Friday, September 18, 2015

Dressed to Kill (Criterion Blu-ray)

The first thing I noticed about Dressed to Kill was the Pino Donaggio score creating beautiful, fantastical home in brain for a less than real image of Angie Dickinson taking a shower in my brain. Donaggio and I go way back. We go back to The Howling. We go back to Tourist Trap. We go back another stellar De Palma picture, Carrie.  It’s no wonder that the balance of sickly sweet romance music balances with shock stings from beyond the darkest veil of a lightning attack. That’s Donaggio. With that comes a picture that is fully suspensed with intrigue and social challenge that screams De Palma and plays perfectly into the body of work that is the Criterion Collection. Dressed to Kill is hitting now via Blu-ray. Get all yours senses ready and reinforce the arms on your recliner. It’s a real screamer.

From the moment you put on the Criterion release of Dressed to Kill you are enchanted with the rich contrast and grain structure create a warm familiarity with the movie. You haven’t seen the movie look quite like this unless you saw it on film and even then it may not have been the cleanest print. This what Criterion does well and you can be assured of it. The preserve aspect ratio, clean up prints without overdosing on DNR and provide appropriate color timing. In this instance De Palma himself supervised the released and gave the uncut release to better appreciate his true vision sans the handy work of the MPAA. You get a true Criterion release, and you also get the Criterion package of treats that benefit old and first time viewers alike.

Dressed to Kill is packaged in the traditional Criterion clear case and includes a handsome booklet with essay by Michael Koresky. These booklets provide context to the release and contain notes on the restoration to provide archival consideration to the well-educated viewer as well as to provide a work detail for those viewers who are new to the trials of film preservation. Of course for me, the new interview with Pino Donaggio is a treat to be sopped up with bread and enjoyed thoroughly, but Nancy Allen, Brian De Palama and even the shower scene double Victoria Lynn Johnson provide insight into the film’s success and creation. The Making of featurette from 2001 is informative and appropriate, but I was especially fond of the piece that focuses on the scenes cut to avoid the X rating. We are lucky to even be aware of the cuts and have them available. I think of movies like My Bloody Valentine where the footage is lost to time and Dressed to Kill stands out as one of the lucky ones.

The power of Dressed to Kill is in the performances. It’s in the cinematography. It’s in a story that continues to slash you with a straight razor, opening up slits inside you that provide drops of doubt that resolve in pools of perfect tension. Nancy Allen as an unassuming Nancy Drew of the Night. Keith Gordon playing boy wonder to her, “experienced” in the ways of strange reality. Michael Caine providing a voice of reason, but at what octave and timbre? Angie Dickinson our heroine… or not. Seeing Dressed to Kill plays with your mind. The saut├ęs your expectations providing a meal for common conception and prediction at each turn. Enjoy this horrific, classic slasher picture… more than a slasher picture really. Enjoy this work of tension. Let it thrill you and make sure to dress for the occasion.

You can order Dressed to Kill from Criterion now.

From Criterion:

Brian De Palma ascended to the highest ranks of American suspense filmmaking with this virtuoso, explicit erotic thriller. At once tongue in cheek and scary as hell, Dressed to Kill revolves around the grisly murder of a woman in Manhattan and how her psychiatrist, her brainiac teenage son, and the prostitute who witnessed the crime try to piece together what happened while the killer remains at large. With its masterfully executed scenes of horror, voluptuous camera work, and passionate score, Dressed to Kill is a veritable symphony of terror, enhanced by vivid performances by Angie Dickinson, Michael Caine, and Nancy Allen.

  • New, restored 4K digital transfer of director Brian De Palma’s preferred unrated version, supervised by the director, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New conversation between De Palma and filmmaker Noah Baumbach
  • New interviews with actor Nancy Allen, producer George Litto, composer Pino Donaggio, shower-scene body double Victoria Lynn Johnson, and poster photographic art director Stephen Sayadian
  • The Making of “Dressed to Kill,” a 2001 documentary
  • New profile of cinematographer Ralf Bode, featuring filmmaker Michael Apted
  • Interview with actor-director Keith Gordon from 2001
  • Pieces from 2001 about the different versions of the film and the cuts made to avoid an X rating
  • Gallery of storyboards by De Palma
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Michael Koresky

Cover based on original poster

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