Dressed to Kill (1980)


Brian De Palma directs Nancy Allen, Angie Dickinson and Michael Caine in this slasher thriller where a bored housewife and a yuppie prostitute find themselves the targets of razor blade wielding lady.

The “mystery” killer sticks out like a sore thumb. There are bravura sequences (art gallery / lift attack / subway stalk) that are dazzlingly suspenseful but they are framed by a dreamlike logic that doesn’t really hold together. Like Frenzy, there isn’t really a protagonist. Angie Dickinson does a lot with a little, the ageing lady looking to be touched. Nancy Allen is the plucky stand out though, especially when she tries to seduce the inscrutable Caine. The closest American cinema gets to giallo and this shares the flaws as well as the triumphs of that subgenre. It is gleefully indulgent but often risibly self serving. The saviour kid, the teenage nude body double for Dickinson, the red herring phone message pollute quite a pure experience. I did notice on this watch Dressed To Kill has a pleasing palindromic structure. We start where we end essentially, in shocking fantasy, waking from a sexy nightmare.


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