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Badmovies.org Forum  |  Movies  |  Bad Movies  |  Dressed to Kill (1980) « previous next »
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Author Topic: Dressed to Kill (1980)  (Read 6457 times)
akiratubo
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« on: July 06, 2013, 09:27:14 PM »

As I understand it, this movie was pretty infamous for a while.  I'm not sure I understand why.  Sure, it has a sleazy mixture of sex and violence but, even in the terms of the late 70s/early 80s, it doesn't seem that far out there.  Certainly, movies like I Drink Your Blood and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre had just as much gruesome violence and almost as much twisted, sickening, sexuality.  Maybe the difference is that no one but people who would seek out such things saw movies like I Drink Your Blood and its ilk, while Dressed to Kill had a wide release from a big-time studio to respectable theaters, and was seen by general audiences who were completely unprepared.

Dressed to Kill is about Angie Dickinson (if her character has a name, I certainly missed it).  Angie is completely unhappy in her marriage.  How unhappy?  She fantasizes about being raped by a stranger every time her husband has sex with her.  Yeah, that unhappy.  She tells as much to her shrink (played by Michael Caine!).  He thinks she should tell her husband how she feels.  Angie, on the other hand, decides that she should have an affair.

As luck would have it, on a trip to the museum that very day, she meets a man who bears a striking resemblance to the rapist in her fantasies.  She's interested, but it's not until he sneaks up behind her and puts his hand on her neck - just like her fantastical rapist - that she really gets interested.  She pursues him through the museum while the most absurdly overwrought "love theme" you've ever heard wails away on the soundtrack.  You could plop this scene down in a Mel Brooks farce without the slightest alteration and it would fit right in.  It's amazing.  She eventually loses him and gives up, only to see him waiting in a cab when she goes outside.  Oh, and when the camera dollies from a close up on Angie over to a close up on the man in the cab, it passes by what seems to be a fairly large man in drag, who swivels his head to watch the camera go by.  This person may as well have a flashing sign that says "HEY LOOK THE KILLER" over his head.  Just in case that wasn't obvious enough, this person makes a big production of picking up a glove Angie dropped -- and he gets into a taxi and tells it to follow the one Angie and her new friend are in.

After Angie and her new friend get to his hotel, she turns into a much younger body double and they schtupp until about 7:30 that night.  He falls asleep.  Angie considers staying but realizes that it would be very difficult to explain being out all night to her husband.  So, Angie gets dressed (and Ms. Dickinson actually does her own nude scene here; I must say that in 1980 she still had quite an ass) and leaves the guy a thank-you note.  While doing so, she happens to find a notice from the NY Public Health Department.  The guy has chlamydia and gonorrhea!  Holy s**t!

Needless to say, Angie high-tails it out of the scumbag's apartment.  We can forgive Angie for being too distracted to notice the drag-queen staring at her from behind the nearby fire exit door while she waits for the elevator.  (This calls forth the hilarious image of the guy standing there for hours with his face pressed against the glass, waiting ever more impatiently for Angie and her guy to get done humping.)  Fortunately, Drag Queen is too slow to act and the elevator door closes before he can do whatever it is to Angie he's planning on doing.  On her way down to the basement, Angie realizes she forgot her wedding ring.  If it were me, I'd tell my hubby that I lost it in the subway restroom and deal with him getting p**sed off.  NOTHING would make me go back to the apartment of a guy I knew had purposely tried to give me VD.  So, once she hits the basement, Angie goes all the way back up to floor seven -- only to find Drag Queen still there, waiting to slice her to ribbons with a straight razor while a completely shameless ripoff of the Psycho shower scene music blares over the soundtrack at about double the volume of any previous sounds!  Seriously, it just about blew out my speakers.

So, did Drag Queen stand there pouting about missing his chance until he noticed the elevator coming back up, or did he desperately run down the stairs to the basement, only to groan in frustration and run all the way back up to seven when Angie started back up?  Frankly, either option is equally hilarious to imagine.

