Liberal men (and female feminists) in today’s post-MeToo movie industry would never release a film like Brian De Palma‘s Dressed to Kill (1980), for they would obtusely suspect it of being sexist. It is rather refreshing to see such a candid work from the past, although I myself am bothered by the film’s sensationalism at the beginning and close to the end. Indeed, it is this and Angie Dickinson‘s second-rate acting that make the film so unpromising for the first 15 minutes. Then it gets stronger.
Dickinson plays an unhappy, sexually dissatisfied wife and mother who ceases to have any scruples about her marriage. Eventually she is murdered. Dressed to Kill, which De Palma wrote as well as directed, is Psycho with sex steadily focused on, sex taken utterly seriously.
The movie, I repeat, gets stronger, but only for a while. De Palma intentionally steals from Hitchcock but is not as powerful a thriller director as Hitchcock. Further, his screenplay contains too much that is hard to swallow. Deeply sensual through its female bodies—including that of Nancy Allen, De Palma’s ex-wife—the movie is nevertheless non-sexist. Why did it have to be non-sexist sensationalism?