Sunday 7 April 2013

Dressed to Kill [1980]

In the sizzling thriller Dressed to Kill, a movie that shocked conservatives on account of its graphic violence and explicit contents, and appalled some liberals because of its alleged misogyny and stereotypes, polarizing auteur Brian De Palma paid homage to the Hitchcock classic Psycho as well as used it as a point of departure. Interestingly, traces of Chabrol’s La Femme Infedele were also discernible, though that could have been unintentional. The film begins with a bore and frustrated middle-aged lady (Angie Dickinson), who visits psychiatrist Dr. Elliott (Michael Caine) to vent her disaffections about her marriage, ending up having a casual affair with a mysterious man who might have venereal disease. But, like what his idol famously did in what remains as the granddaddy of all slasher films, Palma too made a stupendous use of MacGuffin to suddenly change the film’s course. To say anything further would spoil the fun; suffice it to say, a hooker (Nancy Allen), a teenaged nerd, a cynical cop (Dennis Franz) and, most importantly, a vicious razor-slashing blonde lady, suddenly take centre-stage. The feverish pacing and nightmarish mood are sure to keep one engaged from start to finish, even if the film did have its fair share of flaws. But, like his brilliant next film Blow Out, this was as much about its thrilling plot as it was about his delirious exercise with sight and sound. He matched the sleazy storyline with great use of POV tracking shots – memorably in the museum scene, extreme and disorienting deep focuses through split diopter lenses that accentuated the key theme of voyeurism, and resplendent photography that counterpointed New York City’s grimy underbelly.

Director: Brian De Palma
Genre: Thriller/Slasher Film/Mystery
Language: English
Country: US


Sam Juliano said...

It's one of my favorite De Palma's and I think you sized it up insight fully here Shubhajit! The elevator scene does recall Hitchcock's PSYCHO, and there is an homage throughout. I like the suggestion of the Chabrol as well. I agree that the plot in DRESSED TO KILL is equal to the dazzling style.

Shubhajit said...

Palma, at his best, surely knew how to seamlessly fuse a captivating plot with stylistic pyrotechnics. And the best part of this film, or his brillinat follow-up Blow Out, was that, despite being homages, they never seemed derivative even for a moment. Thanks Sam for sharing your appreciation of this film.

Anonymous said...

Dressed to Kill (1980) Full Movie Online