DRESSED TO KILL. Fox Film Corporation, 1928. Irving Cummings, director; Edmund Lowe, Mary Astor, Ben Bard, Robert Perry, Joe Brown, Tom Dugan, John Kelly, Robert Emmet O’Connor, Ed Brady, Charles Morton. Shown at Cinecon 41, September 2005.

   This silent movie bears no relationship to any of the three films released between 1941 and 1980 that have the same title. This Dressed to Kill is what we used to call “a cops & robbers movie.” The stars are Edmund Lowe and Mary Astor (whom we all remember for her role in The Maltese Falcon).


   Lowe’s character is the boss of a gang that specializes in big heists, and Astor plays an attractive young woman who becomes his girlfriend. On the night of a robbery, the gang dresses in formal clothes, pretending to be a group of wealthy gentlemen going out on the town.

   When they arrive at the site of the robbery, they change into their regular duds, and when making their getaway they again put on their formal clothes. I suppose this explains the meaning of the title.

   A mystery element enters the plot when Astor’s character becomes Lowe’s girlfriend (read mistress). We wonder why such a smart young lady would get involved with gangsters. Is she working for the police? Or is she just a pretty gal who’s seeking a fast, glamourous life?

   Dressed to Kill is well directed by Irving Cummings. Lowe and Astor give good performances. The photography has a noirish look, and the sets and costumes nicely represent the art deco era. Although not a masterpiece, certainly not in the same class as von Sternberg’s 1927 Underworld, the film is very entertaining and would certainly please silent movie buffs.