Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 23rd, 2013
BluRay released: July 29th, 2013
Approximate running times: 105 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 English, DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region B / Region 2 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £22.99 (UK)
Like so many from my generation I first became aware of Brian De Palma via the film Scarface. And though there are many flourishes in that said film that have become synonymous with his distinct style as a filmmaker. This film for me proved to nothing more than a gateway for what was yet to come.
Also like so many film enthusiasts who become enamored with a certain filmmaker and their cannon of work. My cinematic journey through the films of De Palma was far removed from the order in which they were originally released. With the film that I now considered his best film being the one that I viewed after I had tracked down every other of his films. More on that film later…
By the early 1980’s De Palma was at a crossroads of sort. After the huge success of Carrie just four years before he next three film’s all under performed at the box office. Then with Dressed to Kill he would return to familiar ground, the thriller genre and this time around he would bring more to the table then his Alfred Hitchock homage’s. Most importantly Dressed to Kill would mark the beginning of what is arguably De Palma’s most violent period as a filmmaker. Following Dressed to Kill he would make Blow Out, the aforementioned Scarface and this period would culminate with Body Double.
Where a film begins, where it takes you and how it ends are equal parts of a greater cause that ultimately need each other to succeed. Ironically nowhere is this more apparent than the dream / nightmare sequences that open and close Dressed to Kill. From a technical stand point both moments are operatic tour de forces that far exceed the eye candy that drives each sequence. In fact there is so much subtext in these moments that they come damn near close to summarizing the reality based events which make up the bulk of the film.
With that being said, the non dream / nightmare sequences also have plenty to offer and should not be taken lightly. Like a master chess player De Palma makes sure that every character no matter how small or inconsequential are fully realized three dimensional characters. Let me reiterate these are not your garden variety characters that Hollywood are hell bent on recycle for each new blockbuster they spew out. The way he shows how he action have consequences and the end result of said consequences only further enriches the characters who populate this film.
Narrative wise, though this film does seem to De Palma making an attempt to find his own voice and not rely as much on his influences. The narrative / plot owes at least one nod to De Palma’s greatest source of inspiration Alfred Hitchcoch. The way in which it kills off a major character by the end of the first act. Of course the film also features a handful of other moments that are oddly similar to some of De Palma’s contemporaries from aboard. Whether he was directly knowledgeable about these directors and their films is nothing more than conjecture. In case you were wondering what scene I am most referring too. Here is a hint it takes place in an elevator.
When talking about the film’s of De Palma one given is his strong sense of visual flare which at times borders on flamboyant style for the stake of style. For Dressed to Kill he does a very good job refining said moments of bravado and lets the well defined character’s drive the story at hand. In film with many remarkable visual set pieces the most stunning of them all is a cat and mouse seduction scene at a museum. This is one of the most striking examples of music and sound that has ever graced the silver screen.
Of course as good as every area of this film is. The one area that this film excels the most are the performances of its entire cast, especially Michael Caine (Sleuth, The Man Who Would Be King) in the role of Doctor Robert Elliott. Without giving away the main twist of the film let’s just say that the evolution of his character is the most memorable part of this film. Other key performances include Angie Dickinson (‘Police Woman’) in the role of the a woman who one night of indiscretion leads to her murder, Keith Gordon (Christine) in the role of her the slain women’s son and Nancy Allen (Robocop) in the role of a high price call girl named Liz Blake.
If you haven’t guessed by now Dressed to Kill is my all time favorite Brian De Palma film. Where most film’s lessen their appeal over time. My affection for Dressed to Kill continues to grow with each subsequent viewing.
Dressed to Kill comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. Quality wise the differences between the transfer used for this release and the MGM’s North American BluRay release are minimal. With the main difference Arrow’s looking brighter, just like their Blow Out transfer which looked slightly brighter than its American counterpart. Needless to say this is a first rate transfer from Arrow Video who continue to impressive with each new Brian De Palma film they release.
This release comes with two audio option, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in English and a DTS-HD Mono mix in English. Both audio mixes sound clear and balanced throughout. Of course the DTS-HD Mono does at times show its age, while the DTS-HD 5.1 mix does a good job expanding this film’s limited sources range. With that being said, despite its limits range wise the DTS-HD Mono offers up the more satisfying of the two audio mixes. Also included with this release are two subtitle options, a English and English SDH.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (2 minutes 10 seconds), a image gallery, two featurettes, the first one is titled ‘A Film Comparison’ (5 minutes 14 seconds) this extra explores the differences between the R rated, unrated and T.V. versions of the film and the second one is titled ‘Slashing Dressed to Kill’ (9 minutes 49 seconds) this extra explores the censorship that befell this film and a “Making of’ featurette (43 minutes 53 seconds) that includes comments from director / screenwriter Brian De Palma, producer George Litto, actresses Nancy Allen and Angie Dickinson, actors Keith Gordon and Dennis Franz and editor Jerry Greenberg. These extras had previously appeared on MGM’s DVD and BluRay releases for Dressed to Kill.
New extras to this release include four interviews, the first one titled ‘Symphony of Fear’ with producer George Litto (17 minutes 36 seconds), the second titled ‘Dressed in White’ with actress Angie Dickinson (29 minutes 53 seconds), the third one titled ‘Dressed in Purple’ with actress Nancy Allen (23 minutes 4 seconds) and the fourth one titled ‘Lessons in Filmmaking’ with actor Keith Gordon (23 minutes 4 seconds).
Topics discussed in George Litto’s interview include how he decides on a film project, making films that connect with an audience, how he first became aware of Brian De Palma and working with him on Obsession, trying to secure a deal for Dressed to Kill, preproduction related topics, Dressed to Kill’s erotically charged opening sequence, locations – most notably the Philadelphia Museum, the film’s score and his thoughts on the final product.
Topics discussed in Angie Dickinson’s interview include her first encounter with Brian De Palma and how he convinced her to do Dressed to Kill, the opening shower sequence and her body double, recollections of the cast, working with Brian De Palma, she discusses in great detail all of her scenes and her thoughts on the her performance and the final product.
Topics discussed in Nancy Allen’s interview include how her role was written for her and working with Brian De Palma (her husband at the time), her wardrobe that she wore in the film, the cast and her thoughts on her the character she portrayed in the film, the film’s finale, auditioning for a role in a Dario Argento film, similarities between Argento and De Palma’s visual styles and her thoughts on the final product. Though she does not name the film she auditioned for with Argento. From the clues she does give I believe that film was Inferno.
Topics discussed in Keith Gordon’s interview include his thoughts on the film, how he first became involved with Brian De Palma and how he influenced him as a filmmaker. He also goes into great detail about his thoughts on this film’s visuals and the way this film explores sexuality and depicts violence.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art option and a collectable booklet featuring a new writing on the film by critic and author Maitland McDonagh, illustrated with original archive stills and promotional material. Overall Arrow Video gives Dressed to Kill its most impressive home video release to date.