is actually a high priced escort, and was in the building with a client, who refuses to provide an alibi for her. Liz, with the help of Kate's son, Peter, both decide to do their own investigation into who is the woman who killed Kate, and is she somehow connected to Dr. Robert Elliott's patients. 
"Dressed to Kill" is one of Brian De Palma's most iconic films, and rightfully so. It perfectly captures his thematic universe, in the sense that topics such as burgeoning sexuality, mistaken identities, dreamlike scenarios that are mixed for reality, are all there, not to mention his virtuosic and stylistic approach to shooting the narrative, with long takes and playing with camera perspective. This film is particularly efficient in its storytelling, defining the main characters fairly succinctly, while also making the predator a presence that is seemingly everywhere and unstoppable. It's also a film that makes good use of NY as a city filled with opportunities for one to vanish, and yet, where everyone is still traceable. The film feels like a polished and slick version from a B-movie of the 1950s, but one where the director is able to bring topics of female sexuality, and where even the menace of AIDS also lingers. The cast is uniformly great, with Michael Caine and Nancy Allen in particular creating memorable characters. The camera work from Ralf Bode is wonderful, as is the score from Pino Donaggio. A solid film from a director always worth revisiting.