Review: Dressed to Kill Blu-ray

Dressed to Kill Blu-raySTUDIO: MGM/20th Century Fox | DIRECTOR: Brian De Palma | STARS: Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen, Keith Gordon, Dennis Franz
9/6/2011 | PRICE: Blu-ray $16.99 ARP (average retail price)
BONUSES: featurettes, comparison of different versions, animated photo gallery, more
SPECS: NR | 105 min. | Thriller | 2.35:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | English, French and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Dressed to Kill

A murderous New York City blonde is Dressed to Kill.

It’s shaping up to be a great year for Brian De Palma (Carlito’s Way) fans, what with the release of Criterion’s outstanding Blu-ray edition of Blow Out, Universal’s Blu-ray version of Scarface and, of course, this high-definition version of De Palma’s sexy and stylish 1980 thriller Dressed to Kill.

Director De Palma was at the height of his visual powers when he made this Alfred Hitchcock-flavored, erotically charged murder-mystery. The movie is about a sexually repressed New York City housewife (Angie Dickinson, TV’s Police Woman), her psychologist Michael Caine (The Man Who Would Be King), her whiz kid son (Keith Gordon, A Midnight Clear), a high-priced call girl (Nancy Allen, RoboCop) and a mysterious, lethal blonde wielding a straight-edged razor.

The Blu-ray edition of Dressed to Kill looks fine, but not outstanding. The colors are rich, though overly so, and De Palma’s stylistic trademarks — split-screens, soft-focus, luxurious tracking shots, slow-motion — are definitely delivered with panache, but not so much more than they were in MGM’s Special Edition DVD from 2001.

The movie’s audio effects and silky score by Pino Donaggio are better served in this Blu-ray rendering, though. The sounds of New York — subways, taxis, rain, high heels clicking on marble floors — are apparent without being invasive, and the resonance of a razor tearing across an innocent’s flesh is nothing if not unsettling. Donaggio’s strings-filled music, meanwhile, fills all the speakers (with a focus on the front ones), lushly embellishing the eroticism and action.

The bonus features have all been imported from the previously released DVD. The best of these is the split-screen comparison of various scenes from the movie’s unrated and R-rated versions, as well as the heavily edited network cut. The unrated version, a minute longer than the R one, features more graphic violence and nudity, including a handful of full-frontal shots of Angie Dickinson’s body double.

Frustratingly, the original R-rated version of Dressed to Kill, the version that was released in theaters and clocks in at 104 minutes, is not included on the Blu-ray–only the unrated version is on the disc. And that is inexcusable, particularly since the DVD edition includes both versions of the film! For crying out loud, would it have been that much more expensive to have included both the unrated and the rated versions?

Oh, another gripe: the Blu-ray packaging features an inexplicably colorized and altered version of the film’s original sepia-toned theatrical release one-sheet poster. Why was it changed?



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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.