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Films: D is for...

Dressed to Kill

Did this film inspire the Yorkshire Ripper? Erm, no, not really. Michael Caine’s sex-addict patient (Angie ‘Sgt Suzanne ‘Pepper’ Anderson’ Dickinson) gets slashed by a mysterious sex-change killer with Caine’s own razor, providing Brian de Palma with a starting point for acres of swooping camerawork, Hitchcock references and the inevitable lashings of split screen.



  1. Sidney Balmoral James

    August 7, 2022 at 9:08 am

    Big question: is it Michael Caine in drag in the murder scene? Caine claims he didn’t even know he was playing a transvestite murderer when he signed on for this film (but I’m tempted to take that with a hefty pinch of salt), but I am sure I read somewhere they used a double for the murders (and most of the drag scenes) – and there isn’t a photo online I could find which shows Caine either being made-up, or being directed in the scenes. I’ve not waded through Caine’s different autobiographies in which he may elaborate on this.

  2. Droogie

    August 7, 2022 at 12:15 pm

    I remember first seeing the Mad Magazine movie parody of this, where in the last panel the transvestite killer is revealed to be Anthony Perkins, who’s been killing people in the movie as revenge for Psycho being ripped off.

  3. Glenn Aylett

    August 7, 2022 at 1:02 pm

    I wonder how Michael Caine coped with the stockings lol. I do remember having this liberal, trendy English teacher in the second form who had a poster of Dressed To Kill on her classroom wall. I never knew why, as she never let on, but it was a source of interest to the class.

    • Sidney Balmoral James

      August 7, 2022 at 7:33 pm

      I have now found that Michael Caine’s ‘What’s it All About’ is on Google books, and it does indeed confirm that he DIDN’T film the murder of Angie Dickinson, that was a double (with a false nose so as to look like him); AND that he did shave his legs to wear the stockings. I suspect that – apart from the scene in which he is shot – it’s the double in all the transvestite scenes.

  4. George White

    August 7, 2022 at 11:07 pm

    He did later do drag again for comic purposes in The Actors (2003), that weird Dylan Moran vehicle featuring Caine as a posh Dublin actor, with ALison Doody and RTE DJ/game show host/Eurovision commentator Marty Whelan as themselves.

    • Sidney Balmoral James

      August 7, 2022 at 11:23 pm

      Caine apparently has quite a thing about not playing vicious characters (perhaps in emulation of the great male stars of the past – when did Gary Cooper or John Wayne every play vicious?), so turned down the Barry Foster role in Frenzy; must have changed his mind to a degree to do Dressed to Kill, but then his career was not exactly flourishing at that point. Arguably, Dressed to Kill starts a burst of above-average films for Maurice after his late 70s nadir: the Hand may be schlock, but he’s very good in it, and it’s quite a powerful film; Escape to Victory, Deathtrap, Educating Rita, the Honorary Consul etc. Didn’t last of course, and there was another nadir in later 80s, despite his Oscar.

  5. Glenn Aylett

    August 8, 2022 at 6:49 pm

    Caine was running out of money when he went into tax exile in America in 1978 and would take any role he was offered. The Swarm didn’t set the box office alight, Ashanti was a so so adventure film about slave traffickers, and Beyond The Poseidon Adventure was a poor sequel to the original. He did really come back for a few years until the mid eighties and then it was back to the run of the mill( The Fourth Protocol) and the dreadful( Jaws The Revenge).

  6. Richardpd

    August 8, 2022 at 10:43 pm

    Get Carter is another exception, though he’s on a personal vendetta.

    Blame It on Rio is a good example of one he did for the money, being a sub-par remake of a French film, in a period when Hollywood seemed look to mainland Europe when the studios short of ideas.

  7. Sidney Balmoral James

    August 10, 2022 at 1:00 pm

    Blame it on Rio isn’t very good, even with Caine and Joseph Bologna doing their best with the script; premise of a’middle-aged man sleeping with teenage girl’ wasn’t palatable then, and verboten now. Also had a gratuitous ‘Trading Places’ style topless scene as I recall (although the film is anodyne compared to the coarse comedies which flooded cinemas in the 80s). Makes one wonder, what’s the lowest / crummiest film an A-list actor has appeared in? Alec Guinness appears briefly in Mute Witness, which is about snuff films; Aldo Ray when on his uppers actually appeared in a porn film!

  8. Glenn Aylett

    August 10, 2022 at 7:30 pm

    @ Sidney Balmoral James, a few of our film greats have slummed it when they needed some money or were running out of roles. John Gielgud completely slummed it in Caligula, a debauched pile of tat that Malcolm Mc Dowell doesn’t like being reminded of.

    • Sidney Balmoral James

      August 10, 2022 at 7:58 pm

      I seem to recall that when John G. died, his (very grand) country house (now owned by one T. Blair) was stuffed full of expensive items, and it put his less than fastidious taste in film roles in perspective: he had an expensive lifestyle to maintain. Then again, it is a standard tenet in the business not to turn down work if you can help it.

  9. Richardpd

    August 10, 2022 at 10:19 pm

    Peter O’Toole was also in Caligula, & was one of the best actors never to win an Oscar that wasn’t honoury.

    At least Helen Mirran could claim she was young & needed the money.

    My Dad used to reckon John Gielgud was wasted in Arthur’s even though he won an Oscar for it.

    Donald Plesence (jokingly) claimed he had daughters to provide for to explain he high workload.

  10. Sidney Balmoral James

    August 11, 2022 at 7:41 am

    Donald Pleasance was divorced three times, which undoubtedly cost him money – also I remember a Radio Times interview in which he admitted he worked cheaply, but often (and his work rate in 80s was prodigious – averaging about four films a year – I think Empire said he was the hardest working actor in films in 1980s, even if they were nearly all cheapo efforts).

  11. Glenn Aylett

    August 11, 2022 at 10:45 am

    I could never see why Sean Connery returned to James Bond, when he wanted to leave the role behind after 1971 and had made several successful films after 007. Never Say Never Again was an unofficial entry to the series, Connery played Bond like Roger Moore was doing, and he looked like he was a middle aged man on holiday most of the time. It was just about watchable, but possibly the worst Bond film ever.

  12. Sidney Balmoral James

    August 11, 2022 at 12:29 pm

    I suspect two reasons – his career was in doldrums in early 80s and he had always felt he had been short-changed in relation to the films, and this was opportunity to get his due (he had I believe funded the development of a version of Thunderball, to be called Warhead, scripted by Len Deighton, some years earlier, which didn’t come off). Kevin McClory had the rights to both Thunderball, and the Blofeld / SPECTRE concept – leased to Eon for three films after Thunderball, which is why Blofeld is not used after Diamonds Are Forever.

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