Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982) Poster

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Steve Martin's Affectionate Parody of 1940's Thrillers
stryker-511 December 1998
Rigby Reardon, private eye, runs the gauntlet of hoods, femmes fatales and crazed Nazis as he investigates the death of beautiful Juliet Forrest's father. Who are the mysterious "Friends of Carlotta"? And why does Rigby keep dressing in women's clothes? And where did Juliet learn to do that trick with her lips? This celebration of the black and white movies of the 1940's and 50's is a very clever and very amusing film. Extracts from celluloid classics are skilfully spliced into the action (check out the architectural detail on the doorframe in the Alan Ladd sequence). The film is a vehicle for Martin's comic talent and he carries it off beautifully. Rachel Ward as Juliet is terrific: she can hold her own with the screen goddesses who so liberally populate the film (Bergman, Davis, Turner and Crawford all make inserted appearances). A project like this could easily have come a cropper, but thanks to the brisk direction of Carl Reiner (who has a great cameo) and Steve Martin's ability to dominate the screen, the movie is a resounding success. It's also very funny.
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As strong as a cup of my famous java...
davidals16 September 2003
I first saw this in the theater with my dad, at the age of 13, when it was first released - he was a huge fan of classic movies and usually suffered through the stuff he took me to. Not this one - we were both in hysterics, and I'd have to say I owe my huge love of classic Hollywood (and global) cinema to this film. CITIZEN KANE it may not be but no matter - I dug the humor and the atmosphere at the time, and even then was aware of how much work this must have been.

I still watch this one on occasion, and it is the rare comedy that has held up very well with the passage of time - critics at the time seemed to write it off as a stunt, but I've noted that at least a little reevaluation of DEAD MEN DON'T WEAR PLAID has occurred over the years. The performances - as both a spoof and a love-letter to film noir - are top notch, with Steve Martin at his best here. The dialog gets deep into Raymond Chandler/Dashiell Hammett hard-boiled private-eye stylishness, serving up gumshoe-with-dame clichés just juiced up enough to give Steve something to run with, while still offering an a solid story. The finale is magnificent, Martin and Carl Reiner jousting their way through an avalanche of every two-bit dime-store whodunnit game-over cliché to ever grace the big screen, cheap alibis falling like drunken angels across the naked city as the big heat descends... Or - ahem -something like that...
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So they don't
andy stew20 July 2001
An incredible achievement. My mind boggles at the amount of thought, time and effort that must have gone into this superb film. The plot is brilliantly and hilariously convoluted, with screen legends from the 1940s making appearances in amazingly edited scenes, and Steve Martin's trademark absurd humour is present almost all the way. Steve and Rachel Ward have remarkable chemistry, and each of their performances are highly impressive. If it weren't for the bundles of humour employed, one would almost think at times that this actually is a film noir from the 1940s, so legitimate and believable is the 'feel' or the atmosphere of the film.

I cannot believe that some people who commented on this film have said that the plot is merely an excuse to hang old movie clips onto, and not much use at all; and the person who claims that Steve Martin overacts in this movie mustn't realise that this is regarded as one of Steve's more restrained, deadpan comedic performances (the 'cleaning woman!' device turns out to be an important part of the plot and also seems to be a way of using the strangling scene that is taken from the Bette Davis movie - it is also a chance for Steve to get in a very tiny element of his 'wild and crazy guy' persona, which he substituted with a more suitable [for parody] 'straight' performance).

