Dressed to Kill (Brian De Palma, 1980, USA)

Dressed to Kill is wildly regarded as one of the finest mid-period De Palma films, and for good reason. The film represents a compromise between the director's commercial impulses and his more idiosyncratic bent. While not the first De Palma film that owes a significant debt to Alfred Hitchcock, it is perhaps the director's most strongly Hitchcockian effort. The film also is perhaps one of the finest examples of the American giallo - stateside manifestations of the garish, hyper-stylized crime/murder thrillers that were coming out of Italy during the 1970s.

That's not to say that the film is without controversy. Even when Dressed to Kill came out in 1980, there were protests. Time hasn't done the film many favors regarding a particular well-known plot twist, but if one takes the film at face value, it is possible to overlook certain elements. Like Psycho, the film kills off its initial heroine very early on. This comes after one of the film's most iconic moments, a bizarre romantic stalking scene in the halls of the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.

We are then introduced to the main protagonist, Liz (Nancy Allen), a high-end call girl, and the victim's son, played by Keith Gordon. Gordon's sleuthing behavior in the film was supposedly inspired by events from De Palma's real life, including his spying on his father when his father was having an affair. While ostensibly a thriller, Dressed to Kill very much fits into the slasher genre and surely was an influence later on in this genre. While Dressed to Kill is certainly not for all tastes, it is a great example of the kind of idiosyncratic American filmmaking that was able to continue to exist on the periphery of the cinematic landscape in the post-auteur 1980s era. Extra points for the great Pino Donaggio score.



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