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Domino is
a "disarmingly
work that "pushes
us to reexamine our
relationship to images
and their consumption,
not only ethically
but metaphysically"
-Collin Brinkman

De Palma on Domino
"It was not recut.
I was not involved
in the ADR, the
musical recording
sessions, the final
mix or the color
timing of the
final print."

Listen to
Donaggio's full score
for Domino online

De Palma/Lehman
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in Snakes

De Palma/Lehman
next novel is Terry

De Palma developing
Catch And Kill,
"a horror movie
based on real things
that have happened
in the news"

Supercut video
of De Palma's films
edited by Carl Rodrigue

Washington Post
review of Keesey book


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Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
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AV Club Review
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Thursday, January 13, 2022

On Instagram a few days ago, ​artist Ernesto Renda shared images of his new piece, "View of Downtown from South Street Seaport (after Dressed to Kill (1980))". The piece -- wax pastel on canvas, glue relief on board, 12 x 18 x 2 inches -- focuses on a cut from Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill, from Kate screaming orgasmically in the back of a taxi, to the "view of downtown" mentioned in the title. In De Palma's film, shot by Ralph Bode, the camera tilts down from the skyward glimpse of the World Trade Center towers (where, incidentally, Liz and Peter will meet up for lunch near the end of the film), and then pans right to show the taxi arriving at the man's apartment building. In his Instagram post, Renda also shared the two stills he focused on from Dressed To Kill:

In a scetion on his website, Renda describes his interest in "inserts and cutaways" --

Inserts and cutaways are shots used to avert the viewer's gaze from some intense or visceral sight onto something else. They are a sort of dissociation from the visible. I'm interested in the way that film images, as dialectical medium, form meanings together. In these types of sequences, the director imbues the second shot with the ecstasy, pain, intensity of the first shot.

What interests me as well is when these shots are used to convey the ambivalence of the non-human world or the surroundings of the characters. An example would be a scene "behind closed doors" cutting to the literal closed-door to express the intimacy, privacy, and secrecy of the action.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Friday, January 14, 2022 12:29 AM CST
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Tuesday, January 11, 2022

At Hyperallergic, Nadine Smith reviews Pedro Almodóvar's Parallel Mothers:
Time passes, and the two collide again after Ana loses her child to SIDS. Janis takes her on as a live-in nanny, but something has begun to feel off to her about her child. Secrets fester as Janis and Ana’s relationship thickens and intensifies, with the film evolving into a beguilingly uncanny thriller. After the more contemplative autofiction of Pain and Glory, Parallel Mothers is a return to Almodóvar’s familiar sandbox of applying a tender touch to pulp and genre tropes. With shades of Brian De Palma, he even employs a nanny cam to inventive ends.

The tension between Janis and Ana might be emotional and sexual at heart, but there’s a historical rift as well. Janis is the child of a Republican stronghold from the time of the Spanish Civil War, and is all too aware of the hidden mass graves throughout the countryside. In contrast, Ana is disconnected from the past, and the daughter of the fascist upper class. Almodóvar has become such an established brand and an icon of cinematic queerness that the sociopolitical context he emerged from is often forgotten. But it’s impossible to separate the thorny sexuality or vibrant color in his films from post-Franco Spain’s explosion of cultural and personal expression. No nation is ever free of its genealogical trauma. The cotton swab of a DNA test is a double-edged sword in Parallel Mothers — it both cuts away the veil from uncomfortable secrets, but is also a scientific tool that connects Janis to the bodies of long-lost family members. Almodóvar reminds us that the sins and struggles of our mothers are never washed away.

Posted by Geoff at 11:57 PM CST
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Monday, January 10, 2022

"Blow Out might be the greatest film De Palma ever made," states Matt Hanson in the opening paragraphs of an article posted today at The Smart Set, "and it grows increasingly relevant in its unsentimental wariness about the potential for hidden forces at work through the highly charged space where media and politics meet. Blow Out contains premonitions galore about where conspiratorial thinking, and the technology that encourages it, ultimately leads us."