A rousing and side-splittingly funny success - they don't make 'em like this anymore!
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Along with "The Jerk," one of Steve Martin's top two finest films
garytheroux19 July 2005
I remember reading reviews in The New York Times and elsewhere in 1983 fawning over Woody Allen's brilliant and wholly original idea of inserting himself into old film footage in "Zelig." They'd not noted, of course, that everyone from Ernie Kovacs to John Zacherle had already done that "brilliant and wholly original idea" on television -- and, most notably, Steve Martin did it in a feature film, "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid," one year prior to "Zelig." While "Zelig" has its moments, it is ultimately tedious, running about twice as long as it's one-note gag treatment can sustain. In sharp contrast is the far more clever, inspired, fully developed, insightful and witty DMDWP, which, as noted. came out one year earlier. As often happens with groundbreakers set somewhere outside the norm, DMDWP was not exactly a box office hit -- a key reason why no sequels were ever made. That's unfortunate, as Martin's character was one of his finest creations and could have sustained more installments in the series. (Steve was never better on film than he is here.) It's good that the people behind "Police Squad" did not give up on it after it failed to fit within the confines of standard TV concepts around the same time. Reborn as "The Naked Gun" series of feature films, the "Police Squad" concept turned into three of the greatest comedy motion pictures of all time. DMDWP deserved a lot better than it got in 1982 as well, and I'm glad to see that it has finally found respect and its audience through television exposure (much like a previous box office bomb, "It's A Wonderful Life"). The kind of creativity Martin, Carl Reiner and the rest of the DMDWP crew put into their project needs to be strongly encouraged -- as it represents excellent comic film-making, as opposed to the witless parade of routine crudities that Hollywood ordinarily churns out.
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Film noir was never this funny!
jotix10022 October 2005
Carl Reiner, the multi-talented director of this film, is the only one that could have pulled it off. Working with George Gipe, and Steve Martin in the screen play that serves as the basis of the movie, Mr. Reiner has done the impossible with "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid".

Of course, this film is blessed with the magnificent editing by Bud Malin, who meshed the present images against those film noir masterpieces we see, blending the characters of this movie with the stars of the past, in what seems to be a seamless product. It also helps that Miklos Rozsa was the man composing the music, as everything shows a cohesiveness that is hard to distinguished in what was shot in 1982 and the old movies.

This spoof to the film noir genre is a pure delight. The main character, Rigby Reardon is the P.I. from hell, but thanks to the creators of this movie, he is perfect as the man at the center of the action.

Not being a Steve Martin fan, one has to recognize that when this actor is inspired, he can do excellent work. It would appear that with a director like Carl Reiner, he would have gone off the top, but instead, Mr. Martin gives a good reading of Rigby. Rachel Ward, as the typical woman of those films, is charming. Reni Santoni, Georege Gaynes and the rest of the supporting cast do wonders under Carl Reiner's orders.

The film brought back memories of those timeless masterpieces of the past and the stars that shone in them. We get to see Humphrey Bogart, Ava Gardner, Ingrid Bergman, Vincent Price, Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Barbara Stanwyck, Fred McMurray, Edward G. Robinson, and the others at the height of their fame playing against the present cast and making the viewer happy watching all the antics which Mr. Reiner and his team have created for our amusement.

This is a funny look at the old movies!
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A quirky but funny movie
Crimpo216 December 2005
Its the sort of idea that inevitably gets tried out as soon as it becomes technically possible. Inter-cutting classic film noir with contemporary work to produce a comedy film. Usually such ideas come a serious cropper - as was proved (as others have stated) by Zelig. However, this film hits it right on the mark. The design and editing allow for seamless cutting between the old and the new footage. The script is good and has the right level of absurd humour to make the film work. I'm not a fan of Steve Martin but its impossible to imagine anyone else matching this performance. Rachel Ward is beautiful and sassy. Its a film of its time - just made in time to catch the costume and musical talent of the past before they departed from the scene but made before the sort of hi-tech morphing and cgi which would have ruined its feel.

If you haven't seen it then watch it - if you have seen it then watch it again. This definitely rewards repeated viewings. Its no Citizen Kane but it is darned good entertainment if you share my sense of humour...
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A serious laugh at the moody films of the 40's.
michaelRokeefe29 May 2000
I had to watch this a second time to appreciate it. The story is not the most impressive; but the concept is. Steve Martin plays a detective in a parody of classic film noir. The movie features actual scenes cut from several films and blended with precision. These skillful splices feature some of the great names from old time Hollywood. Names like Cagney, Douglas, Davis, Crawford and Bergman.

