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Friday, November 6, 2015
Tonight (Friday), The Castro Theatre in San Francisco screens a double feature of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho at 7pm, followed by Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill at 9:05. Both will screen in 35mm. "Upon its release back in 1960, critics did not know what to make of Alfred Hitchcock’s macabre masterpiece," reads the Castro's description of Psycho. "Now, revisit (or see for the first time) the film that broke all the rules of horror films and set new ones for the next generation. A bloodcurdling Anthony Perkins stars with Janet Leigh, Vera Miles and Bernard Herrmann’s dissonant score.

For Dressed To Kill, the Castro description reads, "Twenty years after Psycho, Brian De Palma applied his dazzling technique to Hitchcock’s psychological cinemascape with a hefty dose of eroticism, split-screen and well-placed dabs of black humor."
(Thanks to Chris!)

Posted by Geoff at 2:45 AM CST
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Monday, October 26, 2015



Last week in the New York Times DVD column, J. Hoberman discussed Dressed To Kill, and mentioned Chris Dumas' Un-American Psycho in the process. Here's an excerpt: 


"Anyone seeking a trick-or-treat outfit that screams the ’80s could do worse than to study Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill (1980), on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion, or Tony Scott’s The Hunger (1983), new on Blu-ray from Warner Bros. Blood and bling are part of the décor.

"Both are erotic horror films that flaunt their style and flirt with soft-core pornography. There is nudity, but costumes are de rigueur: Mr. De Palma’s monster is a razor-wielding cross-dresser, while Mr. Scott’s ultra-modish vampire couple (Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie), bloodsuckers who slash rather than bite, are shown several times to good advantage in 18th-century garb.

"Both movies employ lushly saccharine music, unfold in a scarily indifferent Manhattan and are enlivened by aggressively vulgar New York City police detectives. If Dennis Franz in Dressed to Kill is a far funnier embodiment of the reality principle than Dan Hedaya in The Hunger, it is because Mr. De Palma’s movie is a vastly richer, more entertaining movie than The Hunger — and also, for all the accusations leveled at Mr. De Palma of being a Hitchcock copycat, a more original one as well.

"However blatant its Psycho references (or parodies), Dressed to Kill owes as much to Luis Buñuel, another De Palma influence, as to Alfred Hitchcock. (Mr. De Palma borrowed the beyond-the-grave grab in Carrie from Los Olvidados; less obvious points of contact in Dressed to Kill include Belle de Jour and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.) As befits a semi-Surrealist work, Mr. De Palma’s movie is framed by two reveries imagined in the same bed — one a lascivious daydream, the other a scary nightmare — and is fraught with Freudian angles.

"The nominal protagonist, a frustrated suburban housewife (Angie Dickinson), fantasizes about steamy sex, playfully teases her adolescent son (Keith Gordon), complains to her well-to-do psychoanalyst (Michael Caine), and then, in the movie’s most extravagantly orchestrated set piece (an almost silent sequence with the camera in nearly constant motion), allows herself to be picked up by a mysterious stranger at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. That the scene ends with a couple having relations in the back seat of a cab heading down Fifth Avenue is the signal for further, darker adventures.

"Full of logical inconsistencies, Dressed to Kill is best appreciated as a series of intersecting fantasies — those of the homemaker, her shrink, her son and the director, who cast his wife at the time (Nancy Allen) as a savvy call girl variously serving as surrogate mom, big sister and dream girlfriend for Mr. Gordon’s quasi-autobiographical character. (De Palma, a documentary portrait of the director, recently shown at the New York Film Festival, suggests that the scene in which, armed with a hidden camera, the boy stakes out the analyst’s office is based on an episode from Mr. De Palma’s past.)

"Mr. De Palma has made more coherent movies than Dressed to Kill (namely Carrie and Blow Out) during his long career, but few have been so technically accomplished, felt more personal or raised more hackles: Dressed to Kill had to be recut to avoid an X rating and, along with William Friedkin’s Cruising, which opened the same summer, was attacked for its stereotyping.