Here's an excerpt:

As a character, Terry is defined by his capacity to listen. His professional responsibility is to capture sounds that most people would either not notice or otherwise ignore. Terry’s receptivity is similar to the forever wired, content-soaked world of today, where we’re constantly getting information stimulation from everywhere, all the time. It’s been widely remarked that the ubiquity of cell phones and social media allow us all to become amateur filmmakers, eagerly posting the daily rushes of our lives for public consumption. But we shouldn’t assume that this constant videotaping of the world around us will make us wiser. As Blow Out reminds us, just because you get something important on tape doesn’t mean that people will listen.

If anything, recent history has demonstrated that, alas, mere documentation isn’t proof. Orwell once said that seeing what’s directly in front of one’s nose requires a constant struggle. If anything, that’s even truer now. Anyone can choose to see what they want to see in a certain picture or video, especially if they have an agenda or a preconceived notion of how they are supposed to respond. How visual information gets processed, and who decides how it’s interpreted, all too often ends up as more fodder for our national melodrama — another exciting plot twist in an interactive live socio-political soap opera that never ends because secretly, whether they want to admit it or not, nobody wants it to.

When Blow Out was released, paranoia and conspiracy theories tended to trend left. De Palma himself explained that he became obsessed with the Kennedy assassination and its disturbingly incomplete official narrative about who was where when: “the more you blow it up, the less clear it becomes.” Assuming that operatives are trying to influence elections and alter the country’s political life was, in hindsight, a very realistic response to the bright shining lies of Watergate and Vietnam.

The obsession with surveillance and how that purloined information is bent to the will of nefarious corporate or political actors was definitely a major theme in films of the late ’70s. Consider The Conversation, made by De Palma’s longtime friend Francis Ford Coppola, and Alan Pakula’s trilogy Klute, All The President’s Men, and The Parallax View, all of which interrogate who’s watching the watchers.

Now the tin foil hat points rightward. No doubt conspiracy theories exist on the left as well, but the right has openly mainstreamed its paranoia. Major figures promote it in campaign speeches, cite it in fundraising drives, and keep it circulating throughout their media echo chambers. Fast and loose, postmodern approaches to truth are no longer the purview of radical academics. Treating truth as a socially constructed puppet of power is a rhetorical gambit that routinely fills stadiums. “Alternative facts” will do just fine for an excited crowd that already knows what it wants to hear.

Yet maybe Terry’s solitary anguish, caught in the crossfire over who will get their hands on his recording, still contains a residue of hope. De Palma described Terry’s plight in self-sacrificial terms: “he has to sacrifice to solve this mystery that no one cares about.” Exactly. Terry loses his own peace of mind and the woman he loves precisely because of his idealistic refusal to ignore the empirical truth of what happened on that bridge.

It’s not just that Terry can’t bear to think of the darker implications of the recording, which are indeed troubling — he refuses to give up on what he knows to be true. He can’t understand why people want to accept the idea that no one else cares. Instead, Terry insists that his recording should be on the evening news. Terry’s not a particularly heroic figure — after all, he’s just a B movie hack who feels guilty over a mafia wiretap gone wrong — but nevertheless, he insists on committing to the truth even if no one else believes him or bothers to listen. This refusal to be gaslit is rather noble if a bit quixotic.

Posted by Geoff at 7:40 PM CST
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Sunday, January 9, 2022

In a Parade article by Amy Spencer this weekend, Courteney Cox talks a little bit about auditioning for the Dancing In The Dark music video:
Cox, the youngest of four, was raised in Birmingham, Alabama, in an area she only now appreciates for its rolling hills and beautiful countryside. When she was 10, her parents divorced, and her father moved away. And as her older brother and two older sisters began moving out, she grew even closer with her mother, who became her best friend. “Man, she was a great mom,” says Cox, who shared all the gritty details of her teenage life with her mother. “I didn’t want to sneak and go behind her back. Whatever trouble I got into, I wanted her to know so we could have a really close relationship—because when your parents get divorced, you want that.”

