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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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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Posted by Geoff at 5:15 PM CDT
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Saturday, August 1, 2015
The juxtaposition at left, taken from the DVD Beaver review of Dressed To Kill from the other day, shows the Arrow edition at the top, and the new Criterion edition at the bottom. In this particular shot, it appears that the Criterion edition has the correct aspect ratio, while the Arrow version looks as though it may have been stretched horizontally. However, according to a review by Dr. Svet Atanasov at Blu-ray.com, the Criterion disc they were sent features "numerous serious framing anomalies," including stretching and the top of the frame being lowered "too much." "Needless to say," states Atanasov, "the overwhelming majority of the film looks very awkwardly framed. There are no problematic degraining or sharpening adjustments. Colors are stable and healthy, never appearing artificially boosted. There are no large debris, cuts, damage marks, or torn frames, but I noticed a few tiny flecks. Finally, overall image stability is outstanding."

Meanwhile, on the site's forum, Blu-ray reviewer pro-bassoonist posted yesterday morning:
1. There are some very strange anomalies on the upcoming release of Dressed to Kill, but at the moment I don't know if Mr. De Palma is aware of them.

2. The anomalies appear throughout the entire film, and some are very distracting. The credits confirm that at least three different parties were involved with the restoration, so I am unsure how they could have been missed. However, there are also areas of the film that look fine.

3. Color scheme -- I saw that there are some claims that the film is "tealed", etc. This isn't true. Criterion's Lee Kline is responsible for the color grading and he is someone that understands extremely well what he is doing.

4. Lastly, I don't know if there is some sort of mastering/encoding defect -- something that caused the stretching externally. However, I don't like to speculate, so when/if there is some new factual information I will update the review/community.

And then last night, pro-bassoonist posted the following on the forum:

Hey guys,

Criterion are aware of the issue. As usual, when there is enough helpful information, there will be a response.

The information will be made available here.

In the meantime, could we please drop the overreactions and move on? Thanks.


Atanasov's review includes the following text from the leaflet provided with the Criterion release:

"The version of the film included here is director Brian De Palma's original and preferred unrated cut. Supervised by De Palma, this new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from the 35mm original camera negative; a 35mm interpositive was also used for additional footage for this cut. Benjamin Sutor at Sony Colorworks in Culver City, California, supervised the conform of unrated content to the original R-rated theatrical version to correctly assemble this master. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI's DRS, while Digital Vision's Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management, jitter, and flicker.

The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the 35mm magnetic tracks. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube's integrated workstation, and iZotope RX 4.

Transfer supervisor: Brian De Palma. Colorist: Lee Kline/Criterion, New York."

Atanasov's review also provides details about the special features included in Criterion's edition. Here are Atanasov's reviews of the new extras produced for this release:

Interviews -

1. Brian De Palma - in this brand new video interview, director Brian De Palma discusses with filmmaker Noah Baumbach the evolution of his style, Dressed to Kill and the structure of its narrative, the use of specific sounds in different sequences, Pino Donaggio's score and how the anxiety and paranoia in the film are linked to it, Michael Caine's performance, the film's controversial reception, Alfred Hitchock's influence on his work, etc. The interview was conducted exclusively for Criterion in 2015. In English, not subtitled. (20 min, 1080p).

2. Nancy Allen - in this brand new video interview, Nancy Allen explains how she was approached to play the character of Liz Blake and how she prepared for the role, and discusses her interactions with costume designer Ann Roth, her work with Keith Gordon and Michael Caine (with some great comments about the seduction sequence), etc. The interview was conducted exclusively for Criterion in 2015. In English, not subtitled. (17 min, 1080p).

3. George Litto - in this new video interview, producer George Litto discusses his collaborations with Brian De Palma on Obsession, Dressed to Kill, and Blow Out. The interview was conducted exclusively for Criterion in 2015. In English, not subtitled. (17 min, 1080p).

4. Pino Donaggio - in this new video interview, composer Pino Donaggio discusses the score he created for Dressed to Kill as well as his long professional relationship with Brian De Palma. The two began working together in 1976, after Brian De Palma heard the score for Don't Look Now, and their first project was the horror thriller Carrie. The interview was conducted exclusively for Criterion in 2015. In Italian, with optional English subtitles. (16 min, 1080p).

5. Victoria Lynn Johnson - in this new video interview, former model and 1978 Penthouse Pet of the Year Victoria Lynn Johnson explains how she was approached to do the erotic shower scene in the very beginning of Dressed to Kill. (She was Angie Dickinson's body double). The interview was conducted exclusively for Criterion in 2015. In Italian, with optional English subtitles. (9 min, 1080p).

6. Stephen Sayadian - in this new video interview, Stephen Sayadian, the photographic art director for the original Dressed to Kill one-sheet poster, describes how the original design was created and discusses the importance of poster-driven promotion at the time. The interview was conducted exclusively for Criterion in 2015. In Italian, with optional English subtitles. (11 min, 1080p).