"The movie was also the site of a battle royale between critical factions headed by Pauline Kael (who loved the movie) and her rival Andrew Sarris (who did not). The fracas is well analyzed by Chris Dumas in his book Un-American Psycho, a study of Mr. De Palma’s work, which, because Mr. Dumas also accused cinema studies academics of dismissing his subject, roiled the surface of that particular pond as well.

"If Dressed to Kill is a primal scream, The Hunger is more like a finger snap. Mr. Scott didn’t invent vampire chic, but the movie’s opening few minutes — with Ms. Deneuve and Mr. Bowie resplendent in designer threads and expensive shades, cruising a haute, dungeonlike punk nightclub — seem like a prophetic parody of the ultracool undead in Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive.

"The Hunger was Mr. Scott’s sophomore feature, and it established his commercial-honed, MTV-friendly style, at once frenzied and soignée and often risible. Curtains billow, doves cry, the light is filtered and huge close-ups are ladled with a dollop of Schubert. Although the movie ultimately dissolves into a blood-feast zombie-fest, the performances are not without merit. Mr. Bowie’s brittle fury is effective. So is Ms. Deneuve’s practiced hauteur, as well as Susan Sarandon’s capacity to bring warmth as well as heat to a lengthy bedroom scene the actresses share.

"Mr. Scott, who took his own life in 2012, went on to make the most suave example of Reagan-era bellicosity, Top Gun (1986), and many more, increasingly mannered, movies. Although not a critical darling, he did have his defenders. Manohla Dargis of The New York Times wrote a fond appraisal after his death. So did the film critic Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, who passionately praised Mr. Scott as an avant-garde filmmaker. A year after his death, other critics grouped Mr. Scott with several other déclassé genre directors, including Michael Bay and Paul W. S. Anderson, as part of a critical tendency that some called vulgar auteurism.

"Auteurs, according to Mr. Sarris, auteurism’s most influential American advocate, were those studio directors distinguished by a recognizable style, a consistent worldview and a certain je ne sais quoi. John Ford, Howard Hawks and, of course, Hitchcock were deities in the Sarris pantheon. Vulgar auteurism suggests that, with classic directors thus enshrined, a new generation of film critics needed to discover and champion a new of constellation of outré film artists. Back in 1980, Mr. De Palma would have been the prime example."

Posted by Geoff at 12:55 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, October 26, 2015 1:02 AM CDT
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Friday, October 9, 2015


Posted by Geoff at 5:26 PM CDT
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Monday, September 14, 2015
In the new interview on the Criterion edition of Dressed To Kill (which was released last week), Noah Baumbach talks about how even the dialogue scenes in Dressed To Kill, such as the one between Kate and her son, Peter, are artfully choreographed. Brian De Palma then responds, "When I write scripts like this... you know, I'm working on one now, where I have a very good idea... but then you've got to bring the characters into it, and you've got to bring the emotional story into it to hold the audience."

I know he's always working on ideas and screenplays, but still, nice to hear he has another potential thriller in mind. The Baumbach/De Palma interview for Criterion was filmed this past May.

Posted by Geoff at 7:23 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, September 14, 2015 11:00 PM CDT
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Friday, September 11, 2015

Armond White, Out

"William Friedkin’s Cruising, another 1980 film, portrayed gay society through a sleazy serial-killer mystery set in New York’s Bondage-Discipline underworld. (Al Pacino played a heterosexual cop tantalized by forbidden behavior, neurotically seeing gayness only as a sex-and-death equation). But in Dressed to Kill, De Palma dramatized cruising as part of social life — the sexual license that even middle-class heterosexuals enjoyed. De Palma’s sophomoric lustiness derived from his earliest film burlesques (The Wedding Party, Greetings, Hi, Mom!, Sisters, Phantom of the Paradise) where counterculture ideas confounded the mainstream.

"For his first, truly adult film about sex, De Palma’s perspective matures in Dressed to Kill. Kate’s manhunt, set in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, equaled the jailhouse symbolism of Jean Genet-Jean Cocteau’s Un Chant d’Amour (1950). It also explored the same existential territory seen in a breed of underground New York porn films like Sam Scott’s Non-Stop (where seemingly spontaneous, peripatetic episodes ranged from rendezvous at Manhattan’s West Side piers to street assignations in Greenwich Village). De Palma outclasses porn, but his artistic connection to Surrealist filmmakers from Hitchcock to Cocteau to Bunuel proves he was unafraid to depict subconscious, even outré, desires.

