Unrated Dir: Brian de Palma | Criterion | 1h 45min
Plot: What’s it about?
Dr. Robert Elliott (Michael Caine) has a successful therapist’s practice, complete with a large base of clients, most of them female. When one of his female clients is brutally murdered with a razor, he is hesitant to become involved, especially in manners with the police. In turn, the police don’t seem too interested in the case on the whole, so the case is left open and little is done to look into it, beyond the simplest of tasks. This leaves Elliott to push for the truth, along with a prostitute that witnessed the crime, as well as the victim’s son. As expected, Elliott is reluctant to do too much in terms of investigations, but when more women come under the razor’s edge, he is forced to get involved, or risk letting more women be slashed to ribbons. But as he starts to delve into the mystery of the murders, he becomes thrust into a world unlike any he knows, one filled with dangerous sexual encounters, as well as intense fear and suspense. Can Elliott figure out who is behind the murders in time, or will many more victims pile up, including Elliott himself?
This movie has a checkered past in terms of home video, as for years there was never an acceptable release. Some looked awful, others had off kilter sound mixes, and still others featured truncated cuts of the film. The movie itself is superb and in a genre overrun with mediocre films (thrillers), it stands tall as one of the finest examples of a thriller you’ll find. As director Brian DePalma guides us through a maze of thrills and suspense, with moments of intense terror that lead toward a tremendous finish. I love Dressed to Kill and not only is it one of my favorite thrillers, I also hold it among my personal favorites in any genre, it is simply that impressive. I cannot recommend this movie enough and since Criterion has once again outdone themselves on this Blu-ray disc, I give this release a very high recommendation.
He’s sometimes dismissed as a hack Hitchcock, but I think Brian DePalma is a very talented filmmaker, complete with a few excellent efforts. I feel one of his best films is Dressed to Kill and in this uncut edition, it is all the more obvious how great his work is here. I simply love his direction in this movie, as he brings his usual elements, but expands them to new horizons. The tension here can be so thick and eerie, you almost want to look away, but you can’t, you just can’t look away from Dressed to Kill. Yes, traces of Hitchock’s style can be seen here, but this is a DePalma movie through and through, without a doubt. Other films directed by DePalma include Blow Out, Phantom of the Paradise, Body Double, Obsession, Sisters, and The Untouchables. The cast here includes Michael Caine (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Quills), Nancy Allen (Out of Sight, Robocop), and Angie Dickinson (Big Bad Mama, Ocean’s Eleven).
Video: How’s it look?
When it comes to good-looking DVD’s and Blu-ray’s, it goes without saying that Criterion does the best job in the business. Having said that, there’s the usual verbiage about all the work that was done to this transfer, a new 4K restoration and so forth. I was pumped. But a few minutes in, I got a pretty odd feeling. I know the film is now 35 years old and some of the scenes looked pretty darn good, above the quality level of the previous Blu-ray and certainly above that of the MGM DVD from years back. But the best way to describe this one is…inconsistent. I will say that, by and large, it’s a vast improvement over the previous versions, but there are just too many times in this presentation that seem out of sorts coming from a Criterion disc. I’ve read other reviews that are similar to my findings, so either there was a technical error on Criterion’s side or they kind of botched this one. Time will tell.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The previous Blu-ray featured a DTS HD Master Audio mix. That’s not present here and in its place is a LPCM Mono track that, yes, actually sounds a bit better than the previous HD track. Granted, with a mono track you’re limited in the range, but it’s the way they’ve done it that makes it sound effective. There aren’t the usual hisses, cracks or pops that’s associated with this type of track. Dialogue is clear and crisp, the score resonates (as much as it can) and I really have no complaints other than I wished the video would match the audio.
Supplements: What are the extras?
A few of the supplements from the MGM DVD and Blu-ray make an appearance here, but a slew of new supplements are also included. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started.
- Interviews – Six new video interviews were conducted for this Blu-ray and are exclusive to this Criterion version of the film.
Brian de Palma – Brian De Palma along with filmmaker Noah Baumbach, discusses both the visual style and the score of the film along with some various influences of his while making it (Alfred Hitchcock).
Nancy Allen – Allen talks about her role in the film, how she prepared for it as well as her interactions with actors Keith Gordon and Michael Caine.
George Litto – The Producer talks about his frequent collaborations with Director de Palma.
Pino Donaggio – The Composer talks (in Italian, no less) about his previous work with de Palma as well as his influence for the score to this film.
Victoria Lynn Johnson – With a name like that, you know you’re destined for a “Men’s Magazine”. Kidding aside, the former Penthouse Pet of the Year discusses her role in the film as well as being a body double for Angie Dickinson.
Stephen Sayadian – The Photographer and the man behind the iconic movie poster tells some of his instincts and motivations when he created the advertising campaign for the film.
The Bottom Line
Dressed to Kill made a lot of waves at the time of its release. I’d easily recommend this Criterion Blu-ray, but there is an issue with the video. It’s not unwatchable, but there’s something going on with it. I have no idea if it’s a fault of the manufacturing process or Criterion just dropped the ball on this one. Still, the audio is fine and the wealth of supplemental materials should make it an easy choice (providing you can forget about the video issue).