Martin really shows his talent and ability to make a scene imitate reality. His comedic wit is sharp as a switchblade. His co-star is Rachel Ward, who can vamp or play coy with the best of them. Along with directing, Carl Reiner has a cameo part.

Swift directing, with superb lighting and shading made this black and white crime comedy shine.
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Mostly fun, but loses its way a bit
CuriosityKilledShawn13 April 2005
DMDWP is a black and white film noir comedy that uses footage from real film noirs from the 40s and 50s and inter cuts them with the plot to make it appears that Steve Martin is really talking to/acting with the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, James Cagney etc. The effect is almost seamless but for a movie made in 1982 it's quite impressive.

Martin plays the wonderfully named Rigby Reardon, a typical, gritty private eye who narrates the story with sarcastic observation and gets involved in the usual femme fatal plot and a conspiracy surround the death of a cheese maker. Yes, it's nonsense, and towards the end it becomes a bit hard to follow and the silliness gets out of control. But it's all played straight and for most of the film you could believe you were actually watching a classic film noir.

Steve Martin should have done more of these movies. Rigby Reardon was a great character and could have lasted for a few more movies. The humor is frequently hilarious and he certainly retains a lot of the integrity he has lost in recent years since he went the way of Eddie Murphy and sold himself out to family audiences. Either way, I say you should give this movie a go if you're a fan of his older work.

The DVD is sadly in non-anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen with Dolby 2.0 surround. It still looks quite good for a black and white film and the sound has that limited sound space effect to it to make it fit in with the older footage. A Dolby 5.1 remix would have been totally unnecessary. Some boring extras (trailer, cast bios) are included.
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Carl Reiner's Masterpiece
Sparquelito11 February 2006
Simply brilliant. This gem of a movie slipped under the radar screen of the movie goer's consciousness when it was first released, but it will live on forever in the DVD collections of those who truly cherish good film-making. (And good parody. And good detective films. Film tributes, comedy, well, you get the picture I think.) As much an homage to the classic suspense/detective films as was Blade Runner, Chinatown, and Mullholland Falls. I have found myself, over the years, stealing lines from this movie at cocktail parties, and generally all I get is blank stares. But every now and then I will meet a kindred spirit, and their eyes will light up, and they'll join right it!

"You don't smoke, do you?" "No, I have tuberculosis." "Oh, thank heaven for that." Ha ha ha ha ha HAA!!

Two thumbs way up!!
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It shifted all outta whack
Karl Self9 December 2008
Likable detective comedy with Steve Martin that is built around film noir clips. Steve Martin is great once again, Rachel Ward is a real dame and director Carl Reiner gives a memorable performance as evil Nazi mastermind von Kluck. The film starts off slow and gets better, but it's not as hilarious as I had hoped. While it's commendable how the authors managed to construct a plot around a fairly erratic selection of old movie clips, it also makes the story about as complex and confusing as "The Big Sleep". I also have to admit that I am simply not knowledgeable enough about film noir to appreciate most of the clips; although I consider myself a movie buff and regularly watch classic movies, out of the movies used by DMDWP I had only seen, well, "The Big Sleep".

So: still a good Steve Martin comedy.
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Still Uproarious Film Noir Pastiche Thanks to Clever Editing
EUyeshima24 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Carl Reiner's 1982 pastiche on 1940's film noir has never received its due as a genuinely clever, often hilarious salute to a genre that is ripe for satirical treatment. Filmed in a rich black-and-white by Michael Chapman, the film unique intercuts footage from actual films of the period to make it seem like the then-current actors are interacting with the stars of those movies. Consequently, Steve Martin looks convincingly like he's talking to the likes of Humphrey Bogart in "The Big Sleep", James Cagney in "White Heat", Ingrid Bergman in "Notorious", Alan Ladd in "This Gun for Hire", Burt Lancaster in "The Killers", Kirk Douglas in "I Walk Alone", Fred MacMurray in "Double Indemnity", and several others. The result means there are some contrived plot turns and certainly variations in the graininess of the film stock (since 1982 was still well before the enhanced computer graphics we see today), but the film is still quite a kick after a quarter-century.