"Kate’s bored gallery browsing is depicted when she stares back at an Alex Katz portrait that mirrors her own impatience. Her sexual frustration is caricatured when she observes a painting of a gorilla whose oversized, hairy, supine nakedness mocks her own, suppressed, animal instincts. She abstractly writes in her memo pad, 'Pick up turkey.' (Come now, Brian!)

"It’s all prelude to her noticing the handsome man wearing sunglasses who invades her space and stirs her curiosity. Their cat-and-mouse politesse (a game of high-class silent flirtation) deepens Kate’s interest which De Palma sensualizes by having the camera follow them in slowly flowing perambulations through museum exhibit space. This silent sequence (except for Pino Donaggio’s tense, teasing music score) is a long, masterful pantomime, delicately acted by Dickinson. The desperation and feints of cruising are clearly presented in details so timeless that the sexual hunt is immortalized (including Kate feeling wanton and exposed as she stands before one of Eric Fischl’s satirical nudes)."

Michael Koresky's essay for the Criterion edition of Dressed To Kill

"De Palma the political filmmaker might seem at odds with De Palma the teasing sex-horror specialist, but these two halves of his split personality have worked in tandem throughout his career, and certainly do so in Dressed to Kill. This film is a minefield of potential offense—with its horrific butchery of a middle-aged woman and its full-frontal images of naked women shot like soft-core pornography—and, especially at a moment when studio output like Kramer vs. Kramer and Looking for Mr. Goodbar was being accused of containing reactionary responses to second-wave feminism (respectively, for demonizing a woman for abandoning her marriage and child and, like Dressed to Kill, depicting the murder of a woman trying to liberate herself through sex), it was bound to incite some anger. Indeed, feminist groups publicly protested Dressed to Kill, creating a perception of it as misogynistic. Yet the film is far more sympathetic to its women than its men, and more important, its recognition of its own voyeur-horror lineage, its ratcheting up of nearly every element—from the nudity to the graphic bloodletting to the extravagant camera work to the often absurdly drawn-out slow motion—to orgiastic heights, places the sadistic impulses of Hitchcock’s work (so, the Movies) explosively at the forefront. It’s both ghastly and erotic, impeccably crafted and dirty-minded, a luxurious wallow in the dream and nightmare that is cinema.

"Kate’s explicit shower reverie at the beginning is our first clue to the way De Palma is playing with Psycho’s indelible imagery in Dressed to Kill. The camera slowly peeks around a corner and flaunts in lewd close-up her naked breasts and genitals (aptly, actually those of a body double: Victoria Lynn Johnson, direct from the pages of Penthouse). What had once been impossible was, in 1980, not only permissible but also marketable; this is the true titillation, the dark heart of Psycho laid literally bare. The fact that the film ends with a second shower scene—also imaginary—underlines its relationship to Hitchcock as a game of surreal one-upmanship.

"In this and all the entries in De Palma’s grand project of showing us Hitchcock’s thrillers stripped of pretense and elegance—so that, for example, Vertigo becomes Obsession (1976), the double of the protagonist’s dead wife revealed to be his daughter; and Body Double (1984) brazenly combines Rear Window and Vertigo into a tawdry peep show, set in the underworld of Los Angeles porn—we can see De Palma the thrill hound and the confrontational artist. Janet Leigh’s cinema-shattering shower seems to be a primal scene for him, something he needs to return to over and over. His oeuvre is soaked with shower scenes, as parody (Phantom of the Paradise, 1974), locker-room fantasy (Carrie), tragedy (Blow Out, 1981), and travesty (Body Double). (Even 1983’s Scarface has one, a chain-saw massacre visited on the protagonist’s male friend—which our antihero is forced to watch.)

