Dressed to Kill
MGM / UA (1980)
Horror, Mystery, Thriller
In Collection
Seen ItYes
IMDB   7.1
100 mins USA / English
BLU-RAY  Region 1   UR
Michael Caine Doctor Robert Elliott
Angie Dickinson Kate Miller
Nancy Allen Liz Blake
Keith Gordon Peter Miller
Dennis Franz Detective Marino
David Margulies Dr. Levy
Ken Baker Warren Lockman
Susanna Clemm Betty Luce
Brandon Maggart Cleveland Sam
Amalie Collier Cleaning Woman
Mary Davenport Woman in Restaurant
Brian De Palma
Brian DePalma
Producer George Litto
Samuel Z. Arkoff
Fred C. Caruso
Writer Brian De Palma
Musician Pino Donaggio

To condemn Dressed to Kill as a Hitchcock rip-off is to miss the sheer enjoyment of Brian De Palma's delirious 1980 thriller. Hitchcockian homages run rampant through most of De Palma's earlier films, and this one's chock-full of visual quotes, mostly cribbed from Vertigo and Psycho. But De Palma's indulgent depravity transcends simple mimicry to assume a vitality all its own. It's smothered in thickly atmospheric obsessions with sex, dread, paranoia, and voyeurism, not to mention a heavy dose of Psycho-like psychobabble about a wannabe transsexual who's compelled to slash up any attractive female who reminds him--the horror!--that he's still very much a man.

Angie Dickinson plays the sexually unsatisfied, fortysomething wife who's the killer's first target, relaying her sexual fantasies to her psychiatrist (Michael Caine) before actually living one of them out after the film's celebrated cat-and-mouse sequence in a Manhattan art museum. The focus then switches to a murder witness (De Palma's then-girlfriend Nancy Allen) and Dickinson's grieving whiz-kid son (Keith Gordon), who attempt to solve the murder while staying one step ahead (or so they think) of the crude detective (Dennis Franz) assigned to the case. Propelled by Pino Donaggio's lush and stimulating score, De Palma's visuals provide seductive counterpoint to his brashly candid dialogue, and the plot conceals its own implausibility with morbid thrills and intoxicating suspense. If you're not laughing at De Palma's shameless audacity, you're sure to be on the edge of your seat. --Jeff Shannon

Edition Details
Edition Blu-Ray Edition
Distributor MGM (Video & DVD)
Chapters 16
Release Date 9/6/2011
Packaging HD Case
Screen Ratio 2.35:1
Subtitles English; French; Spanish
Audio Tracks DTS HD-MA
Layers Single Side, Dual Layer
No. of Discs/Tapes 1
Personal Details
Purchase Date 9/3/2011
Owner Thomas Eisenmann
Store Amazon
Purchase Price $11.99
Condition Excellent
Links IMDB
Movie Collector Core

The Making Of Dressed To Kill Documentary Including Interviews with Brian De Palma, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen, Dennis Franz and More
Unrated, R-Rated and TV-Rated Comparison Featurette
Slashing Dressed To Kill Featurette
An Appreciation By Keith Gordon Featurette
Animated Photo Gallery
Theatrical Trailer
User Defined
Anamophic Yes
Reviewed Hi-Def Digest Reviewed
Bit Rate 1509 KB
Box Set No
Digital UV Purchased
Digital Copy Claimed No
Digital Format HDX
VUDU Purchase Price 6.99
Disk Type BLU-RAY
Digital Source VUDU
VUDU Export Yes
New Verified Yes
UV Export No
UV Verified Yes
Download to WEB Yes

High-Def Review
Dressed to Kill (Blu-ray)
MGM/UA / 1980 / 105 Minutes / Unrated
Street Date: September 06, 2011

Overall Grade
Bottom Line Recommended
Reviewed by M. Enois Duarte
Monday, September 12, 2011

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Contemporary moviegoers aren't likely to find much of anything in Brian De Palma's 'Dressed to Kill' shocking or even all that original, what with years of desensitizing material already readily available, but there was once a time when the plot and the outrageous final reveal were the subject of public outrage and fiery debate. Both the film and its director were seen as misogynist and satisfying violent fantasies against women. Sadly, as is often the case with well-made movies, the controversy surrounding the 1980 mystery thriller overshadowed its true genius.

Granted, the film does depict people from one point of view, and the violent attacks are directed at female characters, but none of it ever seems purposefully hateful or particularly anti-feminist. All the characters appear to come with certain unsatisfied desires which lead them towards some rather hazardous paths. Angie Dickinson's Katie Miller makes it known from the beginning she feels sexually unfulfilled by her marriage, so her thirst for physical pleasure places her in an unfortunate, and somewhat tragically funny circumstance. (Here, I'm referring to the letter she finds in the drawer.) We first meet Nancy Allen's Liz Blake talking about stock investments, which conceals her actual profession. And so on.

More to the point, the film isn't really about generating controversial shocks, including the aspects certain groups have already touched on, and guessing the ending does little to ruin what is actually at stake. On the contrary, 'Dressed to Kill' can, and definitely should, be appreciated for its intended visual impact and camera expertise, a blatant style over substance type of motion picture. Essentially, this is Brian De Palma displaying his technical skills and a masterful exercise in the Hitchcockian formula, especially in respect to a movie's inherent predisposition towards voyeurism. Most apparent is Dickinson in an homage-like role to Janet Leigh, only the idea is pushed further and stylishly exploited for all its worth.

