Brian De Palma

Brian De Palma

Dressed to kill is the umpteenth variation on the theme of the double. And it is precisely around the identity confusion that the plot, fairly anecdotal and superficial develops. The beautiful and wealthy Kate Miller (Nancy Allen), after a disappointing night of love with her husband, maliciously follows up to a man casually met at the museum. After having sex, she is killed in the elevator by a maniac disguised as a woman. Kate's son, Peter, with the help of Liz (Angie Dickinson) - and a whole technological paraphernalia that he himself designs and creates - gets on the trail of the murderer, finally managing to unmask him. 

In short, an excellent thriller by De Palma inspired by the works of Dario Argento, but at these levels it is almost impossible to understand 'who' was inspired by 'what': Tenebre would have come out only two years later. A film, for tones and contents, decidedly iconic of the 80s, one of the best of the genre. Strong thriller, with marked erotic tones and characterized by a typically Argento's vein: there are the killer in raincoat, the key witness threatened, the cop, the murder in lift. Multiple references in history, and stylistically, refer to the Fulci's A Lizard with the Skin of a Woman. The figure of the murderer, a "man imprisoned in the body of a woman", is a sort of Norman Bates in a more exasperated form, also decidedly iconic. 

His modus operandi simply involves the use of a razor. Stylistically, De Palma is inspired by Hitchcock, especially in certain 'virtuosic' sequences, like the two casual lovers at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, which lasts 9 minutes. After endless silences, everything culminates in a sex that in Dressed to Kill loses any liberating value: it is pure nihilism. The killer, in this sense, is a sort of moralistic executioner who, as we will see, is the first to experience heavy personality conflicts. The narrative intrigues in it's simplicity: De Palma directs an excellent thriller (we would say almost italian, if it were not for the purely U.S.A. setting) giving up too complex psychological profiles, improbable detective details and ridiculous endings.

De Palma was also accused of having trod too much his hand - rather than violence, reduced to the essential- over sexism and eroticism: after all the film open (and closes) in a dreamlike atmosphere that probably was not understood by many. A sort of erotic nightmare that has become a cult to which Fulci and Argento, to be honest, had already arrived almost ten years before. Dressed to Kill is one of the best mainstream thrillers of the period, and still deserves a vision today.

Dressed To Kill
director BRIAN DE PALMA
year 1980
director of photography RALF BODE
cast MICHAEL CAINE, NANCY ALLEN, ANGIE DICKINSON, KEITH GORDON

 
 

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