The basic plot is straightforward. Rigby Reardon is a classic, world-weary gumshoe in the Philip Marlowe mold, who is hired by the beautiful and mysterious Juliet Forrest to find out who killed her father, a renowned cheese scientist. The story gets complicated because a number of random characters are introduced through the creative editing of the classic film clips. Reardon meets up with some familiar faces, and just to watch their non-reaction to Reardon's antics is worthwhile in itself. Credit needs to go to the smart screenplay co-written by Reiner, Martin and George Gipe. Most of the scenes, originally intended as straight melodrama in their original context, have been turned into uproarious slapstick comedy routines (including Martin in drag as Barbara Stanwyck's blonde femme fatale from "Double Indemnity"), wicked double-entendres and shrewdly off-kilter dialogue scenes.

The film's climax lifts a long dramatic sequence from 1949's "The Bribe" in which Ava Gardner, Charles Laughton and Vincent Price actually appear to be playing more substantial roles in this movie. In what is probably my favorite of his early screen performances, Martin has a good time as Bogie wannabe Reardon, gratefully harnessing the manic energy he displayed in his previous collaboration with Reiner, "The Jerk". Just before she broke out big in "The Thorn Birds", the stunning Rachel Ward lends a hint of welcome sarcasm to the sexy, Bacall-like languor she provides as Juliet, tapping into a genuine comedy talent rarely used since. Reni Santoni has the only other role of significance as the grinning Captain Rodriguez, who gets entirely too preoccupied with Reardon's pajamas. Legendary costume designer Edith Head did her final work on this film, which is fitting since she did many of the costumes on the earlier films. The 1999 DVD unfortunately has no extras.
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Quilted Noir Parody
st-shot14 November 2009
I feel like I'm committing sacrilege to admit I enjoy this film especially since I'm a huge Film Noir aficionado. Purists might be shocked to see classics cannibalized for a comedy of all things but I feel there is also a reverence angle that can be introduced to the argument. It also can intensify exposure to a larger mass audience and thus promoting growth. The issue for me however is that Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid is one very funny film.

With the best faux authenticity (another sterling effort by Michael Chapman) blending of its day Steve Martin in on spot comic dead pan mixes with the greats of American cinema in a cleverly devised parody on film noir . As private eye Rigby Reardon he crosses paths with an hysterical Barbara Stanwyck and a homicidal Alan Ladd among a dozen other stars of bygone era. The plot has a Big Sleep similarity and is just as confusing which allows Martin and director Alan Reiner to create a steady jigsaw puzzle of laughs with a fresh original approach. It slows at times with the present day cast but when the stars are out the film becomes capable of inducing parody and awe at the same time.
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Fun For Film Noir Buffs; Otherwise Convoluting
ccthemovieman-112 June 2006
This was a modern-day version of a 1940s narrative gangster film, also known as film noir, but with a different twist. Steve Martin, Rachel Ward and a few others actors are seen talking to many classic stars of the past as director Carl Reiner used clips of those films to fake conversations with the up-to-date real actors of this film . They made it appear that Alan Ladd, Barbara Stanwyck, Humphrey Bogart et al were actually talking to Martin.

Obviously, the more acquainted you are with those film noirs, the more fun this movie will be as you try to recognize what movie those clips came from. (The answers are shown in the ending credits.) That's the fun part of this movie.

The not-so-fun part is simply trying to figure how what is happening in the first place. The plot is not always easy to discern, and it's doubly difficult because of the constant "interruptions" with the classic film scene inserted in the story. You get so captivated watching those old stars that you lose track of the storyline.

That's a big reason I don't think this film ever caught on that much - the story is too convoluted, just too hard to follow.

