Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982)

PG  |   |  Comedy, Crime, Mystery  |  21 May 1982 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.8/10 from 16,159 users  
Reviews: 103 user | 28 critic

Film noir parody with a detective uncovering a sinister plot. Characters from real noirs appear as scenes from various films are intercut.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
The Exterminator (archive footage)
Field Marshall VonKluck
Leona Hastings-Forrest (archive footage)
Kitty Collins (archive footage)
Swede Anderson (archive footage)
Phillip Marlowe (archive footage)
'Handsome' (in 'Suspicion') (archive footage)
F.X. Huberman (archive footage)
Monica Stillpond (archive footage)
Doris Davermont (archive footage)
Jimmi-Sue Altfeld (archive footage)
Altfeld (archive footage)


Juliet Forrest is convinced that the reported death of her father in a mountain car crash was no accident. Her father was a prominent cheese scientist working on a secret recipe. To prove it was murder, she enlists the services of private eye Rigby Reardon. He finds a slip of paper containing a list of people who are "The Friends and Enemies of Carlotta." Searching for answers, Rigby encounters assorted low-lifes: dangerous men and women who were the hallmarks of the classic detective movies of the 40's and 50's. Filming in black and white allows scenes from old movies to be cut into this film. It is through this process that Rigby's assistant is none other than Philip Marlowe himself. Written by Tony Fontana <>, Ed. by Peter Victor <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Laugh... or I'll blow your lips off!


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

21 May 1982 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Dead Men Wear No Plaid  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$4,289,601 (USA) (21 May 1982)


$16,959,911 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Actress Rachel Ward was cast in the lead female role of Juliet Forrest in this 1980s film noir detective spoof of old 1940s b&w movies having recently starred in a movie related to this genre, the Burt Reynolds urban cop thriller Sharky's Machine (1981), where Ward had played a "femme fatale". After Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982), Ward would soon be cast in Against All Odds (1984), a 1980s remake of the classic "film noir" picture Out of the Past (1947). See more »


When Rigby (Steve Martin) is exchanging a $5 bill for a $1 bill with Ray Milland through the cracked open doorway, you can clearly see that the bill is marked "Series 1969" which is about 25 years after the time the film is set in. See more »


[In Rigby's office]
Juliet Forrest: If you need me, just call. You know how to dial, don't you? You just put your finger in the hole and make tiny little circles.
See more »

Crazy Credits

There is a spelling mistake with the Composer. In the credits at the beginning he is spelled: Miklos Rosza. In the credits after the end he is spelled correct: Miklos Rozsa. See more »


Edited from The Killers (1946) See more »


Dead Men's Bolero
Music by Miklós Rózsa (as Miklos Rozsa)
Lyrics by Steve Goodman
See more »

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User Reviews

Along with "The Jerk," one of Steve Martin's top two finest films
19 July 2005 | by See all my reviews

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.

52 of 61 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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