Blu-ray Review: Dressed to Kill (U.K. Release)

In Blu-Ray’s by Rebecca WrightLeave a Comment

Dressed to Kill was released on Blu-ray in the United States on a region free disc in September of 2011. The American release carries a fine presentation and audio track, but has a so-so package of special features. Available on July 29, 2013, Arrow Video has put together a memorable package, with an impressive slate of special features, artwork and linear notes making it the definitive version of Dressed To Kill to own. This Blu-ray is region B locked.

Despite his successes, director Brian De Palma has rarely been a critical favorite. In his early years of his career, he was accused of ripping off Alfred Hitchcock and being very misogynistic. Today, many feel his films aren’t nearly as good as they once were. The guy just can’t win. Case in point: 1980’s Dressed To Kill, his brutal suspense film. Yes, the film is clearly influenced by Hitchcock´s Psycho, but what not enough people acknowledge is that De Palma’s major cinematic thefts are from his own work, namely 1976’s Carrie. You’re allowed to steal from yourself aren’t you? As for misogynist, if I recall, that was part of Psycho as well.

dtk - Angie DickinsonDe Palma brings back memories of Psycho in the opening scene. The camera slowly moves around a corner to reveal middle-aged housewife Kate Miller (Angie Dickinson) pleasuring herself in the shower while staring at a man shaving in the bathroom mirror. In the midst of the steam, another man appears in the shower with her, covering her mouth with one hand and violently pawing at her crotch with the other. Quickly cutting away, we realize that the whole scene was a fantasy Kate was creating for herself while having joyless sex with her husband.

Kate appears frustrated and unfulfilled. She has a teenage son, Peter (Keith Gordon), but he’s a geeky kid who spends all his time in the basement working on science projects. Later, any doubt vanishes as she tries to seduce her psychologist, Dr. Elliot (Michael Caine), who admits he’s attracted to her, but ultimately resists temptation for ethical reasons. Jaded and horny, Kate heads to the Metropolitan Museum, where she catches the eye of a sleazy dude. In a ten minute sequence free of dialogue, and borrowing heavily from Vertigo—De Palma stages an elaborate cat-and-mouse game through the museum’s labyrinthine corridors, with Kate initially avoiding the man, but then desperate to track him down for sex.

Immediately following her brief, afternoon affair, she suspect’s she´s contracted a venereal disease, but that soon becomes the least of her worries. Without revealing specific details, let’s just say that De Palma doesn’t hesitate to show real blood in all its red glory.

The next major figure on the scene is call girl Liz Blake (Nancy Allen), who is a witness to a brutal murder in an elevator. Teaming up to solve the murder, Liz, Peter, and Dr. Elliott all try to locate the mysterious blonde that Liz saw wielding a razor in the elevator, a blonde who may just be one of the doctor´s patients. Subsequently, all three are discouraged from and yet encouraged to investigate further by NYPD detective Marino played by Dennis Franz.

Dressed to Kill is a good, taut thriller. It combines sex and violence, screams of pleasure and pain, in almost equal measure. Suspense mounts. Tension builds. The ending twists and turns are still frightening. The camerawork here is brilliant, using all kinds of different angles, zooms point-of-view Steadicam sequences to add to the thriller feel of things. It may not be a work of art, but Dressed To Kill is campy, sexy, and thrilling.

Presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer shows a pretty solid level of subtle detail. Clarity is quite very solid, with only one or two instances of softness.. The inherent grain remains intact, leaving the image with texture. Colors are bright and vivid, with accurate contrast.

The DTS HD 5.1 soundtrack does a fine job with the material. The audio is a bit thin, but that’s due to the source, not the mix. The surrounds get used often, mostly for subtle atmosphere and music. Dialogue is clean and clear. Arrow also includes a linear PCM of the original mono.

English subtitles are included.

We get the following special features:

  • The Making of a Thriller Documentary (43:51) An extensive retrospective documentary that features interviews with just about everyone involved in the film, except Michael Caine.
  • A Film Comparison – The 3 Versions of Dressed to Kill (SD, 5:14) Here, we get to see differences between the unrated, R-rated, and network TV versions of the opening shower scene, the first murder sequence, and the scene where Liz strips down to her lingerie in Dr. Elliot’s office.
  • Slashing Dressed to Kill (9:50) De Palma, Nancy Allen, and Keith Gordon discuss the changes that had to be made to avoid an X-rating.
  • Dressed to Kill: An Appreciation by Keith Gordon (6:06) Gordon elaborates on the particular genius of Brian De Palma.
  • Photo Gallery (6:13)
  • Original Theatrical Trailer (2:10)
  • Symphony of Fear (17:36) Producer George Litto discusses his first meeting with Brian De Palma, his relationship with the director over the years and the production of Dressed To Kill.
  • Dressed in White (29:53) Angie Dickinson provides great detail on how she received and approached her role in the film.
  • Dressed in Purple (23:04) Nancy Allen discuses her role in the film and relationship with Brian De Palma.
  • Lessons in Filmmaking (40:46) Actor Keith Gordon, who plays Peter Miller, explains how Dressed to Kill influenced his career and discusses the film’s distinctive qualities.
  • Booklet: 36-page illustrated booklet featuring: “Dressed to Kill: American Giallo” by Maitland McDonagh; “I Know You’re Watching Me: The Poster of Dressed to Kill – Stephen Sayadian Interviewed by Daniel Bird”; and poster gallery.
  • Cover: Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Nathanel Marsh.



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