Recognizable as the bloodied hero of the original Children of the Corn, actor-director Peter Horton truly showed his subtle performing powers as Tony Smith in 1979 television terror flick, She’s Dressed to Kill.
A Viet Nam deserter, Horton’s Tony has been taken in by manipulative fashion designer Regine Danton (the late, truly magnificent Eleanor Parker) at her mountainside retreat. As models and deluxe buyers gather for Danton’s latest show, it is revealed that the young and talented Smith has actually created the entire collection. With his promised credit for the gowns denied by Danton, Smith recoils with anger. Soon, attendees mysteriously begin to be murdered and he becomes a prime suspect. But, Smith soon finds a very willing supporter.
Victor DeSalle, a catty columnist ably played by the distinguished Clive Revill (The Legend of Hell House, C.H.U.D. II, Dracula: Dead and Loving It), agrees to sponsor Smith, if he can steal back his original designs. As the two characters chat, they acknowledge their mutual attraction to men with a bittersweet dialogue that is both guarded yet skillfully apparent. Despite his character’s devious plot, Revill does eventually show some tenderness toward the younger man in his portrayal while Horton supplies some softer touches to his characterization, as well. Director Gus Trikonis (The Evil, The Dark Side of Terror) allows for these nice emotional qualities to emerge, here, in a sharp contrast to the playful quality of the rest of the film.
George Leffert, who also wrote 1977’s similarly themed The Night They Took Miss Beautiful, makes room for a take charge lesbian in his script, as well. While Kate Bedford, a safari jaunting model, is occasionally played for laughs, gorgeous Cathee Shirriff inhabits her with enough likeable pride to make her a positive role model, as well.
Considering the time period in which this was filmed, the overwhelming sensitivity and various shades of personalities given these characters should be thought of as quite an achievement, especially in a network based thriller. But, it is also interesting to note that, even in the late 70’s, it was much easier to sell an attractive female queer as opposed to a male one. Bedford is decidedly out and accepted by her peers while the characters of Smith and DeSalle are cloaked in secrecy.
Food for thought…until the next time!
SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan