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20th Century Fox presents
Dressed to Kill (1941)

"Welcome to our chamber of horrors, Inspector."
- Mike Shayne (Lloyd Nolan)

Review By: Nate Meyers   
Published: September 08, 2005

Stars: Lloyd Nolan
Other Stars: Mary Beth Hughes, Sheila Ryan, William Demarest, Ben Carter, Virginia Brissae, Erwin Kalser, Henry Daniel, Dick Rich, Milton Parsons, Charles Trowbridge, May Beatty
Director: Eugene Forde

Manufacturer: PDMC
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild violence)
Run Time: 01h:13m:56s
Release Date: September 06, 2005
UPC: 024543202875
Genre: crime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ D+B-C D-

DVD Review

Dressed to Kill is a red herring. The title implies a slick thriller, as does the general direction of the plot, but the whole movie gets bogged down by the lack of talent behind it. The ingredients for a delicious B-movie are in place, but never get mixed together.

Mike Shayne (Lloyd Nolan) is a private detective on his way to the altar with showgirl Joanne (Mary Beth Hughes) when he hears a scream in their hotel. Running up to the next floor, he discovers a maid standing over two dead bodies. A theater producer and a woman have been murdered, each shot in the head the night before. Shayne immediately starts to work by investigating the apartment, though I wonder why he didn't hear the gunshots? If he could hear a woman scream, wouldn't the actual incident have also been audible from his apartment? Leaving that aside, Shayne keeps one step ahead of the police, led by Inspector Pierson (William Demarest), and plays all the angles so that he'll get a big dividend when he cracks the case.

The investigation leads Shayne to an actor (Henry Daniel) indebted to the producer, a former business partner (Charles Trowbridge), a mysterious beggar (Milton Parsons), and countless others. The pacing of the mystery is far too slow, even during a chase scene inside the dead producer's theater, and constantly diverts attention to Shayne's strained relationship with Joanne. At just 74 minutes, the movie is still too long and could easily loose the whole Joanne storyline.

Stanley Rauh and Manning O'Connor's screenplay, based on Richard Burke's novel, is as lifeless as the direction. The dialogue never comes across as natural and sucks all suspense out of the movie. Along with director Eugene Forde, the writers supply so many red herrings that when the climax finally rolled around, I just simply didn't care anymore. It has the obligatory surprise ending, but the execution is poor and the surprise feels more like a mild mentioning. Perhaps this is a result of the acting. Lloyd Nolan's performance would be fine in a comedy, but hits all the wrong notes here. Even worse is William Demarest's turn as the inspector. Shouting every single line, Demarest comes off as a cartoon character. At least he's memorable, the other actors are about as captivating as shadows on a wall.

The only redeeming factor in Dressed to Kill is its cinematography. Evoking the visual style of the film noir, the look of the movie holds out hope that the story could take a turn for the better. It's just a shame that the makers chose to drive in a straight line.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The black-and-white picture looks good, though it isn't anything special. Contrast is acceptable and detail is fine, though blacks are kind of dull and don't contain much texture. The overall picture is fairly clean, though the age is apparent.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The audio defaults to the original mono mix, though a Dolby Stereo mix is also available. Apart from very slight trace of music in the surround speakers, the two mixes are virtually identical. The audio is clean and dialogue is audible, but it is a rather uninteresting listen.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Doctor and the Devils, The Cabinet of Caligari
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Fox Flix—a listing of various titles available from Fox Home Entertainment.
Extras Review: The theatrical trailers for The Doctor and the Devils and The Cabinet of Caligari are both shown in anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Stereo. Additionally, there's a list of other titles that are recommended for those who like Dressed to Kill. Since the titles listed here consist of old horror movies and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, I think I can safely say that Fox has provided DVD viewers with some red herrings of their own.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

A dull outing gets a dull DVD. Dressed to Kill has adequate sound and image transfers with lackluster extras.


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