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Dressed to Kill - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Brian De Palma's Hitchcockian thriller starts off with a middle aged woman named Kate Miller (Angie Dickinson) in the shower. She lathers up and shows off the goods, heads out into the bedroom, and then feigns her enjoyment as her husband mounts her. Her marriage is dead and she knows it, but at least she got a cool kid out of the deal in the form of science geek Peter (Keith Gordon). Later that day she heads to her shrink's office for her regular session with Dr. Elliott (Michael Caine). She does her best into trying to talk him into bed, but it's not going to happen, he tells her it's not worth risking his marriage over even if he does find her very attractive. Kate needs something though, so she heads to the art museum where she winds up hooking up with a guy, screwing around with him in a cab and then heading back to his place for some quality time in the bedroom. When she finishes up, she's brutally murdered in the building's elevator by a ‘blonde woman', the only witnesses to this event being a hooker named Liz (Nancy Allan) and her john, who takes off never to be seen again.
The cops are called in, of course, and Detective Marino (Dennis Franz) figures Liz could very well be a suspect. Liz knows better, however, and decides to do a bit of snooping around on her own, and then eventually with some help from Peter. There's the matter of that blonde woman though, the one who hacked Kate up with a straight razor. She keeps leaving strange messages on Dr. Elliott's answering machine. Elliott suspects that the killer could be a former patient of his named Bobbie, but he's not saying much more than that.
Stylish, sexy and often downright sleazy, Dressed To Kill may borrow a lot from Hitchcock's Psycho and Dario Argento's giallo films but it does so with a good sense of fun and it remains an entertaining watch. While it's true that you won't have too much trouble figuring out who the killer is (in hindsight, they really didn't do a very good job of hiding it!) the film still gets by thanks to a couple of grisly murder set pieces (Dickinson's death is particularly nasty though again we think of Psycho as it's basically the shower scene relocated) and no shortage of skin on display. Whether it's the opening shower scene (which obviously uses a double as a stand in for Dickinson, as we never see her face connected to her naughty bits!) or Nancy Allan's black lingerie clad attempt to seduce Michael Caine, De Palma's movie makes sure that sex is at the front of the viewers mind from start, quite literally, until finish.
There's also a remarkably tense scene in which Nancy Allen's character arrives home only to notice that the blonde woman she believes to be the killer is waiting for her. This leads to a great chase around Manhattan and then into the New York City subway system. We won't ruin how it plays out as it's a highlight of the film but here De Palma shows us just how good he can be at building suspense and how he hasn't just aped Hitchcock's style at this point in his career but actually learned from it.
Performances are strong across the board with Dickinson in fine form as the distraught wife and Caine doing a fine job as the clinically inclined psychiatrist. Nancy Allen steals the show as the immensely likeable prostitute and her camaraderie with Keith Gordon works better than it has any right to. Dennis Franz basically plays the same curmudgeonly cop he's become typecast as but he does it well and if he's rough around the edges we know his character's heart is in the right place. As derivative as all of this might be, it's a fun movie and it holds up well.
Kino brings Dressed To Kill to UHD in an HVEC encoded 2160p high definition framed at 2.35.1 widescreen with HDR and Dolby Vision enhancement. The colors look very good here, brighter and bolder without looking especially boosted. Contrast is also strong. Detail is typically excellent here, improving over past DVD and Blu-ray editions quite nicely, though some shots do use soft focus and as such, they don't look quite as impressive in that regard as other shots do (nor should they). Skin tones look great, there are no problems with any compression artifacts and the image is free of any noise reduction. There isn't any serious print damage to note and outside of the occasional small speck, the image is very clean and shows good clarity and depth, advancing over what we've seen in the past in pretty much every way you'd want it to and providing a proper, film-like viewing experience.
The disc includes the original English 24-bit DTS-HD Mono mix as well as a 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 option as well. The mono option sounds good and true to the film's roots. Dialogue is clear and Pino Donoggio's fantastic score has good depth and range to it, which heightens the tension in the film quite a bit. There are some spots where dialogue sounds a little thin but nothing too serious there. The track is properly balanced and free of any hiss or distortion related problems. The 5.1 mix has similar qualities, it also sounds very good and does a nice job of spreading the effects and score around in the mix while keeping the vast majority of the dialogue up front in the mix. Optional subtitles are available in English only.
Kino has supplied a few new supplements with this release, starting with a new audio commentary from film critic Maitland McDonagh that goes over the film's history in quite a bit of detail, explaining some of the issues that it ran into when first released in terms of its use of sex and violence, as well as going over De Palma's career, influences that have worked their way into the film, the cast and crew that worked on the picture, the different themes that the film explores, the production values and loads more. Along the way, she does a good job of exploring her own feelings and reactions to the film and explaining why she feels the way that she does about the film. It's quite interesting. This is the only extra feature included on the UHD.
The second disc, a Blu-ray, is stacked with additional supplements (and only supplements, the movie is not included on Blu-ray with this release) starting with a new seventeen minute interview with Nancy Allen titled Strictly Business. She talks here about her thoughts on the movie and her character, her look in the movie, getting along with De Palma and her co-stars and shares memories of shooting some specific scenes from the movie. Killer Frames is a new eight minute interview with Associate Producer and Production Manager Fred C. Caruso that talks about his background and education, how he got into the film business, how he wound up working on the feature and what he was responsible for. Also new to this release is An Imitation Of Life, which interviews actor Keith Gordon for fourteen minutes. He talks about how he got the part in the movie, what it was like on set and working with some of his co-stars and the film's director.
Kino also carries over a few supplements from the 2012 Arrow Video Blu-ray release from the UK. The eighteen minute Symphony Of Fear interviews Producer George Litto. Dressed In White, which runs thirty minutes, interviews Actress Angie Dickinson. Nancy Allen is interviewed in the twenty-three minute Dressed In Purple. Lessons In Filmmaking interviews Actor Keith Gordon for forty minutes.
Carried over from previous MGM releases is the surprisingly comprehensive forty three minute documentary, The Making of Dressed To Kill. Here we get interviews with director Brian De Palma, producer George Litto, and cast members Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen and Dennis Franz, all of whom speak quite fondly about the movie. The ten minute Slashing Dressed To Kill featurette is also carried over. It deals with the censorship issues that the film ran into when it was first released. Also of interest is a five minute Unrated, R-Rated and TV-Rated Comparison featurette that shows how editing was used to create the three versions of the film. The disc also carries over the six minute long An Appreciation by Keith Gordon segment, is just what is sounds like, Gordon's appreciation for the film put down on record.
Finishing up the extras on the disc are a selection of three archival audio interviews from 1980 with actors. Michael Caine speaks for five minutes, Angie Dickinson for four minutes and Nancy Allen fifteen minutes. We also get a theatrical trailer, a teaser trailer, four minutes of radio spots, three TV spots, menus and chapter selection options. Kino also packages the first pressing of this release with a slipcover.
Note that the extra created for the Criterion Blu-ray edition remain exclusive to that release.
De Palma has made better and more interesting movies than this one, but Dressed To Kill still holds up as a slick and sleazy thriller with some great performances and style to spare. Kino's UHD release is impressive, as it loads the disc with extras old and new and presents the feature in a gorgeous 4k presentation. Highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.