"Shower scenes, with their combination of sensuality and danger, are particularly right for a film as fueled by hallucinatory erotic energy as this one. De Palma himself says he was actually more influenced by Luis Buñuel than Hitchcock when making Dressed to Kill (and there’s certainly a touch of Belle de jour in the opening masochistic daydream). Its central murder is an event that occurs at the convergence of two characters’ sexual fantasies: Kate’s and her killer’s."

Posted by Geoff at 1:28 AM CDT
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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Above is a snapshot from this week's paper edition of Entertainment Weekly (September 11 2015 issue). Criterion today released Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill, with some nice special features (as widely discussed over the past few weeks), and tomorrow is the world premiere of Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow's documentary, De Palma, at the Venice Film Festival. De Palma will also be honored in a special event prior to tomorrow's screening in Venice. But today, it's (almost) all about Dressed To Kill. Here are two very nice links from today, with more to come as I have time in the next couple of days:

Wall Street Journal Blog - Nancy Allen interviewed by Michael Calia

"I think what I gleaned from that was it’s one thing when you shoot a movie on a soundstage. It’s very controlled and easy. You have to — and I don’t know if you’ve been on a soundstage before — but there’s just no energy there, and so you’re constantly having to create and recreate some sort of energy to make something come to life. New York is a rather energetic city, so there’s immediately that hum that’s under everything you do that really energizes, particularly when you’re running around and it’s a thriller. The city already has that kind of energy: fast-paced, on the go, running around. It really helped to energize the work, I think, and the intensity of what we were doing."

Nicholas Bell, IONCINEMA

"At the apex of Dressed to Kill is a transsexual serial killer, a dubiously designed villain whose provocative shock value has been drained, replaced by the judgmental disdain inherent in modern conversations concerning politically correct depictions of the Trans community.

"There’s no escaping the archaic depiction of the psychotic Bobbi, even though De Palma clearly took pains to avoid the virulence of homophobia, with macho cop Dennis Franz reduced to the epithet of ‘weirdo’ in his tacky verbalizations. Much like the closing psychologist’s commentary explaining Norman Bates’ mental afflictions in Psycho, we are treated to a similar sequence here as Nancy Allen lays down Transsexuality 101 for Keith Gordon at a fancy restaurant while old biddies listen on in horror directly behind them. But De Palma’s film isn’t aiming for cheap thrills, and Dressed to Kill is actually a much more significantly complex film than the particular Hitchcock title providing nuggets of inspiration.

"De Palma’s tale is an allegory concerning the reconciliation of sexuality with social expectation in a masculine, patriarchal system (reinforced by favored De Palma visual motifs like mirrors, and frequent use of doubling subjects). Clearly, the Bobbi/Dr. Elliott figure is a tortured soul, presented in a rudimentary portrait of battling gender roles a la multiple personality disorder (Bobbi’s voice mail messages eerily resemble those of Dee Wallace’s werewolf stalker in 1981’s The Howling, a similarity of genre tropes equating the notion of gender identity with the ‘trans-species’ underpinning of lycanthropy). But he’s stuck between two much more interesting characters, typified on opposing ends of the feminine spectrum—the mother and the whore.

"Dickinson’s privileged Manhattan housewife, decked out in a puff of blonde hair and completely white wardrobe, is shown pleasuring herself in the shower as her husband ignores her, idly glancing at her in the mirror as he shaves. The neglect of her sexual fulfillment gives way to a fantasy rape sequence, while shortly afterwards we see her husband hunched over her as she overreacts to his inattentive thrusts. Then, there’s Allen’s streetwise prostitute, Liz, arguably the most well-adjusted and well-developed characterization here. Having ownership over her body, clearly using it as a site of commerce on her own terms, she’s comparatively the only sex-positive component. De Palma book-ends the film with Liz’s shower sequence and it suggests something much more insidious. The traumatic experiences of the narrative have tainted her, and her shower sequence ends with the threat of violence previously absent from her sexual dynamic.