Ward was great to watch and Martin was annoying after awhile. If Ward doesn't look like the embodiment of a 1940s film goddess, I don't know who does. That, and the razor sharp black-and-white picture with the real actors, is nice to see. But, Martin, who dominates the film, overdoes the stupid comments. I would like to have seen this film played a little straighter, like a real noir. It's a clever film but sometimes too clever for its own good.
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Neo-classicism at its best
PeterKurten91117 June 2004
Dead Men.. maintains a delicate equilibrum between a re-enactment and an original script. On one hand, Carl Reiner offers a comedy which compilates several film noir classics (the strongest influence seems to come from the Maltese Falcon)and makes fun of their profound grim atmosphere, but without ever loosing its self-esteem. On the other hand, it combines at least a dozen scenes from those movies with stand-ins in order to establish a believable (physical) interaction between actors who differ 40 years in age.

Steve Martin would play the same kind of unwilling comedian in Plains, Trains & Automoblies. His voice-over definitely was an inspiration to Leslie Nielsen in the Naked Gun series. Along with Dragnet (1987), both owe, of course, a lot to the police serials from the 50's.

This movie is mostly suited for classic film buffs such as me
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Great Work From Martin and Reiner
gavin694227 June 2013
Film noir parody with a detective (Steve Martin) uncovering a sinister plot. Characters from real noirs appear as scenes from various films are intercut.

This film seems to be best enjoyed by those who love film noir. I do not necessarily think that is a prerequisite, but if you are familiar with the older actors and the films that are mixed in here, you will probably get a little more out of it. (And, heck, if you have not seen these, I strongly recommend you rectify that.)

I have a love-hate relationship with Steve Martin. Some of his stuff I think is genius and others I am left unfulfilled. Many people think "The Jerk" is among the greatest comedies of all time. I liked it, but have no desire to push it on others. This one I liked much more.
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Smart, in more ways than several
neil-4764 May 2011
Warning: Spoilers
To explain, should it be necessary, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid is a black and white crime thriller set in the 40s, starring Steve Martin and a host of the top noir actors and actresses of the 40s, created by taking assorted scenes from those classic movies of the past and hanging them on a framework of a newly written story centred on Martin's character.

The idea is smart. The screenplay is smart in the way that it cleverly integrates the old and the new. The film is technically smart in the way it seamlessly joins footage shot in the 1980s with footage from various films shot 40 years earlier. And the performances are particularly smart in the way that they play to the knowing humour underlying the whole project which remaining true to the spirit of the originals.

Oh, did I mention that it's very funny?
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Clever and affectionate homage to film noir
TheLittleSongbird24 January 2010
I was really interested in seeing this movie, because I like film noir and I like Steve Martin. And you know what, this is a very clever and affectionate homage. My complaints are that the story is disappointingly convoluted so it is sometimes very hard to keep up with what is going on and one or two of the jokes don't quite work. But overall it is very funny, and seems to have held up well over the years. The script is clever and sophisticated enough, and Carl Reiner directs with precision and acts his part of Field Marshall VonKluck very well. The cinematography is smooth and crisp, and I thought the performances were excellent. Steve Martin is great here, not only do I think Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid is underrated but this is one of his roles where Martin deserves a lot more credit. Rachel Ward looks lovely as Juliet Forrest and is terrific acting wise. The real joy is watching the archive footage of all those wonderful actors and actresses in those timeless masterpieces. Spotting stars such as Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, Bette Davis, Ray Milland, Vincent Price and Ingrid Bergman all but to name a few was a delight in itself. Also the finale while silly is great fun. All in all, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid is well worth the look. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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Reiner & Martin's Laugh-In
Lejink11 August 2009
This film couldn't miss for me as I love Steve Martin's irresistibly funny early films and rank film noir as probably my favourite movie genre.

Right from the start, we're comfortingly deposited back into the noir era, with the classic Universal revolving black and white logo presaging Miklos Rosza's sweeping score and the equally welcome news, in the title credits, that the great (sadly soon to be late) Edith Head is costume designer. From there, it's a short journey into beautifully shot monochromatic cinematography and Martin's deliberately clichéd voice-over, setting the scene for a roller-coaster plot, as deliberately convoluted, as anything this side of "The Maltese Falcon" or "The Big Sleep".

