Dressed to Kill (Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray)

A mysterious blonde woman kills one of a psychiatrist's patients, and then goes after the high-class call girl who witnessed the murder.

October 21, 2022 9 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Dr. Robert Elliott (Michael Caine) has a successful therapist’s practice, complete with a large base of clients, most of them female. When one of his female clients is brutally murdered with a razor, he is hesitant to become involved, especially in manners with the police. In turn, the police don’t seem too interested in the case on the whole, so the case is left open and little is done to look into it, beyond the simplest of tasks. This leaves Elliott to push for the truth, along with a prostitute that witnessed the crime, as well as the victim’s son. As expected, Elliott is reluctant to do too much in terms of investigations, but when more women come under the razor’s edge, he is forced to get involved, or risk letting more women be slashed to ribbons. But as he starts to delve into the mystery of the murders, he becomes thrust into a world unlike any he knows, one filled with dangerous sexual encounters, as well as intense fear and suspense. Can Elliott figure out who is behind the murders in time, or will many more victims pile up, including Elliott himself?

This movie has a checkered past in terms of home video, as for years there was never an acceptable release. Some looked awful, others had off kilter sound mixes, and still others featured truncated cuts of the film.  The movie itself is superb and in a genre overrun with mediocre films (thrillers), it stands tall as one of the finest examples of a thriller you’ll find. As director Brian DePalma guides us through a maze of thrills and suspense, with moments of intense terror that lead toward a tremendous finish. I love Dressed to Kill and not only is it one of my favorite thrillers, I also hold it among my personal favorites in any genre, it is simply that impressive.

He’s sometimes dismissed as a hack Hitchcock, but I think Brian DePalma is a very talented filmmaker, complete with a few excellent efforts. I feel one of his best films is Dressed to Kill, it is all the more obvious how great his work is here. I simply love his direction in this movie, as he brings his usual elements, but expands them to new horizons. The tension here can be so thick and eerie, you almost want to look away, but you can’t, you just can’t look away from Dressed to Kill. Yes, traces of Hitchock’s style can be seen here, but this is a DePalma movie through and through, without a doubt.

Video: How’s it look?

This film has had some issues with its video presentation over the years, namely Criterion’s first pressing of its 2015 Blu-ray. But that’s neither here nor there. What we get with this new 4K offering is, well, a new HDR/Dolby Vision Master From a 16bit 4K Scan of the Original Camera Negative. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? It is. The 2.35:1 HEVC 4K image is the best the film has ever looked and benefits from modern technology. It still retains some of the original “grain” that we’ve come to expect from a film of this age, but it’s been cleaned up. It’s a dark movie, too. The HDR really stands out with some of the scenes, and this also improves contrast. Colors are bold and bright, and detail has been improved. Truthfully 4K films can make something that was stagnant, seem nearly brand new. This is a winner, through and through.

Audio: How’s it sound?

We get two audio tracks to choose from: a 5.1 mix as well as a lossless 2.0 mix. Honestly, either way you go, you’ll be satisfied. I generally go with the 5.1 option because I feel the need to use every speaker at my disposal. But there’s a lot to be said for an original 2.0 “mono” mix to select if you’re so inclined. We don’t get the usual hisses, cracks or pops that’s associated with this type of track. Dialogue is clear and crisp, the score resonates (as much as it can) and I really have no complaints – they’re good tracks.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This two disc set features a few new supplements, though most are found on the second disc (Blu-ray). The only supplement on the 4K disc is the commentary. Several of these have been compiled from other versions from Criterion and Arrow’s UK disc.

  • Audio Commentary – Film Critic and Author Maitland McDonagh has recorded a brand new audio commentary for the film.
  • Strictly Business – Allen talks about her role in the film, how she prepared for it as well as her interactions with actors Keith Gordon and Michael Caine.
  • Killer Frames – Another new segment with Associate Producer and Production Manager Fred C. Caruso as he discusses the film and its long-lasting appeal.
  • An Imitation of Life – The first of three “Keith Gordon” segments, this one is brand new and was made for this disc. Gordon discusses more on his career as well as the film in general.
  • Symphony of Fear – The Producer talks about his frequent collaborations with Director de Palma.
  • Dressed in White – Star Angie Dickinson on her role in the film as well as working with DePalma.
  • Dressed in Purple –  Essentially the same thing as the above, only featuring Nancy Allen.
  • Lessons in Filmmaking – There’s a little more to this than one would expect, this 40 minute segment features a pretty good interview with star (and later director) Keith Gordon.
  • The Making of Dressed to Kill – This isn’t your typical “Making of…” segment, rather this documentary (which has been carried over from the DVD and Blu-ray versions of the movie), is a very cumbersome and informative 45 minute look at the film. This piece includes retrospective interviews with DePalma, as well as various cast members, all of whom seem open and talkative
  • Slashing Dressed to Kill –  A “vintage” feature from 2001, this is a bit redundant from the above feature. Members of the cast discuss the controversy over the previous X-rating of the film.
  • Unrated/R-Rated/TV Rated Comparison – This aptly-titled feature does just that, it compares the unrated version of the film versus the R-rated version and the one shown on television.
  • An Appreciation by Keith Gordon – This is a bit redundant if you’ve watched the “other” Keith Gordon segment, but it’s a fun 6 minutes nonetheless.
  • 1980 Archival Audio Interviews with Actors Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson and Nancy Allen
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • 7 Radio Spots

The Bottom Line

This is either a very easy of very difficult decision to make (depending on your personal point of view). On one hand, it’s rare that another studio one ups what Criterion did. But with a new 4K transfer and several new features, including a new audio commentary, this one is hard to refuse. Purists and/or hard-core fans of the film will likely want to have this and the Criterion in their collection. But if you had to do an either/or – I’d go for this one.

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