"The scenario, and several famous sequences, conveys the navigation of these sexual dynamics within the context of social spaces. Perhaps the most famous instance is a nine minute segment, completely free of dialogue, where Angie Dickinson is shown to be in a museum gazing at the humans passing by her as she continues the banalities of her own existence writing out her grocery list. Of course, she’s interrupted by the dark stranger, and we watch her deliberate her moves in a series of negotiations as complex as chess game. She balks at his initial touch in the museum, leading to a meaningful exchange of her white gloves (what happens with the thrown away glove outside the museum is as important as the one used as bait to get her into a taxi). These ‘pieces’ signifying her white privilege are like symbols from Greek mythology—an aerial shot finds her gliding diagonally down the steps of the museum, a descent bringing her down from the loft of culture into the base, primal desires engaged in within the taxi, one of several contained moving spaces haunted by the specter of sex and violence (the other being a subway sequence with Allen).

"Sexual pleasure and fulfillment outside of one’s assigned role or expectation equals death, and De Palma pumps Dickinson through the shame of venereal disease before providing another clue to her fallen status. Forgetting her ring in the stranger’s bedroom, she takes the elevator back up, only to be greeted by the enraged killer stalking her. The attempt to reclaim her ring, and ascend back into the ranks of her privilege is what seals her fate. Dressed to Kill is about the danger and fear associated in these acts of ‘de-motion.’ De Palma explores this further, not only as the perceived downgrading of the sex-change from male to female but also Caine’s occupational signifiers—as a man he’s a doctor, but a significant sequence finds his female persona donning the uniform of a nurse, hinting at the rippling effect of such a ‘reduction.’"

Posted by Geoff at 10:06 PM CDT
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Sunday, August 9, 2015
Now that Criterion has announced that most people will be receiving the corrected version of Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill, it seems that only a select few will end up seeing the original version that has been getting the bad press. Even so, here are links to two more reviews of the incorrect version:

Mondo Digital

"It's difficult to imagine a horror thriller more purely enjoyable than Dressed to Kill, one of the highest peaks of Brian De Palma's career and a gleeful joyride of a film that continues to reward after countless viewings. Though it received a mixed critical response due to De Palma's perceived cribbing from Hitchcock (which didn't affect a huge turnout from the public), the film has gone on to be considered one of the '80s' most accomplished directorial feats in the horror genre and ground zero for the modern erotic thriller, still sitting high above its many successors. Much of the fun here lies in the insidious surprises tucked into both its plot and cinematic language, on the surface a playful riff on Psycho, as well as visual flourishes found in the foreground and background of the frame in every single scene."

[Note: read this Mondo review for a terrific summary of the history of Dressed To Kill in its various home video releases. Below is the final part of this, the now-early, incorrect Criterion version...]

"Two years later, De Palma's classic got another round on both American Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of The Criterion Collection, presenting a combination of new and preexisting extras. However, the presentation of the film itself is a baffling beast indeed. Touted as a new 4K transfer supervised by De Palma, it starts off promisingly enough with the restoration of the original scope Filmways logo (finally!) after the MGM one and looks significantly more detailed than before, with potent albeit somewhat more golden colors compared to the past MGM version. It also sports more picture information on the left side, in fact quite a bit more in many shots. Then after the first reel (when Dickinson leaves the gallery), things go haywire as the image squishes in significantly, resembling a major anamorphic squeeze as everyone suddenly looks anorexic and distorted. The jump is obvious right away when Dickinson starts walking down the museum steps, and this strange anomaly remains for the rest of the running time (complete with that wealth of additional but possibly extraneous information on the left, which has a habit of throwing the compositions out of whack in some shots). The frame grabs seen in the body of this review are from the Arrow release, but you can see the same shots from the Criterion one by clicking here for images one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven. As you can see, the compositional balance veers all over the place along with the color saturation, which ranges from pale and yellow in some shots to beautiful and significantly improved in others (such as the first split diopter one of Nancy Allen and Bobbi). The LPCM mono audio is true to the original theatrical mix and sounds excellent, while optional English subtitles are provided. UPDATE: Criterion has implemented a disc replacement program for anyone who purchases the Blu-ray or DVD; at least the first wave of retail copies will all be as described above but can be exchanged for a version with the correct framing."

