Dressed to Kill (1980)

R | 105 mins | Mystery | 1980

Director:

Brian De Palma

Writer:

Brian De Palma

Producer:

George Litto

Cinematographer:

Ralf Bode

Editor:

Jerry Greenberg

Production Designer:

Gary Weist

Production Companies:

Cinema 77, Filmways
Full page view
HISTORY


       According to a 31 Oct 1979 Var news item, Dressed to Kill was shot entirely in New York City. An “abdominal stand-in” performed some of the “steamier segments” for lead actress Angie Dickinson, as noted in the Var review.
       A 20 Jul 1980 NYT article entitled “’Dressed to Kill’ – How a Film Changes from ‘X’ to ‘R’” analyzed the film’s ratings controversy prior to its release. After viewing the first version of the film, the MPAA rating board told writer-director Brian De Palma that Dressed to Kill would most likely receive an X rating. But with the high cost of shooting in New York and the A-list cast, the article noted, “the difference between R and X can mean the difference between riches and ruin.” As a result, De Palma re-worked the film, and the subsequent edit received an R. Also according to the NYT article, De Palma accused the MPAA of “censorship” and “repression,” while MPAA chairman Dr. Richard D. Heffner defended their actions as “meeting obligations to American parents.”
       A 4 Aug 1980 DV news item reported that Universal was in the process of developing new advertisements to attract a larger audience outside of the urban centers where the film had performed well in its initial week of release; accordingly, the television ads were re-tailored for an audience with a “taste for horror content.” Critics responded very positively to the film, and box office steadily grew to make the film “financially successful” within two months of its release, according to a 12 Sep 1980 LAT article. A ... More Less


       According to a 31 Oct 1979 Var news item, Dressed to Kill was shot entirely in New York City. An “abdominal stand-in” performed some of the “steamier segments” for lead actress Angie Dickinson, as noted in the Var review.
       A 20 Jul 1980 NYT article entitled “’Dressed to Kill’ – How a Film Changes from ‘X’ to ‘R’” analyzed the film’s ratings controversy prior to its release. After viewing the first version of the film, the MPAA rating board told writer-director Brian De Palma that Dressed to Kill would most likely receive an X rating. But with the high cost of shooting in New York and the A-list cast, the article noted, “the difference between R and X can mean the difference between riches and ruin.” As a result, De Palma re-worked the film, and the subsequent edit received an R. Also according to the NYT article, De Palma accused the MPAA of “censorship” and “repression,” while MPAA chairman Dr. Richard D. Heffner defended their actions as “meeting obligations to American parents.”
       A 4 Aug 1980 DV news item reported that Universal was in the process of developing new advertisements to attract a larger audience outside of the urban centers where the film had performed well in its initial week of release; accordingly, the television ads were re-tailored for an audience with a “taste for horror content.” Critics responded very positively to the film, and box office steadily grew to make the film “financially successful” within two months of its release, according to a 12 Sep 1980 LAT article. A 23 July 1980 Var review described the film as a “stylish, graphic exercise in Hitchcockiana,” and noted, “possibly more so than any ‘A’ film in recent memory, ‘Dressed’ fully milks the erotic boundaries of its R-rating.”
       A 12 Sep 1980 LAT article by Lee Grant, “Women vs. ‘Dressed to Kill’: Is Film Admirable or Deplorable?” highlighted the debate between the group Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW), who actively opposed the film, and the critics themselves, who pushed back against WAVAW’s spirit of censorship. Co-star Angie Dickinson defended the picture, stating that, “People should experience reality at the movies, in this case what violence is really like…not something cleaned up.” Stephanie Rones, representative of WAVAW asserted that the film promoted violence, and tied violence, instead of love, to sexuality. Likewise, Rones lamented that, in the advertisements for the film, “Violence becomes fashionable, a vogue. The ads are all attractive; you don’t see underneath the real image of a brutalized woman.” According to the same LAT article, in response to a letter from the WAVAW deploring her review as “totally irresponsible,” LAT critic Sheila Benson defended her careful choice to praise the film and stated that she felt “more anguish when women are portrayed as stupid like in ‘Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo’ or ‘How to Beat the High Cost of Living.’”
       In a 13 Jul 1989 HR article, James Ulmer reported that De Palma and producer George Litto sued Orion Pictures for $12 million, for inequitable accounting on the film. In addition to claims that Orion failed to correctly calculate and dispense the filmmakers’ fifty percent net profit share, the filmmakers’ attorney alleged that Orion packaged Dressed to Kill to sell along with other “low grade” features such as The Name of the Game Is Kill and Food of the Gods (see entries), but did not give Dressed to Kill a fair share of the profits, based on the value De Palma’s film added to the package. An 8 Nov 1989 DV article notes that the suit was resolved, with an “amicable” settlement of an undisclosed amount.

