BluRay/DVD Reviews

DRESSED TO KILL

By • Dec 15th, 2011 •

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DRESSED TO KILL–while not as powerful as BLOW OUT or CARRIE– is a perfect example of De Palma’s bold style, and his willingness to go over the top, which has always divided audiences. The film is lurid: bursting with sex, violence and high emotion to the point of delirium.

In the special features of the BLOW OUT Criterion, De Palma states that coverage is a “dirty word”. (Coverage being the footage a filmmaker is “supposed to get” in order to play it safe during editing, i.e. the master shot, followed by individual close-ups.) When you watch DRESSED TO KILL you see exactly what he means. Every shot is compelling, and is there to progress the story visually. Within those shots, every bit of space and production design is utilized to dramatic effect. That’s not to say it all works perfectly. There are choices I’m not crazy about, but even they are done with such confidence that I can’t help but admire them.

The elevator scene is on a par with the shower scene in PSYCHO. Not as experimental, but equally as effective and well constructed. So masterful, it should be dissected in film schools everywhere.

Agree or disagree, the comparison is relevant. There are many nods to PSYCHO throughout DRESSED TO KILL, and De Palma doesn’t try to hide them. But to me, DRESSED TO KILL is about the language of cinema. Taking what Hitchcock learned about the building of suspense, and trying to further it. Like Hitchcock, De Palma’s films are often about voyeurism. Few themes are more cinematic.

However, it’s not only thrills and technical flourishes that make this film so special. The performances from Dickinson and Nancy Allen help ground the story and make it something we care about. As over-the-top as the film gets, these actors manage to always make it credible. It also has a great sense of humor, mostly brought in by Dennis Franz, who has never been better as the wise-guy detective.

The Blu-Ray offers nothing new in the supplement department. So even if you figure out a way to access the menu, you wont find any surprises here. But at least it’s better than the Blu-Ray release of CARRIE, which actually offered less special features than the DVD and a lousy transfer to boot. (also by MGM).

The transfer is fine. Not nearly as good as the BLOW OUT release, but that’s to be expected. The colors are a little more prominent and the blacks are deeper. What’s good is they didn’t clean it up to the point where we lose any of the grain. It still looks like it was made in 1980. It’s a small upgrade that isn’t going to blow you away. If you already own the DVD, save your money. The cover (which goes back to the original art) is my favorite part.

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