Film / Dressed to Kill

"Oh Doctor, I'm so unhappy. I'm a woman trapped inside a man's body—
and you're not helping me to get out!"
Voice of Bobbi on Elliott's answering machine

Dressed to Kill is a 1980 erotic crime thriller film written and directed by Brian De Palma and starring Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson and Nancy Allen. It centers on the murder of a housewife, and the investigation headed by the witness to the murder, a young prostitute, and the housewife’s teenaged son.

The film was the target of some backlash from the gay and transgender communities, who felt that its portrayal of transgender people was misguided and transphobic. In addition, De Palma was accused of being misogynistic by feminist groups.

Not to be confused with the 1946 Sherlock Holmes film starring Basil Rathbone.

This film provides examples of:

  • Book-Ends: The movie start and finished on a tense Hitchcockian shower scene. Both scenes turn out to be dream sequences.
  • Catapult Nightmare: The last scene when Liz wakes from her nightmare, followed by a Wake-Up Fighting with Peter.
  • Creepy Crossdresser: Bobbi.
  • Daydream Surprise: The opening and closing shower scenes are revealed to be dream sequences.
  • Dead Star Walking: Angie Dickinson is top-billed in the credits alongside Michael Caine, but gets brutally murdered less than halfway into the movie. It's appropriate, since Dressed To Kill is an overt homage to Hitchcock.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The first half of the movie follows Kate ... until she gets killed.
  • Digital Destruction: Criterion's first print release of the Blu-Ray/DVD in August of 2015 was met with scathing criticism. De Palma asked the film restorers to fix what he thought were some minor distortion issues and in the process the frame became vertically stretched. Criterion apologized for the error, sent replacement copies to those with the first edition, and eventually released a second printing in October 2015.
  • Dress Hits Floor: A variant during the taxicab sex scene, when Kate's partner reaches up under her skirt, slowly pulls her panties down her legs, over her high-heeled feet, and then the discarded panties are seen dropping to the cab floor.
  • Dream Intro: The movie starts with an Erotic Dream sequence that turns into a Nightmare Sequence.
  • Elevator Action Sequence: Where the murder happens.
  • Erotic Dream: Kate is having one in the opening scene.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: Liz.
  • Fanservice: Gratuitous nudity in the shower scenes. Also Liz in black lingerie in the film's climax. (See Stocking Filler, below.)
  • High-Class Call Girl: Liz—to the point where she has a stockbroker, and is implied to be quite shrewd at playing the market. She is also a Hooker with a Heart of Gold.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: Kate is having one in bed with her husband. Later she admits it was all faked. And then later that day, she has a real Immodest Orgasm in the back seat of that taxicab with her tall, dark and handsome stranger...
  • Jerkass: Detective Marino. Turns out it's a bit of an act, though.
  • The Killer in Me
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Kate has a passionate make-out session with a handsome stranger whom she's just seduced in an art museum (culminating in an Immodest Orgasm for her) in the back seat of a taxicab, while the cab driver watches the proceedings in his rear-view mirror.
  • Mirror Scare: Mirror shot with the killer in Liz' nightmare scene.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Angie Dickenson and Nancy Allen.
  • Nerd: Peter
  • Nerds Love Tough Schoolwork: Peter embracing his science project.
  • Police Are Useless: The subway marshal not seeing things and leaving the car before trouble starts.
  • Psycho Psychologist: Dr. Elliott should really not be practicing.
  • Psycho Strings: Kicks in right after Liz picks up the murder weapon from the elevator floor.
  • Split Personality: Dr. Elliott and his alter-ego Bobbi.
  • Stocking Filler: Nancy Allen in black stockings and garters. HOT!!!
    • And in the final dream sequence, a beautiful blonde nurse in white stockings and garterbelt gets strangled by Dr. Elliott.
  • Twist Ending: Dr. Elliott, or rather Bobbi being the razor blade killer.