Before rewatching Dressed to Kill for the first time since high school, I would have told you it was god tier. Now... I'm gonna have to bump it down a peg or two to just okay. The first 40 minutes of the movie has moments that are crazy good, ending with what comes off like a really long joke while the last half is a lot more talking out the plot instead of storytelling. It also ends with extra cheese. Also, it's one of the many horror movies that portray trans people as psychopaths which, you know, is a pretty fucking insensitive motif. It was a deferent time, yeah, but it's fucked up that every movie (with the exception of documentaries) I've seen dealing with trans issues made before The Crying Game featured a transgender person that was a murderous cartoon. This was supposed to be shocking in the 1980s just because it was different. While it's not quite Ace Ventura bad, The Danish Girl it aint.
Gist of the flick is a rich strumpet played by Angie Dickinson is murdered by a strange blonde with a straight razor in an elevator. From there, a high-end call girl who witnessed the attack and Dickinson's teenage son investigate the killing, ultimately leading them to her psychiatrist played by Michael Caine whom they believe knows the identity of the giant blonde... Spoiler. It's Michael Caine.
Fun fact: The prostitute, Nancy Allen, was Quentin Tarantino's inspiration for the character Alabama in True Romance another flick I love.
Pros: Casting is noice. Nancy Allen is a very, very pretty lady. The museum sequence is ah-mazing. Beautifully filmed.
Cons: Like three endings that grow progressively weaker. Pretty fucked up depiction of transgendered people.
Disclaimer: My notes pretty much always contain some spoilers but I rarely give away the ending. In this one I give away the three endings.
Notes: Famously opens with Nancy Dickinson naked, in the shower, masturbating. Has to be a body double. Her face looks so old yet her body is that of a fit 21-year-old. She gets murdered in there but it's all a dream. One of several dream outs. Cut to her having sex missionary style with he husband. She is writhing about like a crazy person but later tells her shrink, played by Michael Caine, that the husband gave her “one of his wham-bam specials.” Looked like she liked it to me but what do I know about pleasing a woman.
Anyway, we eventually get to the art museum scene which goes on forever but is probably the most memorable bit in the film. She starts by sitting there looking at various paintings and taking notes in a book. You think she is writing down thoughts on the art and such but she is really just making out her shopping list adding stuff like “pick up turkey.” I guess what she does at an art museum is her business. She looks at a couple like, “oh, I wish I had that.” So much Hitchcock up to this point. Had Psycho in the shower and this has Vertigo written all over it. Brian DePalma was sort of the Hitchcock of the 1980s but fell way off in the 1990s. Then it was David Lynch followed by Shyamalan in the 2000s. Now I guess filmmaking has advanced. She gets all hot for this guy that sits next to her. Takes off her glove to show off her wedding ring for some reason. He gets up. She does as well. Drops the glove when she follows him. They play this game where they follow each other around for a long time. He picks up her glove and puts it on and then touches her with it. She freaks out and goes to look for her glove which is weird. She remembers he had it on. Now she's looking for him again. Chases him about. This is all happening in real time. Doesn't find him and makes a gesture like really what the hell am I supposed to do with one glove. And there he is with it in a cab. She goes to the cab and fucking drops the other one. Keep track of your shit. Once she gets there, they immediately start to get it on in the cab. The driver is stoked. Then they get it on at dudes. Post coitus she does some weird shit like calls her house and hangs up and writes him a letter saying that she loved their afternoon together but she keeps messing it up and runs out of stationary. Rifles through his desk and sees a letter saying that he has contracted a venereal disease. Wantwah.
She hops in the elevator to leave. We see this tall blonde that has been watching her as she has gone about town. She gets to the bottom level to leave after getting judged by some child. Remembers she left her wedding ring in that asshole's room. Goes back up. The blonde is waiting with a straight razor. Kilt. Door pops open. There is Nancy Allen looking fine. The scene blows her fucking mind. Blonde drops the razor. Allen, playing a prostitute, picks it up. She is standing there freaked out. A housekeeper sees her and thinks she did it and runs away screaming. Allen is fucking breathtaking. You may remember her as the bitch in Carrie or the partner in RoboCop. This performance simultaneously earned nominations for both a Golden Globe for Best New Star and a infamous Razzie.
Off to the police station. Dennis Franz is the lead detective. He basically mansplains his way through the movie and blames the victim the whole time. Basically the same character that he played in NYPD Blue except he does not show his ass.
Learn the blonde is a trans patient of My Cocaine. She keeps calling the doctor and talking about killing the girl.
Start learning about Allen. She's like trading stocks on the open market in her free time. She goes and sees a john. He pretty much ejaculator when he sees her. Gets followed by the blonde. Ends up in a cab now. Driver tried to help her out. She ends up in the subway. While hiding out from the murderer five black dudes threatened to rape and murder her for just standing around. Pretty vulgar too. See a cop on the subway who was just sort of a dick to her. As soon as the cop gets off, the five dudes show back up and are violent and crazy. She is running through cars. Between a pair the killer blonde shows up and scares them off. Angie Dickinson's kid shows up out of nowhere and saves her with the homemade mace. They develop an endearing relationship which is sweet. Trying to find the killer and what not. They know the tranny is seeing the doctor and figure they have to get his patient ledger. She goes and sees the doctor as a patient. She basically just throws herself at him. Gets more or less naked and talks dirty to them. All I can say is wow.
Outside, watching out for Allen who is about to get killed by the blonde, the kid also gets attacked by the blonde, wait, what, but this iteration ends up being a police person. Meanwhile, Michael Caine is revealed to be the blonde and he goes after the girl but the cop shoots her. Movie should have fucking ended here. With Caine writhing around on the ground. Doesn't.
Second ending is a lot of talking and explaining what just happened which was all pretty obvious. It was so fucking weird. We just saw the movie, man, this doesn't need to be here. And it happens again! This time Allen and the kid just rehash what we've seen and what we just got explained to us at a restaurant. It's so grossly unnecessary. I don't know what is happening here. I think it's in here just so these old ladies next to them can look at them like they're fucking psychopaths.
Thought that was the end. Again, it was not. Now we go to the hospital where Caine kills a sexy nurse. There are like 500 asylum patients watching from above, going apeshit. Allen is spending the night with the kid. It's platonic maybe but she's is all sexy showering like Angie Dickinson at the beginning of the movie. She's getting out of the shower and she sees the nurse's shoe. He's just waiting out there. She's looking around for a weapon. He is totally not concealing himself. She grabs a straight razor from the medicine cabinet. He slipped the shoes off and snuck up behind her. Slits her throat. But no. It was all a dream! She wakes up and freaks out on the kid. Looks like they slept in separate rooms so I guess it was platonic. Lame. Still pretty good by my usual standards but nowhere near god tier.