One of my all-time favorite movies. I still have the poster for it hanging in my office.
A writer over at American Thinker wrote a piece about the movie recently.
I agreed with the bulk of the piece, but one section of the op-ed jumped out at me:
“This movie caused me to reflect on how profoundly society has been reshaped (no, I don’t attribute this change to chance or spontaneity) since I was in college over fifty years ago. As later as 1980, when Ronald Reagan was elected president, a movie like “Dressed to Kill” sparked no controversy. It was not attacked by the LGBT community.”
It did cause controversy at the time. It was attacked by Slasher movie-hating radical feminists– many of whom were likely protesting with pickets outside this L.A. theater showing the movie Maniac the following winter–
—who were fixated on the murder of Angie Dickinson’s character and the violent menacing throughout the film of the prostitute/murder witness played by Nancy Allen.
Although the ‘BT’ component of the LGBT movement didn’t have a lot of political clout back then, the aforementioned radical feminist activists took up the fight on behalf of transvestites/transsexuals, make no mistake:
From Jump Cut, no. 23, Oct. 1980, p. 32
copyright Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, 1980, 2005
The following leaflet calling for a protest against DRESSED TO KILL was distributed in San Francisco. In addition to organized mass protests against CRUISING, WINDOWS, CHARLIE CHAN [AND THE CURSE OF THE DRAGON QUEEN], and FORT APACHE [THE BRONX] reported in the last issue of JUMP CUT, antiracist campaigns have been launched against THE FIENDISH PLOT OF DR. FU MANCHU, and two TV mini-series, BEULAH LAND, a slave plantation story, and HANTA YO, an historical portrayal of Dakota Sioux. Further reports can be found in the summer, ’80 issue of Chamba Notes, and a long analysis of the struggle over CRUISING appears summer issue of Cineaste.
THE CRITICS ARE HAILING BRIAN DE PALMA’S DRESSED TO KILL:
“The first great American movie of the eighties …violent, erotic, and wickedly funny,” David Denby, New York Magazine.
“A witty, romantic, psychological horror film… entertaining,” Vincent Canby, New York Times.
“A triumph,” J. Hoberman, The Village Voice.
“Just about irresistible,” Veronica Geng, The Soho News.
FROM THE INSIDIOUS COMBINATION OF VIOLENCE AND SEXUALITY IN ITS PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL TO SCENE AFTER SCENE OF WOMEN RAPED, KILLED, OR NEARLY KILLED, DRESSED TO KILL IS A MASTER WORK OF MISOGYNY.
The opening scene shows naked Kate Miller (Angie Dickenson (sic)) fetishistically photographed in a steamy shower, suddenly hoisted up by her crotch, a hand slapped across her mouth, her face twisted in anguish, screaming as she is raped by a stranger from behind. Canby called this the “sexy, comic opening sequence.”
Following an afternoon sexual liaison, Angie Dickenson (sic) enters an elevator where she is slashed repeatedly with a straight-edge razor, finally sliding to the floor. “A peculiarly moral film,” commented Canby on DePalma’s method of resolving Dickenson’s (sic) adultery.
Liz Blake (Nancy Allen), a happy-go-lucky prostitute, is slashed with the same razor as she stands in a black garter belt, black nylons, and stiletto heels, her face frozen in terror, blood dripping from her hands.
The apprehended transvestite killer chokes a nurse to death from his hospital bed, then lays her corpse on the bed, unzips her uniform, displaying garter belt and nylons, spreads her legs, removes her shoes, dropping them on the murdered woman’s stomach, while inmates watch and laugh from the balcony above.
The escaped killer enters Nancy Blake’s home where, like Dickenson (sic) before her, she is photographed naked, in the mist from a shower, caressing herself; the bathroom door opens, and again and again the straight-edge razor tears at her throat. Said Denby, “The violence of this movie… leaves one exhilarated rather than shaken.”
THE DISTORTED IMAGE OF A PSYCHOTIC MALE TRANSVESTITE MAKES ALL SEXUAL MINORITIES APPEAR SICK AND DANGEROUS. DRESSED TO KILL FOLLOWS A NEW TREND IN FILMS: WITNESS THE GAY MALE KILLER OF CRUISING, THE LESBIAN RAPIST OF WINDOWS AND NOW THE KILLER TRANSVESTITE OF DRESSED TO KILL.
THOUGH KATE MILLER DIES AND LIZ BLAKE BLEEDS TIME AND AGAIN, THREE SCENES — THE RAPE, THE NECROPHILIA, AND A SLASHING SCENE — WERE TO HAVE HAPPENED IN WOMEN’S MINDS. AS IF THE EROTICIZATION OF VIOLENCE WERE NOT ENOUGH, DRESSED TO KILL ASSERTS THAT WOMEN CRAVE PHYSICAL ABUSE; THAT HUMILIATION. PAIN, AND BRUTALITY ARE ESSENTIAL TO OUR SEXUALITY.
IF THIS FILM SUCCEEDS, KILLING WOMEN MAY BECOME THE GREATEST TURN-ON OF THE EIGHTIES:
JOIN OUR PROTEST! MARCH WITH US ON AUGUST 28!
Women Against Violence and Pornography in Media, San Francisco, 552-2709.
Big difference between 1980 and now?
No internet. No 24/7 news cycle. No social media megaphone.
The internet amplifies everything. For better or worse.