       As noted in the end credits, excerpts from an interview on the Phil Donahue television show appearing in Dressed to Kill were “arranged through Multimedia Broadcasting Company”; in the interview, Donahue spoke with a male-to-female transsexual.


The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant Jeremy Carr, Visiting Research Fellow with the Arizona State University Center for Film, Media and Popular Culture.
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
4 Aug 1980.
---
Daily Variety
8 Nov 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jul 1980
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jul 1989.
---
Los Angeles Times
25 Jul 1980
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
12 Sep 1980
Sec VI, p. 1, 10, 15.
New York Times
20 Jul 1980
p. 13, 19.
New York Times
25 Jul 1980
p. 10.
Variety
31 Oct 1979.
---
Variety
23 Jul 1980
p. 18.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANIES
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A George Litto Production
A Brian De Palma Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Asst cam
2d asst cam
Gaffer
Best boy
Key grip
Dolly grip
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Assoc ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Prop man
Set dec
Chief carpenter
Const grip
Scenic chargeman
COSTUMES
Cost by
Cost des
Men's cost
Women's cost
MUSIC
Mus comp
Mus cond
Mus ed
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Re-rec supv
Re-rec supv
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Opt eff and titles by
MAKEUP
Make-up artist
Hair stylist
Spec make-up
Make-up for Mr. Caine
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Bits and extras
Loc mgr
Loc coord
Scr supv
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
DGA trainee
Prod office coord
Asst to Mr. Litto
Asst to Mr. De Palma
Asst to Mr. De Palma
Transportation capt
STAND INS
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
DETAILS
Release Date:
1980
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 25 July 1980
Production Date:
began 17 October 1979
Copyright Claimant:
Warwick Associates
Copyright Date:
30 September 1980
Copyright Number:
PA85850
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses/Prints
cameras and lenses by Panavision®; color prints by Movielab
Duration(in mins):
105
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
25948
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Kate Miller showers while her husband shaves. Suddenly, a figure appears behind Kate, puts a hand on her mouth and gropes her body. Kate screams out as the man rapes her, but, as it turns out, this is Kate’s fantasy. In reality, Kate and her husband, Mike, are having sex in their bed while morning radio plays. Afterwards, Kate talks with her son Peter downstairs as he works to build a computer for the city science championships. Kate then leaves for an appointment with psychiatrist Robert Elliott. Kate complains about sex with her husband and asks if Elliott finds her attractive. He says he does, but that he would never act on his desire, at the risk of jeopardizing his job and his marriage. Later, Kate looks at paintings in a museum. While she sits on a bench and makes notes in her date book, a man sits beside her. Kate takes the glove off her left hand to reveal her wedding ring, thus sending the man away. Kate drops her glove as she gets up to follow him, and the two flirtatiously pursue each other throughout the museum. When she seems to have lost him, the man comes from behind and places his hand on her shoulder, wearing the dropped glove. This frightens Kate away, but when she realizes it was her glove on his hand, Kate tries to catch up with him. Outside, Kate has all but given up. Then she sees the man’s hand, playfully dangling her glove from a cab window. Kate approaches to apologize for acting rudely, but he pulls her into the backseat for a passionate kiss. In the early evening, she wakes ... +