The humour is typical early-Martin which you either love or hate (I'm in the former camp) and as ever Steve's not above a little vulgarity to drive out the bigger laughs - for instance his hilarious re-organising of passed-out leading lady Rachel Ward's "out of whack" breasts or his answer to Lana Turner's "What are we going to do now" question as she enters his bedroom - "Kinsey, cover-to-cover".

The vintage film-clips are cleverly inserted into the plot, so that we get a dream cast, their lines and actions woven even if tenuously into the narrative, although ironically the poorer film-quality of some of their scenes work against the glossier quality of the modern camera-work.

Martin's by turns quirky and laconic delivery works well in context although Rachel Ward, pretty as she is, seems too lightweight in her part, although she does have some considerable footprints to step into (Bette or Lana she isn't). A Kathleen Turner (later brilliant in Martin's sci-fi spoof "The Man With Two Brains") or Jessica Lange (not long out of a noir remake "The Postman Always Rings Twice") would I think have worked better. Even director Reiner gets a "No show without Punch" role as the scheming "want the world" Nazi dictator behind the shenanigans.

The jokes come thick and fast and there are plenty of running gags to keep you entertained throughout. I myself will try to look up one or two of the vintage prototypes which I hadn't even heard of, never-mind seen, - "I Walked Alone" starring Kirk Douglas and especially "The Bribe" with a stellar cast of Ava Gardner, Charles Laughton and Vincent Price, with what looks like literally a crackerjack of a finale.

The combination of old film and new was later taken up by Woody Allen in "Zelig" and was further elaborated on in subsequent Hollywood films like "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and the overrated "Forrest Gump", but I'll take Messrs Martin & Reiner's stylish rib-tickling homage any day of the week. Just don't mention the cleaning lady!
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Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid
jboothmillard10 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I had heard quite a bit about this comedy film noir, I wasn't expecting it to be the funniest film ever, I was just looking to seeing how many classic stars would be sliced into the film. Basically private eye detective Rigby Reardon (Steve Martin), who has a dangerous phobia of cleaning women, is hired by Juliet Forrest (Rachel Ward) who believes the death of her cheese scientist father, with a secret recipe, was no accident. So begins his investigation, finding a list of "The Friends and Enemies of Carlotta", and he is now trying to find this Carlotta. In his search he encounters assorted low-lifes, and a few people on the good side, all of which are famous actors in some of their most famous roles of 30's and 40's films. Of course during his investigation he is slowly falling for Juliet, and in the end he finds out the villain is Field Marshall VonKluck (Carl Reiner), who wanted the cheese recipe for himself. To be honest, the story isn't the most important thing about this film, it is all the classic film clips placed in with the great array of classic stars. Stars placed in the film include Ingrid Bergman (Notorious), Humphrey Bogart (The Big Sleep, In a Lonely Place and Dark Passage), James Cagney (White Heat), Joan Crawford (Humoresque), Bette Davis (Deception), Kirk Douglas (I Walk Alone), Ava Gardner (The Killers and The Bribe), Cary Grant (Suspicion), Veronica Lake (The Glass Key), Fred MacMurray (Double Indemnity), Ray Milland (The Lost Weekend), Burt Lancaster (The Killers), Charles Laughton (The Bribe), Vincent Price (The Bribe), Barbara Stanwyck (Sorry, Wrong Number) and Lana Turner (Johnny Eager and The Postman Always Rings Twice). There is some funny dialogue and tiny moments of slapstick, even if you haven't seen the films placed in, this spoof is still one for the film buffs. Very good!
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A nifty and ingenious parody of 40's film noir thrillers
Woodyanders17 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Rugged private detective Rigby Reardon (a splendidly deadpan performance by Steve Martin) is hired by the enticing Juliet Forrest (marvelously essayed to sultry perfection by Rachel Ward) to investigate the murder of her scientist father. Of course, Reardon soon finds himself neck deep in all kinds of trouble as he tries to find out what really happened to Julie's dad. Director Carl Reiner tells the delightfully off the wall story at a constant fast pace, delivers a meticulous recreation of the 40's era (special kudos are in order for the sets and costumes), and shows a genuine affection for vintage 40's noir. It's a real treat to watch Martin interact with such past stars as Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney (in an especially hilarious scene in which Martin dresses up in drag as Cagney's mother so he can talk to Cagney in jail!), Ingrid Bergman, Veronica Lake, Ava Gardner, Charles Laughton, Ray Milland, Alan Ladd, Cary Grant, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford, and even Vincent Price; the editing is seamless and the jokes are bright and witty. Martin plays his role with great aplomb; he receives fine support from Ward, Reni Santoni as zealous police chief Carlos Rodriguez, and Reiner as nefarious Nazi villain Field Marshall Von Kluck. Martin's hard-boiled narration crackles with a lot of choice sharp one-liners and the movie boasts a nice sense of the ridiculous (I love the way Ward keeps removing bullets from Martin's hide with her teeth!). Michael Chapman's gorgeous, moody black and white cinematography perfectly captures that distinctive smoky film noir style. Miklos Rozsa's sweeping, melodramatic score likewise does the trick. A very funny and enjoyable one-of-a-kind comedy hoot.
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I live near Sun City, AZ and, unfortunately, it's the alive men that wear plaid.
thesar-24 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Ooh deary me. Either I forgot or didn't realize Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid took basically three main actors and spliced them into decades old films. (I did eventually, roughly one third of the way in, but I'll get to that later.) This Steve Martin feature escaped me for years until a close friend recommended it to me. I'm not the biggest Martin fan – I can only name three I especially liked, Roxanne, All of Me and (guilty pleasure) Housesitter – so I was in no hurry to watch this. And as much as my friend and I agree on 90% of movies, some we don't. So, it was no 100% guarantee I would like this.

