Brian De Palma goes right for the audience jugular in Dressed to Kill, a stylish exercise in ersatz-Hitchcock suspense-terror. Despite some major structural weaknesses, the cannily manipulated combination of mystery, gore and kinky sex adds up to a slick commercial package.
The film begins with a steamy auto-erotic shower scene and segues to a session between Angie Dickinson and psychiatrist Michael Caine.
Matters begin in earnest when Dickinson enters an elevator and is razor-sliced to death. Enter high-priced hooker Nancy Allen who finds the body and is caught razor-in-hand with no alibi, smack into the arch Hitchcockian position of a circumstantially involved ‘innocent’ forced to clear herself by discovering the real murderer.
Instances of patent manipulation or cheating (and the film’s stolen ending from Carrie) are generally more annoying in retrospect than while they’re happening.
Dickinson, who has an abdominal stand-in for the steamier segments, is used exceptionally well as the sexually torn, quickly disposed-of heroine. Caine, until the film’s internal logic breaks down, is excellent as the suave shrink.