Last week I was on Facebook. I saw a post from someone that was saying they had just seen Dressed to Kill. They admitted that they had committed a travesty, by taking so long to see it. Then I moved on. I thought about it later in the day, and wondered if it was really that strange to have not seen that film. At this point in time, teenagers have no idea who Brian De Palma is. They know the film Scarface, of course, but have no idea that it was created by one of the most influential filmmakers of all time. People who grew up in the eighties and nineties know him from Body Double, The Untouchables, and maybe Carlito’s Way or Raising Cain. It is of no surprise to me that these people wouldn’t know about Dressed to Kill or even Blow Out.
The bottom line is that most people who know about any of his films before Scarface, besides maybe Carrie, are probably pretty freakin’ old. Either that, or they are movie nerds. I am not super old; however, I can definitely fall into the movie nerd category. There are still a few of us out there, it just takes a long time to get around to seeing everything. There is also always new stuff coming out. So staying “up-to-date” and learning about history is fighting a constantly losing battle. With all of that being said, I’m just letting that person know that it is okay that they had not yet seen Dressed to Kill. It’s a cool movie. It’s an amazing piece of film history with its combination of slasher, sexual, psychological and Giallo elements.
If you go back eight years, and even further into obscurity, though, you will find a true gem. Sisters is De Palma’s tribute to Alfred Hitchcock. It is a film that uses split personalities and split screens. It will remind you of films like Psycho and Rear Window. I watched this film for the first time, only days after seeing the post about Dressed to Kill. I wondered if certain internet film snobs would scoff at the fact that I had just seen this film; despite the fact that I had seen almost of his other works. I knew they would. I didn’t care though. I decided to write this short piece about it, as an admission to my obvious rookie status in the world of Brian De Palma.
I also wrote about it to let people know that going deep into a director’s catalog will not always lead to low budget garbage. I was seriously impressed by this film. It definitely had a smaller budget, as it relied on a small cast and few settings. It was very efficiently made though. It had nice violence and convincing practical effects. It even had stylized black and white flashback sequences that added something deeply disturbing to the film’s aesthetic. The twists and turns in the final third, and inventive ending, also added great things to a film that is also a mind fuck in every sense of the word.
It reminded me of many of the earlier works of David Cronenberg as well. Some stylistic features were there, but the way violence was used seemed very similar to me. He only used gore effects in a couple key scenes. He also made sure they were memorably disturbing scenes, like Cronenberg did in The Brood. Like many of Cronenberg’s films, Sisters can be found at a very fair price from The Criterion Collection. It is an older release, so you may have to search around for a bit. I got my copy for ten bucks on Ebay, and I’m very happy with it. I think everyone should own this film in one format or another.