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Dressed to Kill
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English PCM Mono
  • English DTS-HD 5.1 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Region B
  • Uncut version
  • Symphony of Fear: Producer George Litto discusses his working relationship with Brian De Palma
  • Dressed in White: Star Angie Dickinson on her role in the film
  • Dressed in Purple: Star Nancy Allen discusses her role in the film
  • Lessons in Filmmaking: Actor Keith Gordon discusses Dressed to Kill
  • The Making of a Thriller - A documentary on the making of Dressed to Kill featuring writer-director Brian De Palma, George Litto, stars Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen, Dennis Franz and more!
  • Unrated, R-Rated, and TV-Rated Comparison Featurette
  • Slashing Dressed to Kill - Brian De Palma and stars Nancy Allen and Keith Gordon discuss the changes that had to be made to avoid an X-rating
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Gallery

Dressed to Kill

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Brian De Palma
Starring: Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen, Keith Gordon, Dennis Franz
1980 | 105 Minutes

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: £19.99 | Series: Arrow Video
Arrow Films

Release Date: July 29, 2013
Review Date: July 28, 2013

Purchase From:
amazon.co.uk

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SYNOPSIS

After sexually frustrated housewife Kate Miller (Angie Dickinson) has a session with her psychiatrist Dr Elliott (Michael Caine), she silently seduces a man in an art gallery, an assignation that ends in murder and the only witness, high-class prostitute Liz Blake (Nancy Allen) being stalked by the killer in turn.

One of Brian De Palma's darkest and most controversial suspense thrillers, Dressed to Kill was as acclaimed for its stylish set-pieces and lush Pino Donaggio score as it was condemned for its sexual explicitness and blatant borrowings from Alfred Hitchcock in general and Psycho in particular.

But the glee with which De Palma turns this material inside out is completely infectious, as he delves deep inside the troubled psyches of his characters (critic Pauline Kael said that the film was "permeated with the distilled essence of impure thoughts") in order to undermine expectations at every turn.


PICTURE

Arrow Video delivers a notable special edition for Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill on Blu-ray, presenting the film in its original aspect ratio of about 2.39:1 on a dual-layer disc. The high-definition digital transfer is presented in 1080p/24hz. The disc is locked to Region B and viewers in North America will require a player that can play back Region B content.

It doesn’t look like the best possible source was used (or this is really just De Palma’s intended look) as the image is a fuzzy and the finer details don’t really pop, but the digital transfer itself is strong, and delivers what I feel is the best possible image. It remains film-like, renders film grain naturally, is free of halos, noise and artifacts, and also strikingly renders colours, despite the muted tone of the film. Black levels are deep and details are still present, never crushed or lost.

The print has very little damage present, making this the cleanest I’ve ever seen the film on home video. Despite some shortcomings either from the source used or just how the film was shot, which causes a softer image than most would be used to on the format, the digital transfer still delivers a rather filmic, smooth look.

7/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Arrow includes a remixed DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track and the film’s original mono track presented in 2.0 linear PCM. The 5.1 track was a pleasant surprise and actually adds in some creative sound effects to match De Palma’s camera work and staging. The opening is rather effective with the water fall from the shower filling out the environment, and there’s some creative splits and panning in the film’s museum sequence. The film’s score also fills the speakers effectively and makes nice use of the bass. Dialogue remains mono in nature, and comes off a teeny-bit flat in comparison to everything else, but it’s easy to hear.

For the purists the mono track will be the way to go. It’s not as lively or robust as the 5.1 track, but it delivers a clear and natural rendering of the film’s audio. Dialogue is easy to understand, music is clean, and there’s a decent bit of range, making some of the film’s jumps very effective.

As usual it will come down to personal taste but both tracks are very strong.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Arrow supplies a number of new and older features for this release, starting with Symphony of Fear, a 17-minute interview with producer George Litto. In it he talks about how he first met De Palma and getting Sisters picked up for distribution. He then goes over how Dressed to Kill came to be (and almost didn’t because all studios, except AIP of course, turned the film down because of its violence) and recalls shooting certain sequences, like the opening shower scene with Dickinson. He then spends a good chunk of the latter half of the interview gushing over the art gallery sequence, which he considers the best scene he has ever seen. Gitto shows an obvious affection towards the film, mentioning how proud he is that it’s held up all these years later.

