Review of Dressed to Kill (1980)

Moving picture, 105 minutes

Seen in 2016.

Watching this I guessed and hoped that De Palma based it on two decent ideas for intricate scene composition: The first being the elevator with the mirror, and the second being the two masculine-looking women on opposite sides of the glass. These games with the gaze in studio cinema are interesting enough, and I like the bold silence at the museum, but everything else is garbage. The depiction of 1980 New York with a rapey black street gang and Dennis Franz as the amazingly casual working-class police detective is almost on the level of Fritz the Cat (1972). The T&A is straight out of softcore, the basic premise is strobingly transphobic, and the twist is visible a mile away because why the hell would a psychiatrist keep a straight razor in his office. Keith Gordon is cute but the 128-bit integer computer was already commercially available in 1980; it did not look or sound like his character’s project, which apparently has to be kept running while he solders it together. More in-your-face than all of this is the first-world misogyny: mature women who go looking for sexual pleasure must be put on display as objects, struck with venereal disease and brutally murdered. As schlock it’s not quite funny enough to justify watching.

References here: Blow Out (1981).

moving picture fiction