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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dressed To Kill

     Brian DePalma's campy, kinky thriller DRESSED TO KILL, is one of the reasons why I love movies in the first place. This is pure cinema, and an amazing demonstration of the many possibilities of the film medium. DePalma created one of the most slick and atmospheric thrillers of the 80's, and it looks and sounds better than ever.  Echoes of PSYCHO, VERTIGO, and KLUTE pop up here and there, but this is 100% DePalma all the way. It's an obvious love song to Hitchcock, and that's just fine in my book. And if ever a movie is an example of the wonders and necessity of widescreen presentation, this is it. The chopped, formatted version is just plain insulting. You are cheating yourself out of half the movie. There are so many praises I could heap on DRESSED TO KILL that I wouldn't even know where to start.

     First of all- the acting is impeccable. Angie Dickinson brilliantly plays an unhappily married woman adrift in sexual fantasies. This is Dickinson's shining moment on film- she's 100% convincing. After seeing her psychiatrist, played by the delicious Michael Caine, she's cruised and picked up in a museum (which is a WHOPPER of a scene, by the way... this is hands down one of the greatest scenes ever filmed, all without a single word being spoken.). I won't tell you what happens next but let's just say it concerns a murderous, razor-weilding transexual on the loose... 

     Nancy Allen memorably plays a hooker with a heart of gold, Dennis Franz plays the sleazy cop determined to find the killer, and Keith Gordon rounds out the cast as Dickinson's son. The camerawork is nothing short of spectacular- most notably in that now-infamous 'museum' scene.  Pino Dinaggio once again crafted a stunningly beautiful yet nerve-jangling score, the use of colors and shadows are incredible, and the movie crackles with smart, snappy dialogue.  Everything about DRESSED TO KILL works perfectly.

     Slick, stylish, and scary, Brian DePalma has crafted a polished, almost hallucinatory nightmare- one that I think is finally receiving the respect and attention it deserves. FRIDAY THE 13TH was released around the same time in 1980 and kind of got all the attention, but DRESSED TO KILL has earned a devoted audience over the years and is now considered one of his best.

     DePalma received tons of criticism by critics and feminists alike for the violence in this movie, but it's nothing we haven't seen in any other horror movie. This is one of my favorite movies, not only of the 80's, but of all time. It's a truly creative effort that was obviously influenced by the works of Hitchcock and Argento, but still manages to come off as an entirely original work of art. This film gave me endless nightmares as a kid- I'll never forget the image of 'Bobby', quietly stalking Nancy Allen in that shower. I know I'll never look at nurses' shoes the same way again. A top notch, terrifying good time!

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