Ian Jane, DVD Talk

"The new extras on this disc start off with an interview conducted with De Palma by filmmaker Noah Baumbach that runs just under twenty minutes. It's an interesting piece that sees the director talk about how his style evolved over the years, how this film was initially received during its original run, working with Michael Caine on the film, his admiration for the score and quite a bit more. We also get a new sixteen minute interview with lead actress Nancy Allen who shares her thoughts on being cast in the film, her character and related wardrobe and what it was like working with some of her fellow cast members on the film. Producer George Litto talks for twelve minutes about working with De Palma not just on this movie but on a few other pictures as well and he shares some input on his relationship with the director. Composer Pino Donaggio gets sixteen minutes in front of the camera to also discuss what it was like working with De Palma not just here but on some other projects. He also offers some insight into his creative process and his thoughts on the movie itself. Body double Victoria Lynn Johnson is an interesting choice for an interview, she gets nine minutes here to talk about her work in the movie and as a model (she was a Penthouse Pet Of The Year in 1978) and what it was like doubling for Dickinson. The last of the new interviews conducted for this release is a ten minute segment with Stephen Sayadian who was the art director in charge of the photography for the film's original poster. He gives some input on creating the image, that has since gone on to be pretty iconic, and the importance that it played in properly marketing the film to theater goers. Aside from the new interviews we also get a featurette called Defying Categories: Ralf Bode that features filmmakers Michael Apted and Peer Bode and runs just under eleven minutes. Here they talk about the effectiveness of the methods employed by the film's late cinematographer and specifically what they bring to the movie."

Posted by Geoff at 1:52 PM CDT
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Saturday, August 8, 2015
Sorry I missed this, but two days ago, Criterion posted an update about its upcoming edition of Dressed To Kill:
Update, 8/6/15: Good news, everyone. The Dressed to Kill street date is moving to September 8. Thanks to the concerns of our customers and the efforts of reviewers at websites like DVDBeaver.com, who helped point out the problems with the release early, we were able to make the fix before the bulk of orders had shipped. We will, of course, replace any faulty copies that may find their way into circulation, but we are working to ensure that all customers, including those who have placed preorders, and all major retailers will have corrected product in time for the new street date. To be certain that you have the correct version, look for the words “Second printing” on the back of the package and on the disc.

Posted by Geoff at 4:07 AM CDT
Updated: Saturday, August 8, 2015 4:07 AM CDT
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Tuesday, August 4, 2015
Late this afternoon, Criterion posted an updated announcement regarding image distortion in its upcoming Dressed To Kill release:
In our haste to respond to customer concerns about the anamorphic compression on our release of Dressed to Kill, we posted incorrectly that the change had been made at the behest of the director. Brian De Palma did ask for a change to the geometry of the scan, but it was to address the distortion he saw in the image, not to apply it. Unfortunately, that change was never carried over in the final product, and the resulting discs are wrong. Therefore, we are reauthoring discs without the squeeze and will make them available to all purchasers of our release of Dressed to Kill free of charge. Simply e-mail Jon Mulvaney (mulvaney@criterion.com) with your name, address, and some proof of purchase, such as a receipt, and we will send you a corrected copy. We regret the inconvenience, but we hope that in the end all of our customers will end up with a copy of Dressed to Kill that accurately reflects the film as well as the director’s intentions.

Earlier in the day, prior to the above update, Criterion had posted the following announcement:
In the course of preparing the master for Criterion’s new release of Dressed to Kill, director Brian De Palma asked if there was anything that could be done to correct what he felt was a distortion in the image that caused everyone to appear slightly wide or squat. A modest anamorphic compression was applied, and De Palma was satisfied. On reviewing the final product, we feel the adjustment doesn’t accurately reflect the look of the film, and we are reauthoring discs without the squeeze and will make them available to all purchasers of our release of Dressed to Kill free of charge. Simply write to Jon Mulvaney (mulvaney@criterion.com) with your name, address, and some proof of purchase, such as a receipt, and we will send you a corrected copy. We regret the inconvenience, but we hope that in the end all of our customers will end up with a copy of Dressed to Kill that accurately reflects the film as well as the director’s intentions.