Well, just to sum it all up, that 90% statistic turned to 95% of our movie compatibility. I was laughing throughout this movie, way after and when I woke the next morning, more scenes floated in my head and I found myself laughing some more.

Private detective Rigby Reardon (Martin) is so stereotypically almost flat broke and down on his luck when "doll face" Julie Forrest (Ward) shows up at his office door with an assignment for Rigby to investigate her father's murder. (Yeah, I say stereotypically but not in a bad way as that's the premise/spoof of this movie – either mocking or playing homage to film noir of half a century earlier.) Slapstick immediate surfaces and he takes the case on, meeting dozens of individuals (from a grand multitude of black & white features) who advance the case/story so he can get to the bottom of the murder.

Seriously, as a joy this was to watch – my first time of many guaranteed viewings – I don't want to give away any more. Each scene opened up more laughs for me. And it's one of those rare, VERY RARE films that starts off slow, mediocre even, and gets progressively BETTER.

One of the biggest complaints I have with a lot of films is the fact the director and/or writer is so incredibly preoccupied on making a movie based solely on one HUGE SECRET or TWIST that they simply forget to make a movie that happens to have a twist. M. Night Shyamalan films fit perfectly into my argument – but more recently, A Perfect Getaway. The worst part of those films is if you happen to figure out the "secret twisted" climax in the first few minutes (or someone spoiled it for you), you're literally sitting there for two hours where they try and confuse you and throw obvious clues your way. And you never actually get a well made movie – just a bunch of misdirection so you'll be so-called blown away at the end.

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid didn't do this. They played homage to anyone who is in LOVE with those 1930-1940s classics and grand stars (my personal favorite of the group was Grant and Davis) and used wonderful splicing new and old techniques. This is obviously a "gimmick" yet, when other lesser directors/writers would rely on this, this was only part of the equation. There was really a story here and it really was built as a film noir mystery, albeit slapstick 1980s humor.

As I stated, I didn't catch this "device" of using old and new until about 1/3 in, with Cary Grant. I didn't read anything about this movie, so since it was black & white (and Martin actually had dark hair) I figured they filmed this when Bogart, Grant and Davis were all still alive and dyed their own hair to appear younger. Yeah, I'm a dope. Seriously, I should've known better.