Defying Categories: Ralf Bode - in this new featurette, filmmaker Michael Apted (Gorky Park, Blink) and experimental video artist Peer Bode (We Can't Go Home Again) discuss the legacy and working methods of the late cinematographer Ralf Bode, who lensed Dressed to Kill. The featurette was produced exclusively for Criterion in 2015. In English, not subtitled. (11 min, 1080p).

Posted by Geoff at 2:10 AM CDT
Updated: Saturday, August 1, 2015 2:22 AM CDT
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Thursday, July 30, 2015
DVD Beaver's Gary Tooze compares three Blu-ray versions of Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill: MGM, Arrow Films, and the new Criterion. Most striking are the screen shot comparisons reproduced in the post, showing that the new De Palma-supervised Criterion transfer is radically different from the previous two Blu-ray editions. "Wow," states Tooze in the DVD Beaver post. "The Criterion is advertised as a 'New, restored 4K digital transfer of director Brian De Palma’s preferred unrated version, supervised by the director...'. It is extremely different from the other two Blu-rays (both with max'ed out bitrates). It shows more information the frame - mostly on the side edges - and seems vertically stretched (or the other two or horizontally stretched. This makes the criterion faces thinner and taller and the Arrow and MGM faces fatter. It is also more faded and has a yellow/green tinge to it. The Criterion has a less robust technical transfer for the film - with a decent, but lower bitrate. I never saw this theatrically so its hard for me to categorically state this Criterion transfer is not accurate. The Criterion transfer skin tones are cooler. I will say it gave me a new viewing experience. It is also the unrated-cut of the film. NOTE: The round (?) lamp behind Michael Caine (below capture) is oval in the Criterion 1080P, but strangely, at times, the Criterion ratio looks more 'right' to me - at other times the Arrow and MGM appear more natural. The more I look at it though - the more the Criterion appears correct to me."

The Criterion Blu-ray of Dressed To Kill is set to be released on August 18, 2015.

Posted by Geoff at 1:00 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, July 30, 2015 7:22 AM CDT
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Monday, June 8, 2015

Posted by Geoff at 11:07 PM CDT
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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

This afternoon, Criterion posted the photo and caption above on its Facebook page. The listing for Criterion's upcoming Dressed To Kill release has also been updated since Monday's initial announcement to add the following: "New conversation between De Palma and filmmaker Noah Baumbach."

On Monday, I mentioned that I had e-mailed Criterion the day before with the idea of including De Palma's Home Movies as a bonus on the Dressed To Kill edition. If they are still adding features to the set, it sounds like perhaps that is still a possibility...

A comment on the Facebook post linked to above mentions that Baumbach's latest released feature, While We're Young, shows a De Palma influence, and I have to say I thought the same thing when I saw the film last month. [Mild spoiler, if you will] Baumbach's film includes a bit of conspiracy, and, like Blow Out (the previous Criterion edition for which Baumbach interviewed De Palma), a character who sees conspiracy "everywhere" has trouble convincing others of his perspective.

Posted by Geoff at 7:03 PM CDT
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Monday, May 18, 2015
Criterion announced its August slate of releases today, and included is Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill, which will be released in a one-disc Blu-ray set and a two-disc DVD set on August 18, 2015. Just yesterday, I thought how great it would be if this edition included De Palma's Home Movies as a bonus, since it features Nancy Allen and Keith Gordon together just prior to making Dressed To Kill (not to mention that Home Movies also includes Mary Davenport, who has a humorous cameo in Dressed To Kill, listening in on a conversation between Allen and Gordon in a restaurant). I sent Criterion an e-mail with the suggestion yesterday, but obviously forces were already in motion, and my suggestion was too late. (Who knows, maybe they had already thought of that idea, but just couldn't work it out.)

In any case, here is the description and specs from the Criterion page:

Brian De Palma ascended to the highest ranks of American suspense filmmaking with this virtuoso, explicit erotic thriller. At once tongue-in-cheek and scary as hell, Dressed to Kill revolves around the grisly murder of a woman in Manhattan, and what happens when her psychiatrist, her brainiac teenage son, and the prostitute who witnessed the crime try to piece together what happened while the killer remains at large. With its masterfully executed scenes of horror, voluptuous camera work, and passionate score, Dressed to Kill is a veritable symphony of terror, enhanced by vivid performances by Angie Dickinson, Michael Caine, and Nancy Allen.


New, restored 4K digital transfer of director Brian De Palma’s preferred unrated version, approved by the director, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
New interviews with actor Nancy Allen, producer George Litto, composer Pino Donaggio, shower-scene body double Victoria Lynn Johnson, and poster photographic art director Stephen Sayadian
New profile of cinematographer Ralf Bode, featuring filmmaker Michael Apted
The Making of “Dressed to Kill,” a 2001 documentary featuring De Palma
Interview with actor-director Keith Gordon from 2001
Video pieces from 2001 about the different versions of the film and the cuts made to avoid an X rating
Gallery of storyboards by De Palma
PLUS: An essay by critic Michael Koresky

Cover based on original poster

Posted by Geoff at 6:54 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, June 18, 2015 4:46 PM CDT
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