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Dressed to Kill

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A mysterious, tall, blonde woman wearing sunglasses murders one of a psychiatrist’s patients, and now she’s after the prostitute who witnessed it.

Brian De Palma’s Hitchcockian-like thriller (with shades of both Psycho (1960) and Vertigo (1958)) investigated themes of aberrant sexuality (adultery and prostitution), voyeurism, and graphic violence. Various feminist groups protested the misogynistic portrayal of women as sex objects or punished victims following sexually-promiscuous behavior. It also was criticized for portraying a trans-gendered individual as a crazed killer.

It told about sexually-unsatisfied patient Kate Miller (Angie Dickinson, portrayed by a former Penthouse Pet of the Year body double – Victoria Lynn Johnson – with an air-brushed pubic area to acquire an R-rating in the opening shower fantasy-rape sequence) suffering from vivid erotic fantasies. The scene was actually her fantasy of being taken, while enduring unsatisfactory sex (a “wham-bang special”) with her husband in their bedroom.

During a session with Dr. Elliott, Kate told him: “I like to turn men on. I must do a pretty good job, because they pay me alot.” She began seducing him, telling him that she often made sex to men that aroused her, without accepting money: “A mature, doctorly type, like you.” She boldly proposed: “How about some sexual assistance? Do you wanna f–k me?” She admitted f–king a lot of married doctors in her time, countering his resistance. She removed her coat “and the rest too,” showing off black lingerie, asserting why she did it: “Because of the size of that cock in your pants” – and she found herself in a dangerous situation after arousing him – because of his split-personality. He rebuffed or declined her advances.

Its most erotic scene, however, was the brilliant 10-minute sequence in the Metropolitan Museum of Art of Kate’s cat-and-mouse flirting with a mysterious stranger (named Warren Lockman (Ken Baker)) and her taxi-cab seduction en route to his apartment. The film was remarkable for the post-seduction scene in which Kate found a Department of Health letter in the stranger’s drawer stating that he had a venereal disease. After her tryst when she left in an elevator (and returned to retrieve her wedding ring), she suffered a vicious razor-slashing – her punishment or fate for ‘free love’? – from a presumed blonde female with dark glasses that was witnessed by high-class prostitute Liz Blake (Nancy Allen).

Liz was determined to find who was stalking her, and found herself questioning Kate’s psychologist/counselor Dr. Robert Elliott (Michael Caine). Liz and Kate’s clever son Peter (Keith Gordon) schemed together to set up traps to track Dr. Elliott’s patients. At one point, they entered Elliott’s office where Liz sexily stripped down to her black lingerie, when she was attacked by the knife-wielding “Bobbi.”

Elliott was revealed to be a pre-operative transsexual whose other transgendered persona (representing his female side) was an unhinged patient named “Bobbi.” He was literally ‘dressed to kill’ as his murderously-jealous alter-ego – wearing a blonde wig and dark glasses for his brutal slayings. “Bobbi” was the female side of Elliott’s personality that felt threatened by sexual arousal.

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Genre: (1980-1989), 1980, Bare breasts, Female Nudity, Mystery, Nudity, Thriller

Director: Brian De Palma, Michael Rauch

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