TALKING 'DRESSED TO KILL': "EVERYTHING HAD TO BE PERFECTLY TIMED AND CUED UP"
The current issue of Fangoria (#332, May 2014) features what the cover bills as "Sex and Death in 1980: Dressed To Kill and Cruising." Inside are two separate articles about each respective film. The Dressed To Kill article by Lee Gambin and Camilla Jackson, titled "Murder Most Mod," is an interview with Nancy Allen and Keith Gordon, in which they discuss working on the movie together. Allen talks about how Brian De Palma, her husband at the time, would write in the morning, and when she would get up and get a cup of coffee, he would read to her "his current installment." She was initially excited about it, but later became nervous when she realized how much of the movie she would be carrying by herself, in contrast to the ensemble work she'd done on De Palma's Carrie.
Gordon talks about how his character was originally written as a 12-year-old, but when De Palma found the role difficult to cast, he called Gordon in for a reading, saying he was thinking of reconceiving it. "In the end," Gordon tells Fangoria, "it was more fun; there could be some flirtation, and some of the sexual jokes with Angie worked better than if [Peter] was a little kid not really understanding what people were saying or what was really going on. We kept a lot of the same dialogue, and the lines originally intended for an innocent kid became a bit more tongue-in-cheek and ironic."
The pair discuss working with Michael Cain, Dennis Franz, and Angie Dickinson, who was still working on TV's Police Woman at the time, and would fly in to do her scenes. Whereas Allen and Gordon had plenty of rehearsal time, Dickinson did not. "Angie was finding her movie-acting rhythm again, and that was interesting to watch," Gordon tells Fangoria. "We did that one scene we had and we didn't rehearse it to death, so that was good. I was always trying to make her more comfortable by getting her to laugh and whatnot, and at first she didn't seem to like that, but she slowly warmed to it. Brian would tell her, 'Look, we're not trying to rush through eight pages a day, we can take our time.' and she relaxed into that. You could see that she remembered liking doing movies and having time, unlike TV where everything is bam-bam, real fast."
Allen talks about meeting Dickinson on set: "Angie and I met in the elevator and then said goodbye; it was like 'Hello! And goodbye!' all in one shot! I didn't have to use too much imagination for that scene; it was all there in front of me. All that blood and gore! But of course, it was also very technical. My hand had to be in this place and my eyes had to be there, and it all works because it's so brilliantly edited."
Fangoria then follows up: "The technicality of the shoot in general must have been very complex, with all the cuts, split screens, dissolves and so forth. Did that highly stylized direction dictate your performances in any way?"
Allen responds, "So much of it was all about timing. It felt robotic at times. For instance, at the end, with the shot first of Keith, then of Michael, then of me, everything had to be perfectly timed and cued up. So I would be doing strange things, and sometimes feeling rather awkward."
'UNDER THE SKIN'
There's a lot more to check out in the Dressed To Kill article, and other terrific articles in the magazine, including the cover story interview with Jonathan Glazer about Under The Skin. At the end of that interview, Fangoria's Chris Alexander tells Glazer, "We're putting Under The Skin on the cover of the most widely read horror-film magazine in the world. Many might not consider it a horror movie, but we do."
Glazer replies, "That's interesting. How does it fit into the canon of horror cinema for you?"
FANG's Alexander: "Horror has always concerned the everyday somehow transformed into a place of danger. It's about that sense of dread, of nightmarish ambiguity. No questions are answered at the end of Under The Skin, and it's haunting. Its effect lingers. To me, that's a horror film."
Glazer: "Great. Then I'm honored that it is. If that's what it is to you, if that's how it feels to you, then that's fantastic."