Kate Miller showers while her husband shaves. Suddenly, a figure appears behind Kate, puts a hand on her mouth and gropes her body. Kate screams out as the man rapes her, but, as it turns out, this is Kate’s fantasy. In reality, Kate and her husband, Mike, are having sex in their bed while morning radio plays. Afterwards, Kate talks with her son Peter downstairs as he works to build a computer for the city science championships. Kate then leaves for an appointment with psychiatrist Robert Elliott. Kate complains about sex with her husband and asks if Elliott finds her attractive. He says he does, but that he would never act on his desire, at the risk of jeopardizing his job and his marriage. Later, Kate looks at paintings in a museum. While she sits on a bench and makes notes in her date book, a man sits beside her. Kate takes the glove off her left hand to reveal her wedding ring, thus sending the man away. Kate drops her glove as she gets up to follow him, and the two flirtatiously pursue each other throughout the museum. When she seems to have lost him, the man comes from behind and places his hand on her shoulder, wearing the dropped glove. This frightens Kate away, but when she realizes it was her glove on his hand, Kate tries to catch up with him. Outside, Kate has all but given up. Then she sees the man’s hand, playfully dangling her glove from a cab window. Kate approaches to apologize for acting rudely, but he pulls her into the backseat for a passionate kiss. In the early evening, she wakes up naked in the man’s apartment and dresses to leave, careful not to wake him. After writing a goodbye note, Kate spies a medical document in the man’s desk drawer stating that he has contracted venereal diseases. In a panic, Kate flees the apartment. As she waits for the elevator, a blonde-haired woman watches from the stairway. On the way down, Kate realizes that she left her wedding ring and must go back up. Kate arrives back at the seventh floor, but the blonde from the stairwell appears and enters the elevator. Wielding a straight razor, the woman brutally attacks Kate. On another floor of the building, a call girl, Liz Blake, awaits the elevator with her client, Ted. When the elevator arrives, Ted looks inside after the doors open then runs away. Liz discovers Kate on the elevator floor, struggling and covered in blood. Kate reaches out for help, but before Liz can take her hand, she sees the blonde woman’s reflection in the elevator mirror. Just as the door shuts, the blonde drops the razor and Liz grabs it. A cleaning woman in the hallway sees Liz holding the bloody razor and screams. Later, Dr. Elliott receives a phone message from Bobbi, a transsexual patient who claims to have committed a murder with Elliott’s razor. He also acknowledges that a woman saw him do it. Bobbi asks Elliott to confirm to his new psychiatrist, Dr. Levy, that he is “okay,” so that Levy will sign off on Bobbi’s sex change; otherwise, Bobbi threatens to be a “bad girl again.” Elliott also reviews a message from Detective Marino, who requests he come to the police station to answer questions regarding Kate’s murder. At the station, where Liz also gives testimony, Elliott offers his assistance to Kate’s son Peter as they wait outside Marino’s office. While Marino questions Elliott inside, Peter eavesdrops. Marino shares the few details he knows, but Elliott is reluctant to divulge patient information. Later, Marino tells Liz that she is a suspect. He gives Liz two days to produce Ted, the only other witness to the murder who has since left town; otherwise, Marino will arrest Liz. The escort service later informs Liz that Ted will not return for two weeks. Outside Elliott’s office, Peter records the amount of time it takes for patients to exit Elliott’s door and reach the street. With this information, Peter sets up a camera to take intermittent photographs of patients as they enter and leave. In the evening, Bobbi waits outside of Liz’s apartment. In her apartment, Liz arranges a date with a client over the phone while Bobbi spies on her from the street. At his office, Elliott listens to another message from Bobbi, who plans to kill Liz. As Liz prepares for work, she watches a televised interview by TV host Phil Donahue with a transsexual, while Elliott watches the same program in his office. After leaving her client’s hotel room, Liz notices Bobbi following her and attempts to escape, on foot and in a cab. Back at his office, Elliott calls a nearby mental hospital and requests to speak with Bobbi. Once Liz’s cab drops her off, she heads toward the subway, and the cab driver notices Bobbi pursuing her. As Bobbi walks up, the cab driver quickly opens his car door and strikes him, sending him to the ground. Later, as Liz emerges from a different subway stop, she finds Bobbi waiting for her on the street. Liz runs back into the subway, where she is accosted by a group of men on the platform. Liz manages to get on the train, but the men eventually catch up. Liz finds herself trapped between subway cars with the razor-wielding Bobbi. Peter appears and sprays mace in Bobbi’s face. Blinded, Bobbi flees. Back at her apartment, Liz thanks Peter, who reveals that he had been following Bobbi since “she” left Elliott’s office that day. The two decide to seek out Elliott’s appointment book in order to identify Bobbi. Before doing so illegally, Liz asks for Detective Marino’s help. He informs her that he cannot go into the office without a search warrant, but hints that she could under the guise of being a paranoid murder suspect. Then, Marino reminds Liz that he plans to charge her tomorrow. Elliott visits the mental hospital and speaks with Dr. Levy, expressing his fear that Bobbi is using his razor to commit murders because Elliott would not approve a sex change. Later, Peter watches outside Elliott’s office with binoculars, as Liz attempts to seduce Elliott during an evening appointment. Liz undresses to reveal her lingerie and instructs Elliott to take off his clothes. She steps into the other room to secure Bobbi’s contact information. Meanwhile, someone grabs Peter and shoves him to the ground. Liz returns to Elliott’s office, where the lights have been turned off. She sees Peter banging at the window with his attacker behind him. Behind Liz, Elliott, now dressed as Bobbi, assails her with the razor. Outside, Peter’s attacker pulls out a gun and shoots into the office, hitting Elliott just before he can kill Liz. At the police station, Marino tells Liz that she had been followed by a female officer, the one who ultimately shot Elliott. Also at the station is Dr. Levy, who explains that Elliott is a transsexual who, when aroused, takes on the persona of Bobbi and attacks the person who aroused him, first Kate, and then Liz. Later, at a restaurant, Liz tells Peter that Elliott will be sent to Bellevue after he has recovered from his wound, and will only be tried if he is deemed sufficiently sane. With Mike out of town, Peter invites Liz to stay at his house. At a hospital that evening, Elliott kills the nurse tending to him and steals her clothes. Outside of Peter’s house, Elliott stalks around. Inside, Liz showers. When she notices Elliott’s feet near the bathroom door, she quietly gets out of the shower. Before Liz can grab a razor from the cabinet, Elliott, as Bobbi in the nurse’s outfit, attacks her. Liz jolts awake in bed and cries hysterically. Peter comes and comforts her. It was a dream. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.