Over Dressed is Over Kill

Nancy Allen in Dressed to Kill (1980)

Frustrated by her unimaginative sex life with her husband, Kate Miller (Angie Dickinson) has been having vivid sexual fantasies which have lead to her visiting psychiatrist Robert Elliott (Michael Caine). But it is after one of these sessions that Kate meets a grizzly demise when having had sex with a stranger she met in a gallery, a blonde haired woman slashed her to death in an elevator with a cutthroat razor. Liz Blake (Nancy Allen), a high class hooker, saw Kate's killer but at she was the only one detective Marino (Dennis Franz) has her believe she is the number one suspect. Having befriended Kate's son Peter (Keith Gordon) Liz must try to work out who the mysterious blonde is whilst dealing with the fact the blonde may be coming after her.

Spoiler alert; this review of "Dressed to Kill" contains major spoilers so if you don't want to know I will say that whilst "Dressed to Kill" is worth watching it is also Brian De Palma trying to be Alfred Hitchcock but allowing excess to spoil the movie.

Angie Dickinson in Dressed to Kill (1980)

So as I said "Dressed to Kill" is another one of Brian De Palma's movies where he is trying to emulate Alfred Hitchcock and at times he gets very close. Stylistically from having the light glint of the killer's weapon of choice to the sheer violence of a murder scene it simply feels like De Palma has taken something which Hitchcock would have done but pushed it further by being more graphic. And that is the big problem with "Dressed to Kill" as its graphic nature ends up excessive which is no more the case in the opening scenes which deal with Kate's sexual fantasies. To put it simply it is over kill as we watch her touch herself showering and then a twist following her sex with a stranger and she discovers he has an STD is a terrible red herring because after Kate is murdered all this excessive build up becomes time filler.

In truth "Dressed to Kill" is a frustrating movie because for everything which is good there is twice as much where Brian De Palma goes over the top in trying to not just emulate but surpass the master. But he saves the movie with a great double ending which not only explains the killer's motives, which are a gem, but then uses the old horror cliche of a woman being haunted with nightmares over what happened. Yes it is a scene which unsurprisingly is overdrawn and excessively graphic but it has great impact.

Of course I can't not mention the cast as "Dressed to Kill" features the likes of Michael Caine and Nancy Allen who play their parts well. Now I was going to say a certain actor in this and their character could have made for a good serial killer in a horror franchise along the lines of Michael Myers. But it is 24 hours after watching "Dressed to Kill" and I have to be honest, beyond the movie's excesses the characters have already begun to become forgettable and that is simply down to there being little depth to them, even the significant ones.

What this all boils down to is that "Dressed to Kill" is both an entertaining movie but also a frustrating one due to the director going over the top in trying to be graphic. In truth it is one of those movies which whilst you may get caught up in whilst watching when you then think about it later you realise how little movie there is and how many of the scenes are padded out.

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