Her father, Richard, installed swimming pools in Florida; Cox recalls that her mother, also named Courteney, answered phones at a psychiatric office and “worked at, like, a Stein Mart, and then I think she got fired because she wanted to play bridge or something.” She was simply not a career woman, Cox says. “There was no part of her that was a go-getter. She was a Southern, sweet, sweet woman. I’m the opposite of my mom in that way. I was always really a workaholic.”

At 13, Cox got a job selling candy to raise money for a foundation. In high school, she worked at a pool store. And at summer camp, she took to the stage, once playing Anna in The King and I. But Cox didn’t realize she could build a career as an actress until she got an agent in New York. There, she modeled, booked a commercial for Tampax, played a debutante named Bunny on As the World Turns and nabbed the part that launched her career.

It was 1984 when Cox was famously cast to be pulled onstage to dance with Bruce Springsteen during a live concert for his “Dancing in the Dark” video—which, in a small sign of her scream-queen career to come, was directed by Brian De Palma, who was behind the horror hit Carrie. There were tons of girls at the audition, recalls Cox, “stretching and…dancers! And I was like, ‘Ohhh, I’m not in the right place.’” When De Palma asked her to dance in his office, “I got so embarrassed,” she says, “because I love to dance, but, like, freestyle.” She was cast with two other girls—but only one would be getting onstage in Saint Paul, Minnesota, for the concert. The day or so before, she met the Boss for the first time with De Palma. “I remember they both had the flu, or had colds, and they weren’t feeling great,” she recalls. And when one of them said, ‘OK, so when Courteney goes up onstage,’ I went, ‘Oh, what?!’” And she’s remained on the world’s stage ever since.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Last week, /Film's Miyako Pleines chose "5 Horror Movies We Think Should Have Won The Oscar For Best Picture." Along with Psycho, Jaws, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Hereditary, Pleines made an argument for Carrie:
This list, admittedly, has quite a few films from the '70s, but that's because the '70s were just such a damn good decade for horror! 1976 saw the release of Brian De Palma's wildly inventive "Carrie," based on the Stephen King book of the same name. It is a fantastic movie about a young girl with telekinetic powers who is eventually pushed to the breaking point by her unaccepting classmates. What makes "Carrie" so great is Sissy Spacek's performance as Carrie White and Piper Laurie's performance as her extremely devout mother. Spacek approaches the role of Carrie with the perfect blend of naïveté and a pitying desire to be accepted by her peers. You both loathe her and feel for her, a girl trapped in adolescence by her misguided, commandeering mother. Laurie is equally as riveting as Margaret White, commanding the camera's attention whenever she appears on screen. If not for the talents of these two actresses, "Carrie" would not be the masterpiece that it is; the Academy agreed, nominating them for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively.

However, one award the film did not receive an Oscar nomination for was Best Picture. That honor would go to films like "Rocky" and "Taxi Driver." It seems America wasn't quite ready to celebrate the emotional turmoil of a teenage girl, but if you ask me, it should have been. "Carrie" is a marvelous example of what can happen when a great book gets a great adaptation. It's also wonderful commentary on female adolescence and the horrors of being a teenager, and while most of us don't possess the ability to move things with our minds or make it rain stones, we do understand the cruel difficulties of growing up and going through high school. While Carrie the girl may have had a bucket of pig's blood dumped on her head at the prom, "Carrie" the movie is worthy of winning Prom Queen and escaping the stage crowned, celebrated, and entirely unscathed.

Posted by Geoff at 11:16 PM CST
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Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Last week, Le Point's David Mikanowski wrote an article about Brian De Palma's Casualties Of War, upon the release of the new Blu-ray-and-book box set from Wild Bunch. Here's an excerpt, with help from Google Translate:
The presence of a woman in a war film is astounding - this genre full of testosterone has traditionally been vested in men. Even though she is gagged, tied up, and spends most of the time moaning and crying, in a state of prostration. Besides, Oanh's death is a nightmare streak that seems to never end. Covered in blood, she walks like a ghost on the railway tracks of a bridge (the scene was shot on the banks of the River Kwai, near the Burmese border). Unforgettable, her slow agony resembles a funeral march, a requiem.