After that strong introduction we then get Dressed in White, an interview with Angie Dickinson. I was actually a bit surprised how proud Dickinson is of this film, going as far as saying she thinks the film contains her best performance. She feels it gave her the biggest challenge, with the film both allowing her to “act” and also presenting some of the most difficult sequences to shoot. The cab scenes was apparently more brutal than it actually looks in the film (and she insists she still refuses to take a cab to this day because of it,) and the elevator scene was of course fairly hard as well. But it sounds like the gallery sequence was the most difficult because of all of the complex camera work involved. She also admits to being surprised how she wasn’t called in to record voice over for the museum sequence, with De Palma telling her over the phone that it wasn’t needed because “it works” without it. From here she fondly recalls Michael Caine, speaking highly of him, and then addresses the accusations that the film is simply a “rip-off” of Psycho or Hitchcock in general. Running 30-minutes it may be my favourite feature on here.

Dressed in Purple is then another interview, this time with Nancy Allen. She talks a bit about working with De Palma on Carrie and then recalls the script process for Dressed to Kill and working with her then-husband. She talks about some of the more difficult scenes but after all of the crazy stuff that happens in the film I was somewhat surprised (though understand after she explains the reason) that the scene where she wears black lingerie and seduces Caine was the most difficult. She then addresses the film’s rating problems (it was threatened with an X, which would have been box office poison) and the charges of misogyny that were thrown at De Palma when the film was released, which proves to be the most interesting part of this interview. The interview runs 23-minutes.

Lessons in Filmmaking is a 31-minute interview with Keith Gordon, who plays the young kid Peter in the film, and who would also go on to be a director himself. Gordon talks about his acting work in the film, how De Palma helped him and actually let him make his own decisions on scenes. He also fondly recalls how great Caine was to work with. But Gordon talks primarily about De Palma’s style and what he picked up while working with him. Like the other interviews he addresses the criticisms that De Palma simply rips off Hitchcock or that his films are misogynistic.

We then move on to features available on other editions, like the MGM Special Edition DVD released in 2001. The Making of a Thriller is a lengthy 45-minute documentary covering the film’s genesis, production, and release. It features interviews with Dickinson, Allen, Gordon, De Palma, Dennis Franz, and others. Like most documentary features that appeared on MGM DVDs back in the day it’s a solid, very informative doc, but unfortunately most of the material is repeated in the other new features on the disc. Still, it’s worth watching to get De Palma’s insights into the film (primarily his annoyance at the cuts he had to make) and it also offers more in-depth analysis of key sequences in the film.

A Film Comparison is also from the DVD and it offers a comparison between the various versions of the film, with a split screen presenting the obvious and more subtle differences in the editing between the R-rate and Unrated versions for the shower and elevator scenes. For a laugh it also shows the television edit, which of course cuts most of the material out. And though Allen mentions it in her interview I’m still sort of surprised one of the changes required to lose the X rating was to change dialogue in one scene. In all a rather fascinating 5-minute comparison.

The final big feature is Slashing Dressed to Kill, a 10-minute feature about the film’s heavy edits to avoid an X-rating. This is of course mentioned elsewhere in the features, but it does give a more thorough look into negotiations that went on, and of course shows an angry De Palma, who was also annoyed by the misogynistic claims thrown at him.

The disc then concludes with the film’s theatrical trailer and a small photo gallery feature a few production photos. A booklet is also included but I did not receive one with the review copy I was sent.

MGM’s DVD was always fairly impressive but Arrow has gathered together some rather wonderful newer material. It’s disappointing De Palma didn’t participate (or Caine) but it’s a solid collection of extras.

8/10

CLOSING

Arrow delivers a solid special edition for the film, with a nice video and audio presentation and a solid roster of supplements. It comes with a high recommendation. (As noted before the disc is region B locked.)




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