“Dressed to Kill” is pure De Palma. This time, he’s channeling mostly “Psycho” but also “Vertigo” and his own “Carrie”. Angie Dickinson stars as a bored middle age housewife married to a dull, unexciting man who can’t even love her properly. She has a teenage son who’s some kind of a techno geek, spending his spare time building electronic stuff. Dickinson visits her shrink (Michael Caine), and then she goes to the museum where she stares at a painting (that’s the “Vertigo” part). She meets an attractive man and in a compelling and surprising cat-and-mouse pursuit, they flirt through the museum. And then… well, I shouldn’t say much more if I don’t want to ruin it for you guys. Let’s just say that the film is packed with plot twists, shameless nudity and blood. And after a particularly gruesome murder, two other characters are brought in: a shady police detective and a street-wise cool prostitute who witnessed the crime, played by Dennis Franz and Nancy Allen (who were both in De Palma’s “Blow Out”).
“Dressed to Kill” is a somewhat exploitative, shallow picture but it’s nonetheless a near perfect movie-movie. De Palma’s direction is sharp and effective, and his visual style is as compelling as ever. There’s one of his signature split-screen sequences, shower scenes, tense chases and confrontations, and much more. The cast is good, especially Angie Dickinson in a very physical performance and Michael Caine, wonderfully restrained. At the risk of being sacrilegious, I’ll say that I actually had more fun watching De Palma’s film than the film it rips off the most, “Psycho”. I believe that this kind of not-that-plausible, voyeuristic shocker is better when it’s an assumed exercise in style that doesn’t take itself too seriously… “Dressed to Kill” is not De Palma’s best film, but it’s certainly a film to see.