Depalmian heroes are often haunted by a woman they have seen die before their eyes, unable to rescue her. This was notably the case for the characters played by Cliff Robertson in Obsession (1976), John Travolta in Blow Out (1981) and Craig Wasson in Body Double (1984). This time, it's the one played by Michael J. Fox who becomes a passive witness to a crime and blames himself for being cowardly in front of the other soldiers by not preventing them from taking action. Through his melodrama, De Palma speaks of individual responsibility. And asks an ethical question: are rape and murder more excusable when committed in wartime? "Even in war ... Murder is murder," read the slogan of the film's American poster.

In the eyes of some, this appalling news item remains anecdotal and insignificant. A point of detail in a napalm bombing war. As a good moralist, De Palma, on the contrary, believes that Oanh's death is not a drop of water in a sea of blood. His film works as a metaphor: we must see in this rape that of an entire country by the American invader. And when Michael J. Fox is indignant during a scene, it is De Palma who expresses himself through him (the famous tirade of Eriksson: “Just because each of us might at any second be blown away, everybody’s acting like we can do anything. And it don’t matter what we do. But I’m thinking, maybe it’s the other way around, you know. Maybe the main thing is the opposite! Because we might be dead in the next split-second, maybe we gotta be extra careful what we do.”) Almost philosophical, the theme of Outrages (the individual who is right against the group) provokes reflection. And De Palma would rather dwell on the fate of a single victim, to move the public, than on that of thousands of dead.

Heroes or bastards

War makes heroes, but also bastards, the director seems to say. Dropped in the middle of a conflict they do not understand, attacked at night in the jungle (an incredible opening sequence in an underground gallery where the Viet Cong look like ants), the young American soldiers behave badly towards the Vietnamese civilians in the film. Because the army never prepared them to face a foreign country, a culture, and customs different from theirs. Towards the end of Outrages, the four soldiers guilty of the crime are sentenced (one of them to life) by a military court. But in reality, they were acquitted!

Indeed, after multiple appeals, the sentences were considerably reduced. None of them will have served more than five years in prison. Out of fear of reprisal, the real Eriksson even changed his identity and became a farmer somewhere in the Midwest. In 1972, Elia Kazan made a film that imagined a fictional sequel to this story: The Visitors with James Woods. In the heartbreaking drama, a soldier’s former comrades in arms, who had denounced them for the rape and murder of a Vietnamese woman, returned, after being released from prison, to his Connecticut villa for revenge. And took the opportunity to rape his partner!

No, Outrages is not a cool movie. It looks like a sticky nightmare, which causes discomfort and leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Because De Palma's cinema is outrageous. Upon its theatrical release, the film divided critics. The New York weekly The Village Voice notably published an indictment against the film and its director - one of the most violent attacks ever directed against a filmmaker! But Outrages also has supporters. Steven Spielberg was raving about it in Rolling Stone magazine: “This is a huge film, perhaps the most beautiful that we have shot about Vietnam.” Renowned New Yorker reviewer Pauline Kael also wrote a lengthy, glowing article about the film.

In November 1994, in the pages of the monthly Les Inrockuptibles, Tarantino, in full promotion of Pulp Fiction, declared of Brian: “Blow Out is the absolute masterpiece of De Palma, closely followed by Outrages. The latter is in my opinion the best war movie ever made. It’s also one of the best movies about rape and Sean Penn’s best role - which is no small feat." Bertrand Tavernier also defended the feature film in 50 Years of American Cinema, his reference work co-written with another scholar, Jean-Pierre Coursodon: "De Palma manages to renew himself with this film which constitutes for him a real challenge, changing it at the same time of genre, place and register." The authors of the book also prefer his film on Vietnam to that of Kubrick: "The finale of Full Metal Jacket is a bit thin. And it is possible to find richer, even more courageous, a film like Outrages which, for its part, tackles a real moral problem head-on." Which is to say that De Palma was one of the few filmmakers to get their hands dirty, to immerse themselves in the Vietnamese quagmire.