Mulvaney had sent an email to Criterion customers following the initial announcement that stated, in part, "We are not 'correcting' or 'fixing' this release. We will offer a disc in addition to the current release that will not have the anamorphic compression that Brian De Palma requested."

Posted by Geoff at 7:25 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, August 5, 2015 3:08 AM CDT
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A review of Criterion's upcoming Dressed To Kill package posted a couple of days ago by Criterion Forum's Chris Galloway states that "the first 21-minutes look great," but that after that, the transfer gets very obviously "horizontally squished." With the early reviews all highlighting aspect ratio issues with the transfer, many are expecting some kind of forthcoming response from Criterion, prior to the August 18 release date. In the meantime, here is an excerpt from Galloway's review:
This may be one of the more frustrating presentations to come from Criterion because you can see how amazing it would have turned out if it wasn’t for one rather huge glaring issue. Touching on the good aspects first the image is razor sharp with stunning detail, improving over Arrow’s presentation which looks a little muddy and fuzzy in comparison. Textures are particularly superb, at times looking like you can reach out and touch them, and the sense of depth is also fairly strong (though this is hampered a bit by an issue I’ll touch on later). It’s incredibly crisp, and easily the sharpest I’ve ever seen the film.

Colours do differ a bit in comparison to every release since MGM’s 2001 DVD. Here the colours are noticeably washed out a little more, though they aren’t overly dull. They can still look fairly vibrant and the reds (found in the blood particularly) are the strongest aspect. Black levels are also very good and crushing wasn’t an issue. I was more than fine with it and I wouldn’t be surprised if colours were closer to this when it was released and the look works for the film. Still, many will have their personal preference on this and will probably prefer the colours used for all of the other releases since the DVD.

So, to a certain extent I was very pleased with what we got, and the first 21-minutes look great. The transfer was clean and stable, presenting natural looking grain, no noticeable digital tinkering, and a wonderfully filmic quality. Even the clean-up job is impressive, wiping out just about all imperfections, the only real issue I noticed being some fading on the edges of the screen a few times. It looks great… Until roughly the 21-minute mark—when Angie Dickinson’s character runs out after the man she was tailing in the museum—where the transfer makes a questionable turn.

If the colours to the film are debatable this next aspect isn’t: for whatever reason the rest of the film, a little bit after that 21-minute mark (I’m guessing after a reel change) the image becomes horizontally squished. This of course creates the odd effect that causes everything and everyone to look unnaturally skinny with enlarged foreheads. And this isn’t some mild annoyance that only becomes obvious here and there: it’s right there in your face. True, there are a few scenes where the problem doesn’t stand out as much as others, but this probably has more to do with framing and positioning. I watched the film a second time to verify where the squishing occurs now that I was aware of it, and yes, a little bit after the 21-minute point the squeezing starts and never lets up.

It’s a bewildering issue more because of the fact no one seemed to notice this. It was supervised and approved by De Palma but he didn’t see? And it’s not like it’s a subtle problem: it’s pretty obvious and you don’t need any sort of side-by-side comparison to notice, especially when weird artifacts show up because of it. Take for example the scene where Michael Caine and Paul Margulies are conversing as they walk down a staircase, the camera circles them and creates all sorts of distortions in the frame as the geometry of the stairs change, becoming stretched or compressed with each turn of the camera. If no one noticed the problem is it intentional then? A VHS tape I had first seen the film on, cropped to 4x3 of course, actually did squish in the image at times throughout the film to aid in keeping some of the widescreen compositions (anybody who saw Die Hard on VHS will remember these effects). But this was done mostly for the diopter shots and the split screen sequence, along with a few other moments where pan-and-scan wasn’t going to cut it. That made sense then (though was no less annoying, and obviously widescreen would have been better) but doing the same thing here, when the image is actually presented in widescreen, makes no sense. Plus if it was intentional why are the first 21-minutes normal? I can only believe it’s a mistake but I am still stunned it wasn’t something that was noticed, and it’s a shame because this had the potential to be one hell of a presentation. Just an incredible disappointment.

