Forgotten Friday Flick – “Dressed To Kill”

Forgotten Friday FlickHaving kept the love of all things De Palma going again this week (me and my kid were first and second in line winning free meals for a year from Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers – Lithgow’s multiple personalities would be proud!) in anticipation of the soon to be released doc on Blu-ray, I’m keeping the cinematic retrospective going too – welcome to Forgotten Friday Flick!  This time out we’re going with a film that gave plenty of movie ammunition to naysayer fans of previous master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock.  Chocked with everything from a famous female icon used as a big part of the plot twists to the sexuality of characters being called into question, some say this was De Palma’s artistic ode to Psycho, some say a carbon copy.  But for the fans who love the film it’s simply called…Dressed to Kill!


Kate Miller is a frustrated wife.  Sexually frustrated (even her fantasies are troubled, in a stale marriage and confined to seeing a therapist on a regular basis, Kate desperately yearns for anything outside the norm.  She finds it one day while visiting the Metropolitan Museum – a chance encounter with a stranger that leads to a harmless tryst. Or so she thinks…

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For the newbies (and frankly there cannot be that many of you!) I’m stopping there as there’s nothing more salacious, sinister and seriously satisfying than the surprises of De Palma’s Dressed to Kill.  Well into having established himself as a master of suspense in his own right, the film all but solidified him as a skilled craftsman of the genre.  From his ability to play with the emotions of his audience (you care about characters before they die!) to his storytelling style (his split screens and visual gimmicks are used to the upmost of their abilities!) and his continued affinity for quirky characters (see both Dennis Franz’s no-nonsense caustic detective and a young Keith Gordon as a Kate Miller’s determined son!) there’s not a frame of Dressed to Kill wasted.  Not to mention that his inspired lead movie muse of choice is the enigmatic Angie Dickinson.  Her sexy, confident, but altogether apprehensive housewife Kate is a fabulous piece of thoughtful layered work and certainly elevates both the film and tense tone to a whole other level.

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Plus Dressed to Kill houses one of De Palma’s visual swan songs, a masterful steadicam sequence tracking both the amorous Kate and her would be suitor around the maze like museum setting. The sequence is so rich with unspoken emotions, lusty lingering and stark storytelling (with a little help from the pitch perfect score ala Pino Donaggio of course!) that it would change the way people looked at how a story could be shot and much like the shower scene in Psycho would become one of the most talked about sequences in film history.  (Though the elevator scene here also deserves its due!)

So while there are more than a few similarities between this film and Hitchcock’s stable of stories of course, Dressed to Kill is way too sinfully sweet to simply dismiss as a mere doppelganger.  The killer combination of a filmmaker at his peak, actors perfectly cast, a visual style that arrests and music that accentuates all of the above all but solidifies that Dressed to Kill doesn’t merely copy former predecessors – it kills them.

dressed poster


I'm a passionate and opinionated film critic/movie journalist with over 20 years of experience in writing about film - now exclusively for WhySoBlu.com. Previous sites include nine years at Starpulse.com where I created Forgotten Friday Flick back in 2011, before that as Senior Entertainment Editor for The213.net and 213 Magazine, as well as a staff writer for JoBlo.com. My other love is doing cool events for the regular guy with my company Flicks For Fans alongside my friend, partner and Joblo.com writer James "Jimmy O" Oster. Check us out at www.Facebook.com/FlicksForFans.

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