"IT'S THE MOST PERFECTLY-DIRECTED FILM EVER"
This week, we read Craig Wasson talking about Brian De Palma as "an understated comedian." Dressed To Kill has plenty of understated humor, including humor of the surreal sort, yet Slant's Eric Henderson Derek Smith seem to go crazy with the cheese whiz in their review of Kino's new edition:
The pleasures of the screwball Dressed to Kill (emphasis on both “screw” and “ball”) flat-out do not translate to print, but for what it’s worth, it’s the most perfectly directed film ever, provided that you, like this critic, bust into orgasmic laughter when Jerry Greenberg’s double-shuffling editing makes it seem like the only threat that Nancy Allen’s Liz Blake and a wooden Samm-Art Williams’s subway cop can see boarding the subway train is a 250-pound bag lady.
Kino Lorber’s 4K UHD transfer of Dressed to Kill comes straight from a 4K scan of the original camera negative. And with all the extras, aside from a commentary track, being housed on a separate Blu-ray disc, every byte of space on the 4K disc goes toward maximizing the image detail of the film. For as sharp and rich in detail as this transfer is, though, it retains all the surface pleasures of the film’s intentionally gauzy, soft-focus aesthetic. Colors are decidedly more vibrant than they are on the Criterion Collection’s 2016 Blu-ray, in everything from Nancy Allen’s golden curls to her iconic purple dress. The disc comes with the option for the original lossless 2.0 mono audio and 5.1 surround sound, which features a well-balanced mix that lends a resounding depth to Pino Donoggio’s lush, giallo-esque score.
Kino’s veritable feast of extras kicks off with an audio commentary by critic and author Maitland McDonagh, who provides an astute and detailed analysis of the film’s elaborate, psychologically motivated visual style. McDonagh consistently makes the argument that Brian De Palma’s many flourishes contain multitudes, while delving into the controversies that the film sparked upon its release. The next most substantial extra is the 45-minute documentary “The Making of Dressed to Kill,” which, among other things, gets into the genesis of the film and how The Phil Donahue interview of a transgender woman, Nancy Hunt, inspired De Palma to reshape his unmade screenplay of Cruising into Dressed to Kill. (Another documentary, “Slashing Dressed to Kill,” also from 2001, covers the story behind the film’s R, NC-17, and X-rated cuts, pairing well with a separate feature that shows numerous side-by-side comparisons.)
Among the glut of interviews included as extras are three new ones with Nancy Allen, Keith Gordon, and associate producer Fred C. Caruso. Caruso’s is a bust, as he seems interested in little more than touting his various credits and insisting upon the importance of dialogue when discussing a film where that may be its least important feature. By contrast, Allen and Gordon provide interesting insights into De Palma’s working process, both on the script level and during production. There’s also a brief tribute to the film by Gordon, who displays a deep affection for De Palma and credits him for teaching him everything he knows about filmmaking.
All the remaining interviews are archival, including several more with Allen and Gordon from 2012 and 1980. The interviews with Angie Dickinson and producer George Litto are interesting, particularly the former, in which the actress opens up about the vulnerability she felt on set and her fondness for De Palma, who was always looking out for her. Also included are audio-only interviews with Dickinson and Caine, the latter of whom gives great insight into the differences between working on a typical film and one where the visual grammar requires an intense precision of movement. The package is rounded out with trailers and radio and TV spots.
With a stunning new transfer and bounty of extras, this 4K UHD release is the best home video release to date of Brian De Palma’s exquisitely directed and gloriously trashy slasher.