Brian De Palma’s Dressed To Kill is another attempt to recreate the timeless hitchcockian style thrillers. We have seen films such as Body Double that prove Brian De Palma is very good at making an effective thriller that teases the brain and plays with your nerves. With one of his earlier films, Dressed To Kill, we learned that this director tried to create a masterpiece but fell way short of achieving his goal. To say the least the films major downfall is not entirely Brian De Palma’s fault.
Dressed to Kills plot follows sexually frustrated house wife Kate Miller. She explains to her psychiatrist, Dr. Elliot, her husband is awful in bed and even offers herself to the doctor. Kate then goes to a museum where we get a sort of an ode to silent films in which she meets an odd stranger. I especially love De Palma’s work with the camera in this scene, he captures her confusion towards the stranger but we can also tell that she has an interest in this peculiar gentleman. Kate drops her glove on the floor of this art museum only for it to be picked up by the strange man. She follows him out of the museum which happens to be a big mistake because what ensues is gruesome and terrifying.
Early on in the film we see many of Hitchcocks techniques that he used to confuse his audience. It should be quite obvious but I suggest you watch Psycho before you watch this film and you will see what I am talking about. To compare this adequate film to Psycho though is unfair.
One of the first things that stick out of this movie in a bad way is how horrible the acting is. Angie Dickinson as Kate makes no attempt for her character to be cared for it’s as almost as if she is just a waste of space. There is also the case of Nancy Allen as Liz. Hearing her obnoxious voice without any passion is disgusting. Her character means well but Nancy Allen doesn’t add any fire to the character, she just turns herself into another damsel in distress begging for someone to come and save her. The main character that frustrated me in this film is the Michael Caine character, Dr. Elliot. At no point did I believe I was watching a psychiatrist work on his patients. I instead felt as if I were watching Mr. Caine with a stupid look on his face wondering as to why he was put into this film. His character serves no purpose and most of the time he is just sitting there like a statue staring straight ahead and agreeing with his clients on everything that is being told to him.
The suspense, however, does work in this film. While it does have its share of terrors, most of the film is more of a mystery rather than a thriller. The films problem is that it didn’t have the right cast for a thriller. I felt as If I were watching an old TV show rather than a hitchcockian thriller.
In the end, though, I must say that I did enjoy this film. Brian De Palma’s camera work single handedly saves this film from all the flaws it has. I love the way his camera moves with the characters, it’s something that most cannot accomplish. De Palma is a true master at making his audience filled with terror and the feeling of uncertainty.
At many points during the film I realized how much potential it had. The poorly written characters and drastically bad acting take what might have been a great film into an adequate movie with a few thrills.