AS SAN FRAN'S CASTRO CELEBRATES THE FILM'S 30TH ANNIVERSARY
[The reimagined poster for Dressed To Kill pictured here was created by Mikael Kangas. More of his illustrations can be seen at Anna Goodson Management.]
Michael Cain's latest autobiography, The Elephant To Hollywood, was published earlier this month. In the book's photo section, a caption next to an image of Bobbi in a blonde wig from Dressed To Kill has Cain wondering, "Is this me or my body double?" Cain devotes about three and a half paragraphs to Brian De Palma's film, writing, "Who would have thought that the role that would rescue my career at that point would be that of a transvestite psychiatrist turned murderer? You couldn't make it up... but Dressed To Kill became a huge box-office success. It was an opportunity for me, too, to show the versatility of my acting skills, not to mention a first outing for me in women's clothing. It had to be the most uncomfortable costume I ever wore. I hated the tights, couldn't walk in the high heels, found that the lipstick got all over my cigars and stubbornly insisted on wearing my own underpants." Despite all of that, Cain writes, "In the end, many of the long shots in the film were actually played by a double-- a real woman-- who was as tall as me, but needed a bit of padding out. It was she who played the most notorious scene in the film when my character slashes Angie Dickinson's character to death with a razor. It is a horrifying scene-- one that I only saw later on-- and it caused a lot of trouble at the time. Brian De Palma-- who is one of the most technically proficient directors I've ever worked with-- was insistent that it was the right thing to do. It was the only death in the entire movie and he wanted maximum impact: he got it, all right."
DICKINSON ON '70s NUDITY: "THIS IS HOW WE'RE DOING IT NOW"
Meanwhile, Todd Gilchrist interviewed Angie Dickinson last week for the Wall Street Journal, on the eve of the Warner Archive on-demand DVD release of Roger Vadim's Pretty Maids All In A Row (the first batch of orders received copies autographed by Dickinson herself, and sold out quickly). Gilchrist asked Dickinson whether nudity was "a necessity for continuing to work" on films in the 1970s. Dickinson replied:
If I’d had a choice, I would have said, oh no, let’s do it under the covers and stay covered up. That would be my favorite way to do it. But I also was grown up enough to know, “this is how we’re doing it now.” On “Big Bad Mama,” I said, “do we have to have so much nudity?” and the director said yeah (laughs). So it’s hardly my favorite position, but I was an actor, and this is what movies were doing [then], so I did it.
The conversation turned to Dressed To Kill when Gilchrist asked Dickinson if she sees "a difference in the filmmakers who were working then and who are working now":
I haven’t worked on any of those big movies where they make you do the blue screen and all of that, so I don’t really know. The ones that I’ve done have still been the kind where once you’re on a set, you’re on a set; I can’t speak to the ones that have all of the blue screen, where you’re not really in Egypt, you’re in Burbank. The last big picture I made was “Dressed to Kill,” and it was a big budget made by a director who has great attention to detail –- Brian De Palma -– and that was very hard. Because he wanted everything exactly the way he wanted it, and rightly so -– which is hard to do sometimes. But in that, and of course that was 1980, he had to have, again, the nudity. That was just a given.
Gilchrist then asked Dickinson, "Are there any other films you made during your career that you feel like are unappreciated or deserve to be rediscovered by audiences today?"
You know, “Dressed to Kill” might be one, come to think of it. Because by those who have seen it, it’s quite admired, because it is scary as hell — but I don’t think it was actually the hit that it would be today. But that comes to mind, and I did a television series called “Pearl,” and that was a great series about Pearl Harbor on the outbreak of WWII with Robert Wagner, Dennis Weaver, Leslie Ann Warren and myself. I always loved myself in that, and that’s always been, let’s say, shoved under the rug. But “Point Blank” is already in DVD, and that one is my favorite.
THE CASTRO REDISCOVERS PSYCHO & DRESSED TO KILL TOGETHER ON THE BIG SCREEN
Earlier this month, San Francisco's Castro Theatre featured a double bill of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho and De Palma's Dressed To Kill, the former having been released 50 years ago, and the latter having been released 30 years ago. Kelly M. Hudson attended, and wrote on his blog that "there were a couple of sequences that made the audience I was watching it with erupt into enthusiastic applause and those were the attack in the subway and the finale in the doctor's office and the final dream sequence. And those people were right: they were brilliant." Dan at Dan's Movie Blog was also at the screening, and similarly stated, "I will say that a few scenes where Blake is menaced by the woman ratchets up the suspense to unusually tense levels. I'm specifically thinking about the scene in Michael Caine's office and in the bathroom at the end." Dan also recalls the "teenage boys in his clique" in the early 1980s talking "about the infamous opening scene featuring Angie Dickinson taking a shower." Dan notes that Dickinson's body double in the opening shower scene was Victoria Lynn Johnson "(August 1976 Penthouse Pet of the Month)."