The killer isn't very good as his business, as he apparently neglected to consider that anyone might stop the elevator and get on while he was in the process of murdering Angie.  That, of course, is exactly what happens.  Nancy Allen is the unlucky person who calls the elevator.  She sees Angie laying in a puddle of blood on the floor and does that thing mediocre actors do where they put their hands on the sides of their faces to show extreme distress.  She also happens to notice Drag Queen, who has been scrunched behind the button panel.  He is apparently unprepared to kill again at this time, because he raises the razor but then drops it just before he strikes.  For some reason, Nancy quickly grabs the razor before she flees.  So, she saw Drag Queen and is in possession of the murder weapon.  I think we can guess the general trajectory of the plot from here.

I could go into more detail, such as the fact that Angie has an 80s whiz-kid for a son who becomes a key character.  I could also mention Denis Franz as, hands down, the laziest movie cop ever.  (If only this movie had come out about seven years later, Nancy would have had a much more effective police officer to rely upon.)  Have you ever watched a Warner Brothers gangster movie from the 30s?  You know how the cops are always, at best, ineffectual morons?  Well, those cops would look at Franz's character and say, "Dude, you're one lousy cop!"  Yes, I could mention those things but it's just not worth it, because you already know it all.  Dressed to Kill must have been a more influential film than I would have realized because echoes of it show up in practically every slasher movie and "erotic thriller" made from 1980 to at least the mid 90s, when Silence of the Lambs took over as the stock template (which was in turn largely supplanted by Se7en a few years after that).  Mind you, Dressed to Kill is hardly an original film itself.  Stylistically, most of it is cribbed from Hitchcock, while the plot takes most of its cues from Dario Argento, all of it sprinkled with a light seasoning of Mario Bava.

Dressed to Kill certainly isn't a good movie but I don't think it was intended to be.  Oliver Stone made this at the point in his career where he really knew how to suck with panache.  And, by joe, he sucks with all the panache he can muster.  This movie practically pulverizes you with its badness.  In the background of every scene, you can almost hear the sound of Stone patting himself on the back for ripping off Hitchcock -- but with gore and tits and stuff!  This film, along with Body Double, proves unequivocally that Oliver Stone was, at least for a short time, very good at making bad movies.

In these days of every old slasher movie getting a slick, semi-farcical, big-budget remake with even more tits and pot jokes than the original, can Dressed to Kill be waiting much longer for its turn?  Boy, I hope so.  I sure as hell don't want to see this reenacted by a cast of 20-something stoners working for Michael Bay, being directed by Alex Aja or somesuch.
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retrorussell
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« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2013, 11:00:06 PM »

I rather liked this movie.  BTW, this is Brian De Palma, not Oliver Stone.  The film was trimmed heavily to avoid the ol' X rating, and some cuts severely displeased Mr. De Palma.  He was married at the time to Nancy Allen, the girl who plays the hooker (and appeared in a number of his other movies, like Blow Out and Carrie).  He gets criticized for ripping off Hitchcock in his films, and I have to admit he does deserve a little bit of the criticism.  I love the ending dream sequence.  Yeah, it's kinda a cheap gimmick but I felt it was well-played here.  I own it and enjoy it.
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akiratubo
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« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2013, 11:12:46 PM »

BTW, this is Brian De Palma, not Oliver Stone.

Wait, what?  *checks*  Holy cow, it is!  Wait a minute ... *checks Body Double*  It was de Palma, too!  What the???  I'd never seen Dressed to Kill before, but I have seen Body Double numerous times, and I've always thought it was an Oliver Stone movie.  In fact, I was doing this review as the start of my "Oliver Stone" trilogy: Dressed to Kill, The Hand, and Body Double.  Now I realize only one of them was done by Stone.

I guess I have to give what credit I was extending to Oliver Stone to Brian de Palma, instead.  Sorry, Ollie, but de Palma is the one who was good at making bad movies.  You just make bad movies, period.
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RyanPC
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« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2013, 12:28:24 AM »

Dude, you're a f**king moron.  Dressed to Kill is a masterpiece.
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retrorussell
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BROTHA NOOMSIE!!!


« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2013, 01:08:01 AM »

Dude, you're a f**king moron.  Dressed to Kill is a masterpiece.
Come on, that wasn't necessary.  We are all entitled to agree or disagree as we please (and I rather like Dressed To Kill quite a bit myself) but let's be civil.  In small circles amongst certain people it's perhaps okay to say that if they all speak in such a manner.  But on a forum which hundreds upon hundreds of people chat, it in general is rather poor taste.  Let's try to be a bit more courteous, okay?
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zombie #1
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Oookaay...


« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2013, 07:00:21 AM »

^ agreed....so rare to see that kind of comment on here. to be fair it's his first post, he doesn't know how civilised and classy we are here (right jerks?!)

Nice review Akira, Im always suprised by the number of unknown movies Michael Caine crops up in. Never heard of this one either but I quite like Angie Dickinson
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fulci420
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« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2013, 08:23:27 AM »

Dressed to Kill is an awesome movie and certainly one of the strongest thrillers of the 80's. Also when your Oliver Stone marathon consists of two De Palma movies and his worst film then your doing it wrong. Try Platoon/Salvador/Born on the Fourth of July for showing of why he's a great filmmaker. You're know it all tone to your review does not gel with your ignorance of what you are discussing.
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FatFreddysCat
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« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2013, 09:12:16 AM »

I haven't seen Dressed To Kill in a very long time, about all I remember of it is that Nancy Allen was pretty durn hot.
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akiratubo
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« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2013, 10:45:55 AM »

Er, guys, I liked this movie.  I just don't think it was a "good" movie.  This is 110% pure exploitation and it makes no bones about it.  I didn't go into the ending but I felt it was both too obvious (and not just because I've seen a lot of movies that do the same thing; all the clues are shoved right into your face throughout the movie), kind of a cheat, and a wasted opportunity.  That was the biggest reason it went into bad movies.

As to Stone vs. de Palma, I'm not sure why I seem to have switched them for each other in my mind.  If you had asked me yesterday who directed Platoon, Born on the 4th of July, and Natural Born Killers, I'd have said "Brian de Palma".  Likewise, I'd have said "Oliver Stone" if you asked me who directed Dressed to Kill, Body Double, and The Untouchables.   Question
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FatFreddysCat
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« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2013, 11:35:11 AM »

I haven't seen Dressed To Kill in a very long time, about all I remember of it is that Nancy Allen was pretty durn hot.


I present the following evidence:


Oh, yeeeeaaaaaaah. No further questions your honor. I'm gonna have to re-visit this movie now.
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zombie #1
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Oookaay...


« Reply #10 on: July 07, 2013, 01:35:07 PM »

I slightly fell n love with her in robocop
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major jay
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« Reply #11 on: July 07, 2013, 02:31:25 PM »

She still looks hot.

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Mofo Rising
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« Reply #12 on: July 08, 2013, 03:46:40 AM »

Hey, akiratubo is doing a classic p!ss-take. Just because you mock something mercilessly doesn't mean you don't like it.

I watched this about a year ago because I was talking with a coworker who still has a "scary fetish" about nurses uniforms. I was interested, because why would she still find nurses uniforms creepy forty years later?

Now, De Palma's entire career has been a Hitchcock retread. He's sometimes super successful (Carrie), and other times not so much (Raising Cain).

I think why Dressed to Kill is still so infamous is because it was the first major American film to ape the classic Italian giallo films which were so popular in the '70s. Obviously he's aping Argento or Bava, but those films were only shown to a rarefied audience. Dressed to Kill was shown to everybody. You have to remember that something like that was not available to everyone, and it was completely different from anything being shown in American cinema. That's why I think it has the reputation it does, because at the time there was nothing else being shown like it.

So I watched it. I thought it was okay. Not a great giallo, but certainly okay. It definitely helped to jump-start De Palma's career. I have no qualms about watching it.
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BoyScoutKevin
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« Reply #13 on: July 12, 2013, 03:16:21 PM »

I am old enough to remember the controversy when this first came out.

S
P
O
I
L
E
R
S

The murderous villain in the film is a transvestite. And a number of transvestites and non-transvestites were afraid that film audiences would associate the violence in the film with transvestism in real life. Though, transvestites are no more violent than most people, and are probably less violent than some people. Thus, the controversy.

I did not see it when it was first released in 1980, but I did see it later on TV. Hitchcock did it better in "Psycho."
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