Michael Caine plays a psychiatrist who grows concerned when his female patients start being murdered. When a lazy New York detective (Dennis Franz) fails to get to the bottom of the case, a victim’s son and a suspect team up to find out who is responsible.
I recently ruffled a few feathers by being less than positive about the Scorsese’s homage to Hitchcock, Cape Fear. If Cape Fear is how not to do a tribute to the master of suspense, Dressed to Kill is how to do it. A huge number of scenes are very close to Hitchcock films. There’s a pursuit in an art gallery from Vertigo, and an X rated version of the famous Psycho shower scene, as well as numerous stylistic quirks and other similarities that I can’t give away because they’re spoilers. But the most important similarity is that it’s a gripping psychological thriller that gets in your head, which is what Cape Fear completely fails to do.
Its explicit violent content is closest to Hitchcock’s Frenzy, with the addition of graphic sexual scenes that border on the pornographic. The way it uses ingenious photography to tell its story in a highly visual way is superb, and on a par with films like Don’t Look Now and Vertigo.
The plot keeps you guessing almost to the end, which is an admirable trait in any thriller, with a sincere performance from Caine. Admittedly one or two of the plot elements stretch the limits of plausibility a little too much, but this undeniably remains a superb film from beginning to end.