De Palma exploring the voyeur angle can be clearly seen in the movie's opening fantasy segment where audiences are clued in to the very private and intimate thoughts of Dickinson's frustrated housewife. Later, De Palme expands on this by showing her describe her dissatisfaction to her psychotherapist, Dr. Robert Elliott (Michael Caine). It's an impressive procedure as it is both deliberately misleading and creative since the camera continues to follow the character to a museum, arguably one of the movie's most visually striking scenes. Ripe with allusions - the painting of a gorilla in a suggestive pose being a personal favorite - the sequence has two strangers stalking each other, which is in reference to how the camera and the audience also follows Dickinson around, associating our gaze similarly to that of the actual killer.

The major premise of the script, written by De Palma, is a twisted tale of murder and mystery, but beneath that is a filmmaker attempting to entertain while equally celebrating the craft, particularly the Hitchcock style of suspense. The split-screen technique makes the film look more interesting and appealing, yet in De Palma's capable hands, it becomes a motif that reflects the split personalities and the secret alternate lives of his characters. 'Dressed to Kill' is not likely to shock audiences as it once did during its initial theatrical run, but it remains an excellent mystery feature that is ultimately more about style and craftsmanship than anything else. It's one of De Palma's finer works.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

20th Century Fox and MGM Home Entertainment release 'Dressed to Kill' onto Blu-ray as the unrated 105-minute version of the film. The Region Free, BD50 disc comes inside a blue eco-keepcase and once in the player, goes straight to the movie without a main menu or previews.

Photographed in soft focus with the use of diffusion filters, 'Dressed to Kill' looks as it should, or the best that could be expected to look on Blu-ray. The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.35:1) comes with a dreamy haze and purposefully blurry appearance.

Due to the intentional cinematography, contrast is noticeably affected and far from accurate, limiting dynamic range and causing highlights to flare slightly. Still, there was a clear attempt to compensate contrast levels at the time of filming, allowing for plenty of clarity and detailed visibility, which this high-def transfer beautifully captures. Definition and resolution are excellent, revealing lots of background information with good precision and clean, distinct lines in the foreground. Blacks are true and very deep with strong shadow delineation, and colors are as bold as can be, given the deliberate look of the film, with bright, natural saturation in the primaries.

The heavily-stylized images are presented very well here, making this the best video presentation of Brian De Palma's classic thriller.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Unfortunately, not everything about 'Dressed to Kill' has been remastered while keeping to its original production design, as this DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack does the movie a bit of a disservice.

Engineers have seen fit to alter the original monaural recording by adding a good deal of rear activity, which isn't all bad in itself. The problem is with the levels of discreteness as specific sounds, like voices, car traffic and birds chirping, feel quite loud and localized. It's a rather weak attempt at creating an immersive soundfield, one that only ends up coming off as artificial and somewhat distracting. Thankfully, the rest of the lossless mix provides a more satisfying aural experience with a welcoming front soundstage. Atmospherics are better delivered across all three channels with excellent, fluid channel separation and precise, lucid dialogue reproduction. Dynamics and acoustics are very stable and well-balanced while the lower-frequencies provide good amount of depth and weight.

The high-rez presentation is strong for the most part and makes the alterations wholly unnecessary.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

Fox and MGM port over the same assortment of bonus features for this Blu-ray edition of 'Dressed to Kill.'

The Making of a Thriller (SD, 44 min) - An insightful and entertaining retrospective with cast and crew interviews, except Michael Caine never makes an appearance. It's a very enjoyable listen as everyone reflects on the production, story and working on this particular set, with De Palma and Dickinson being the standouts.

Slashing Dressed to Kill (SD, 10 min) - Interviews provide a brief discussion on the cuts and editing done to receive an R-rating from the MPAA.

A Film Comparison: The 3 versions of Dressed to Kill (SD, 5 min) - An amusing comparison between the unrated and R-rated versions of the film as well as a look at the heavily edited cut for network television.

Dressed to Kill: An Appreciation by Keith Gordon (SD, 6 min) - Actor turned director expresses his admiration by offering his own filmmaker's analysis of the movie.

Photo Gallery (SD, 6 min) - Precisely as it sounds, though it is an interesting collection for fans to enjoy.

Trailer (HD) - The film's original theatrical preview brings the collection to a close.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are no high-def exclusives.

Easter Eggs

No easter eggs reported for 'Dressed to Kill' yet. Found an egg? Please use our tips form to let us know, and we'll credit you with the find.

Final Thoughts

While not as shocking or controversial as it was during its initial theatrical run, 'Dressed to Kill' remains a highly stylish and impressively well-crafted mystery thriller from Brian De Palma. With strong performances by Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, and Nancy Allen, the film is also a great study in composition and the Hitchcockian approach to suspense, making it a worthwhile watch more than 30 years later. The Blu-ray arrives with excellent video and a good audio presentation, though some of it feels rather artificial. Supplements are the same as previous releases, but it's a small collection. Fans will be happy to replace their DVD with this Blu-ray, and others will want to check this out