Obviously, I won't make that mistake again (i.e. in my definite repeat viewings) and when I realized what was happening, the movie opened up to me, making it all the more hilarious and especially when Martin dresses as some of the characters they're mimicking.

I would highly recommend this movie, especially to those movie buffs of decades past. Though I am only rating it 9 out of 10 stars now, that might change, even with viewing #2. And I can't wait to see this again. There's severe comic genius here – the finale's battle of words between Reiner and Martin is just one of many examples. SEE IT! Side Note: If you have the DVD – make sure you watch the hilarious trailer, namely the last 2-3 seconds had me rolling.
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They don't make 'em like this anymore
paulreynolds1111 August 2006
This film comfortably sits in my top 10 movies of all time - pure Steve Martin comedy genius. Filled with dry jokes and witty narrative, hilariously spoofing film noir - but still managing to contain that characteristic Martin craziness. The splicing of scenes including Gregory Peck, Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman is written so well (by Martin and Reiner) that it is sometimes not noticeable, due to a state of distress rolling on the floor in hilarity requires.

The ending is a playful example of the downright silly comedy styles of Martin and Reiner - with Alan Ladd credited as 'Gunman at cheese factory', which pretty much sums up that slight change of tact. The voice-over is, equally a source of humour - parodying noir through slight twists of typical narration. I hope his (Martin's) adaption of hit play Picasso is a throw back to his movies like this - timeless comic masterpieces. Sir Martin, I salute you.
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A Word Of Advice - Never Fall In Love With Your Client
strong-122-47888524 September 2011
Favorite Movie Quote - "I'm re-adjusting your breasts. When you fainted they shifted out of whack. And, so, I was just re-aligning them for you."

I'd easily say that this picture has got to be one of the best and most entertaining parodies of the 1940s Film Noir/Detective genre that I've ever seen.

This film really delivers some great laughs.

Filmed in glossy black and white, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid ingeniously weaves its plot and production design around numerous movies clips from such golden-oldie classics as This Gun For Hire, Double Indemnity, Notorious, The Big Sleep - To name but a few.

Steve Martin plays Rigby Reardon, a $10-a-day gumshoe (working in Los Angeles) who is hired to solve a truly incomprehensible mystery that involves the apparent death of brilliant scientist, Dr. Forest.

Reardon immediately smells a rat as he sets out to follow a complex maze of clues that eventually lead him to the "Carlotta Lists" of friends and enemies.

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid was directed by Carl Reiner and stars the gorgeous screen-siren, Rachel Ward. (Whatever became of the husky-voiced beauty, anyways?)
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Good Idea, Flawed Execution
utgard1410 March 2014
The premise to this is pretty simple: parody film noir movies by inserting old movie clips and have Steve Martin say things that turn serious lines from those movies into jokes. While we're at it, throw in sexy Rachel Ward. It sounds like it could have been a really great comedy. For a fan of film noir and older movies in general like myself, it has an added bonus of getting to revisit all of these great old films through clips. It's fun to see this clip or that and see if you can remember where it comes from. Unfortunately, however, the movie ultimately doesn't work. The reasons for this are twofold. First, the gimmick tires quickly. I think I was over it after about a half hour or so. Second, it's just not that funny. There are a few funny bits, like the cup of java gag that goes on forever. But mostly it's kind of juvenile. Often the movie seems to lose itself in its clips and forgets to turn those clips into something humorous. Martin and Ward are fine in their roles. Maybe Carl Reiner would have been better off trying to do a straight parody film with these two instead of using the clips, which ultimately proved to be a distraction.
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The plan was to kiss her with every lip on my face...
Lebowskidoo23 June 2019
Carl Reiner and Steve Martin have crafted the perfect film noir spoof, complete with cameos from actual film noir movies, seamlessly inserted into this madness that had me giggling throughout.

I'd seen this many years ago, but seeing it again made me like it even more, since I now have a greater familiarity with some of the movies used for clips.

If you like supreme silliness to make you laugh constantly, then this is the movie for you. This film exists to make you happy, so sit back and smile.
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