In 2007, the bearded man filmed with digital cameras Redacted, a mock documentary that is once again based on a true story and is presented as an extension of Outrages, a twin film. He embarked on this adventure after reading an article about an incident during the Iraq war in which US Army soldiers allegedly raped a 14-year-old girl, shot her in the face and allegedly burned his body, before massacring his family.

How could these young people have come to this? What is original here is that De Palma recreates the drama through various sources of images: surveillance cameras, videos posted on YouTube, blogs and a GI's diary. A fascinating theoretical object, which forms a good double program with Outrages. A work that has lost none of its strength three decades later. Moreover, during his retrospective at the Cinémathèque française in 2018, the filmmaker without hesitation chose Outrages to represent his work. At the end of the screening of the film, he burst into tears in front of the audience of his master class, so much this film, for which he had fought for so long, was close to his heart.

Outrages boxed set with the film on Blu-ray (in its Director's cut version with six additional unreleased minutes) and on DVD (in its cinema version). As a bonus: numerous additions and a large 200-page book, specially written by Nathan Réra and illustrated with rare photos and archives. Limited edition of 2,500 copies. € 49.99. Wild Side.

Posted by Geoff at 10:28 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, January 4, 2022 10:30 PM CST
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Friday, December 31, 2021

Posted by Geoff at 10:42 PM CST
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Thursday, December 30, 2021

"Steven Spielberg's West Side Story is the latest example that you don't need a background in musicals to direct a great one," states Colin Wessman's sub-headline for an article posted the other day at Collider. The headline reads, "8 Directors Who Were a Surprisingly Great Match for the Musical," and Wessman includes Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise in the mix:
It’s hard to say if Brian De Palma spent the majority of his career working in the thriller and horror genres just because he felt most comfortable there, or if Phantom Of The Paradise kept him there. The rock musical was a both a critical and box-office failure, but it has gained a cult following in the years since for how distinctly strange it is. Anchored by the original music (and an unlikely leading role) from pop maestro Paul Williams, the movie is a glitzy riff on The Phantom Of The Opera about a disfigured songwriter who lives inside a theater owned by a benevolent record producer who — as the immortal tagline states — sold his soul for rock ’n’ roll.

Despite its lofty ambitions as a modern-day Faust or Dorian Gray (in addition to Phantom of the Opera) that seeks to satirize the music industry, the movie is perhaps best viewed as a wonderfully gaudy spectacle that would make a great double feature with The Rocky Horror Picture Show. De Palma’s success with his next film, Carrie, launched him into the stratosphere of great genre directors, and though De Palma would never direct anything this zany again, Phantom Of The Paradise still has plenty of the director’s trademarks. Though his films often have a kind of meticulousness that lends him to the obsession of many a movie nerd, he’s also prone to the kinds of bombastic flourishes (see John Cassavetes’ entire body exploding in The Fury) that make this such a cult-y delight.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Wednesday, December 22, 2021

I came across this Japanese poster for Brian De Palma's Passion this week. I like the design - don't think I've ever seen this one before.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Last week, along with the images above, Sam Irvin posted a "Happy Birthday" tribute to Liv Ullmann on his Facebook page:
Happy 83rd Birthday to Liv Ullmann!
Imagine this: Liv Ullmann getting stabbed to death in the elevator in Brian De Palma’s DRESSED TO KILL. Huh?!
Little known factoid: Liv Ullmann, the brilliant muse of Ingmar Bergman in CRIES AND WHISPERS, PERSONA and FACE TO FACE, was Brian De Palma’s first choice to play the role of “Kate Miller” in DRESSED TO KILL — the role that ended up being played so iconically by Angie Dickinson.

The character gets shockingly stabbed to death in an elevator — an homage to Janet Leigh’s character “Marion Crane” getting stabbed to death in the shower in Hitchcock’s PSYCHO.

