The 1980 film is pure De Palma. It’s not a remake, based on an existing property or penned by another person. It’s all him. Oh, yes, it’s heavily influenced by Alfred Hitchcock, but that’s all embedded in his DNA. So are the split screens, the multiple POVs, the long tracking shots, the voyeurism, the twisted sexuality, the “Carrie” trick ending, the slowed-down scenes of fright and menace and death — ingredients all here in unapologetic abundance, tossed into the boiling pot not in measured pinches, but rough handfuls.
Angie Dickinson has never been better as an unhappy, sexually unsatisfied housewife who tells all to her therapist (Michael Caine), who has another patient stalking a call girl (the underrated Nancy Allen). If you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil it, but De Palma takes a couple of pages from “Psycho” in this devious, dirty tale of erotically charged suspense.
In third grade when the movie hit theaters — I read its Mad magazine parody years before seeing it; Mort Drucker captured Allen’s black lingerie quite well — I recall a firestorm of controversy surrounding “Dressed,” including ratings squabbles and charges of misogyny. Although a decade has passed since I last viewed “Dressed,” the unrated cut’s additional frames were remarkable easy to spot. When a frightening sequence is so well-edited, its details tend to imprint on your mind; when the iconic shower and elevator scenes each hold a greater power to disturb and unnerve, the previously trimmed shots really stand out.
The differences are detailed in an extra that compares, side-by-side (De Palma would be proud), the unrated, theatrical and television versions. I was about to dock points from the excellent, 45-minute documentary on the film’s making for ignoring the controversy, but they saved those 10 minutes for a separate featurette. I don’t know why they were split as much as I don’t know how Allen manages to look cuter the older she gets.
Even upon repeated viewings, De Palma’s fine feature wrings considerable suspense. And now in its Blu-ray debut, it finally looks dressed to kill itself — Dennis Franz’s tacky medallions and leather jacket excepted. —Rod Lott