Dressed to Kill is a 1980 erotic crime thriller film written and directed by Brian De Palma and starring Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, (in a Best Actress Saturn Award-winning performance), Nancy Allen (in a Golden Globe-nominated performance) and Keith Gordon. The original music score is composed by Pino Donaggio.
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. De Palma was accused of being misogynistic by feminist groups.
Brian De Palma originally wanted the Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann to play Kate Miller, but she declined because of the violence. The role then went on to Angie Dickinson. Sean Connerywas offered the role of Robert Elliot and was enthusiastic about it, but declined on account of previously acquired commitments.
Kate Miller is a sexually frustrated housewife who is in therapy with New York City psychiatrist Dr. Robert Elliott. During an appointment, Kate attempts to seduce him, but Elliott rejects her advances.
Kate goes to the Metropolitan Museum. In a ten-minute sequence entirely without dialogue, she has an unexpected flirtation with a mysterious stranger. Kate and the stranger "stalk" each other through the museum until they finally wind up outside, where Kate joins him in a taxi. They begin to have sex and continue at his apartment, unaware that Kate has left her underwear on the floor of the cab.
Hours later, Kate awakens and, thoroughly satisfied with her evening, decides to discreetly leave while the man, Warren Lockman, is asleep. Kate sits at his desk to leave Warren a note and finds a document indicating that he has contracted a sexually transmitted disease. Mortified, she leaves the apartment. But in her haste, she has left her wedding ring on the stranger's nightstand, so she returns to retrieve it.
The elevator doors open on the figure of a tall, blonde woman in dark sunglasses wielding a straight razor, and Kate is slashed to death in the elevator (a murder scene DePalma has called the best he has ever done). A high-priced call girl, Liz Blake, happens upon the body. She catches a glimpse of the killer, therefore becoming both the prime suspect and the killer's next target.
Dr. Elliott receives a bizarre answering machine message from "Bobbi," a transgender patient. Bobbi taunts the psychiatrist for breaking off their therapy sessions, apparently because Elliott refuses to sign the necessary papers for Bobbi to get a sex change operation. Elliott tries to convince Dr. Levy, the patient's new doctor, that Bobbi is a danger to herself and others.
A police detective, Marino, is skeptical about Liz's story, partly due to her profession, so Liz joins forces with Kate's revenge-minded son Peter to find the killer. Peter, an inventor, uses a series of homemade listening devices and time-lapse cameras to track patients leaving Elliott's office. They catch Bobbi on camera, and soon Liz is being stalked by a tall blonde figure in sunglasses. Several attempts are subsequently made on Liz's life. One, in the New York City Subway, is thwarted by Peter, who sprays Bobbi with homemade mace.
Liz and Peter scheme to learn Bobbi's real name by getting inside Dr. Elliott's office to look at his appointment book. Liz baits the therapist by stripping to lingerie and coming on to him, distracting him long enough to make a brief exit and leaf through his appointment book. When she returns, it is Bobbi rather than Elliott who confronts her; they are the same person. Elliott/Bobbi is shot and wounded by a female police officer who looks like Bobbi, revealing herself to be the tall blonde figure who has been trailing Liz.
Elliott is arrested by the police and placed in an insane asylum. It is explained by Dr. Levy that Elliott wanted to be a woman, but his "male" side would not allow him to go through with the operation. Whenever a woman sexually aroused Elliott, it was "Bobbi," representing the female side of the doctor's personality, who became threatened.
In a final sequence, Elliott escapes from the asylum and slashes Liz's throat in a bloody act of vengeance. She wakes up screaming, Peter by her side, realizing that it was just a dream.
- Michael Caine as Dr. Robert Elliott/Bobbi
- William Finley as the voice of Bobbi
- Angie Dickinson as Kate Miller
- Nancy Allen as Liz Blake
- Keith Gordon as Peter Miller
- Dennis Franz as Detective Marino
- David Margulies as Dr. Levy
- Ken Baker as Warren Lockman
- Susanna Clemm as Betty Luce
- Brandon Maggart as Cleveland Sam
- Norman Evans as Ted
- Bill Randolph as Chase cabby
- Fred Weber as Mike Miller
- Erika Katz as Girl in Elevator (Uncredited)