In both movies, it was essential to cast big-name stars in these parts to make it all the more shocking when they are unexpectedly bumped off early in their respective scenarios.

In the summer of 1979, when DRESSED TO KILL was in preproduction, I was working as Brian De Palma’s assistant. I was 23 — and a very big fan of Liv Ullmann — who had won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in THE EMIGRANTS (1971) and nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Actress in THE EMIGRANTS and FACE TO FACE (1976). So, you can imagine my excitement when Brian handed me a copy of the DRESSED TO KILL script and said, “I want you to hand-deliver this to Liv Ullmann at the Majestic Theater. She is expecting you in her dressing room.”

Liv was currently starring on Broadway in Richard Rodgers newly-musicalized version of I REMEMBER MAMA. I would be going to drop off the script between a matinee and evening performance.

I arrived at the stage door with a large envelope in my hand. I knocked and after a few seconds, the door cautiously cracked open as though it were a speakeasy. A crusty old doorman peered out from the shadows and said, “Yeah?”

“I’m here to see Ms. Ullmann,” I explained in my best business-like voice.

The doorman gave me the once-over, spotted Ullmann’s name written on the envelope, concluded I was just a messenger boy — which, admittedly, was pretty much what I was. He sneered, “A delivery? I can take it to her.”

He creaked the door open a little further and held out his gnarly hand, expecting me to give him the package.

As if. I wasn’t going to give up the chance of meeting Liv Ullmann when I’d already come within breathing distance. I gulped and stood my ground. “I have been instructed to deliver this to Ms. Ullmann personally. She is expecting me. My name is Sam Irvin. From Brian De Palma’s office.”

Poker-faced, the doorman said nothing for what seemed like an eternity.

Finally, he withdrew his empty claw and shut the door in my face.

Had I been summarily rejected? Should I knock again and demand to speak to someone higher up the food chain? My job was on the line! With all sorts of desperate thoughts running around in my brain, the door suddenly popped back open.

“Ms. Ullmann will see you now,” the doorman grunted, annoyed that he’d been out-maneuvered.

I stepped inside and followed him to her dressing room. He knocked and walked away. The door swung open with a breeze of perfume to reveal the resplendent, welcoming smile of Liv Ullmann attached to her entire being. In person. Yep. I was starstruck.

She graciously greeted me. We exchanged small talk. I gave her the script and she said, “Tell Brian I am looking forward to reading it. Thank you for bringing it to me.”

I departed on Cloud 9 and floated back to Brian’s office. Mission: Accomplished.

Sadly, Liv eventually passed on the project.

Nancy Allen, who played “Liz” in DRESSED TO KILL, recalled, “Liv was Brian’s first choice. He wanted it to be out of character for the actress who played the part to be having the sexual encounter with the stranger in the museum. Someone you might think of as sexually repressed. I suggested he send her flowers and take her to lunch. Ultimately she declined the role because she didn’t want her children to see her in that way.”

Then Brian had me deliver a script to the wonderful Jill Clayburgh, hot off her Oscar nomination for AN UNMARRIED WOMAN (1978). A long-time friend of De Palma’s, Jill had made her movie debut in his early feature film THE WEDDING PARTY (1969) opposite the young Robert De Niro. My encounter was brief and similar — but equally cherished and memorable. Unfortunately, she also ended up passing due to scheduling conflicts.

Ultimately, Angie Dickinson ended up with the role and knocked it out of the park.

Nevertheless, it is intriguing to imagine what the movie would have been like with Liv Ullmann in the role.

You MUST read my first-hand inside chronicle on the making of DRESSED TO KILL on which I worked as director Brian De Palma’s assistant! The recent issue of BOOBS AND BLOOD No. 4 is entirely devoted to my memoir of DRESSED TO KILL! 56 pages! 13,000 words! 175 photos!

And it’s for a great cause, too! All profits from the sale of the magazine go to the breast cancer charity Keep a Breast Foundation.

The DRESSED TO KILL Special Edition of BOOBS AND BLOOD No. 4 is available to order here:

Thank you to editor-publisher Miles Flanagan!

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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