And here are some of Galloway's thoughts on the supplements:

Criterion does top previous editions in one area: the supplements. Criterion ports over the old MGM supplements but also adds on a number of their own, starting with a new interview with Brian De Palma conducted by Noah Baumbach. Baumbach asks De Palma about how he came up with the story and asks the development process behind the film, from setting up the various long sequences, to filming the actors to project the desired emotional effect, and the use of music throughout. They also talk about the controversies surrounding the film’s release, along with the Hitchcock touches. Surprisingly it’s only 19-minutes but they’re an effective 19-minutes.

Criterion also gets a new interview with Nancy Allen, running about 16-minutes, where the actress talks about that period of her life, first getting married to De Palma while taking a break during filming of 1941 and then watching him work on the script to Dressed to Kill. She recalls how visual the script was and how impressed she was with it, only to be thrilled when she found out he had written what was really the starring role for her. She then talks about developing the character, from the actual research to how the costumes even aided in the process. She also talks about the difficulty in shooting some of De Palma’s more elaborate sequences, where timing is everything, giving a play by play on a couple of scenes. Short, but again it manages to be wonderfully indepth.

Producer George Litto next talks about his films with De Palma: Obsession, Dressed to Kill, and Blow Out, obviously proud of the films that came out of the collaboration (he also feels that the museum sequence in Dressed to Kill is one of the best pieces of filmmaking he has ever seen). Composer Pino Donaggio next talks about the film’s score and his collaborations with De Palma over the years, and how De Palma uses his music. He’s most proud of the music he created for the museum sequence, and explains how he studied the scene extensively to get the right momentum and feel. Both interviews are insightful and entertaining, running 12-minutes and 16-minutes respectively.

The next supplement is a bit of a surprise but proves to be a rather great inclusion: an interview with Victoria Lynn Johnson, Angie Dickinson’s body double in the film. She talks about the casting process she went through and then what it was like working with De Palma, who surprised her with his attention to detail. She never felt uncomfortable with the scene or situation, was pleased it was a “legitimate” film (the cast helped her feel better about the project), and she talks about her brief moment of fame when it came out she was Dickinson’s double. It runs 9-minutes.

My favourite of the new features, though, may be an interview with Stephen Sayadian, who worked on the photograph used for the poster art for the film. This 10-minute interview is particularly fascinating because it looks at the marketing industry for low budget horror films at the time, which was actually built from work in the porn industry, from ads for Hustler to cover designs for VHS (Sayadian says he received complaints that his company’s video art made the films look way better than they actually were). From here he then talks about shooting the photo that would eventually be used for the poster art, from gathering together props (like the shoes) to getting the people to pose for it. He also talks about an alternate photo shoot and the finished product we see here is probably more appropriate for the film (Sayadian admits they hadn’t seen the film yet when they shot the first one), though De Palma apparently chose to use the other one. It’s a fairly funny feature giving some great insight into an industry that gets somewhat overlooked.

Criterion then includes the 2001 documentary included on MGM’s DVD (and has also appeared on MGM’s and Arrow’s respective Blu-rays) The Making of Dressed to Kill. The lengthy 45-minute documentary coves the film’s genesis, production, and release. It features interviews with Dickinson, Allen, Gordon, De Palma, Dennis Franz, and others. Like most documentary features that appeared on MGM DVDs back in the day it’s a solid, very informative doc, but unfortunately, similar to Arrow’s disc, most of the material is repeated in the other new features on the disc. Still, it’s worth watching to get De Palma’s insights into the film (primarily his annoyance at the cuts he had to make, which he doesn’t really get into in the new interview found here) and it also offers more in-depth analysis of key sequences in the film.

Criterion then sees fit to include a tribute to the film’s director of photography, Ralf Bode. Called Defying Categories: Ralf Bode it features his brother, experimental video artist Peer Bode, and director Michael Apted. Peer brings a more personal angle to the feature, talking about his brother’s work and his early experimentation with the camera. Apted, though, offers the most praise. Apted states he had absolutely nothing to do with Dressed to Kill but he wanted to come on here to talk about Bode and give him the recognition he feels he never got. He praises his work and how he was able to adapt to each film. It’s a loving tribute looking at the man’s work.

Posted by Geoff at 2:32 AM CDT
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