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Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid
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Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid More at IMDbPro »

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Quite possibly Steve Martin's most underrated hour

Author: DAVID SIM from United Kingdom
14 January 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid is one of Steve Martin's lesser known films. It was the second of four Martin made with director Carl Reiner. But its never achieved the classic status of The Jerk or The Man With Two Brains. And that's a shame. Because its one of the most ambitious and conceptually audacious films Martin has ever starred in.

I get the impression not just any actor could have pulled this off, but Martin does. Very successfully too if I do say so. And I don't envy his task. He's starring in a film made up of many different clips from films of the 1940s and 50s. DMDWP is a film more smooth than it has a right to be. Thanks to Martin's perfect comic timing.

The film is designed as an affectionate spoof of hard-boiled detective stories. And Martin is right at the centre of it as gumshoe Rigby Reardon. I won't bother going into detail about the plot. Probably because its best not to think about it too much while watching DMDWP. The amusement comes from Martin's deadpan Rigby, and how he plugs into the vast assortment of clips Reiner has put together.

DMDWP is right out of a Raymond Chandler novel. Where detectives are hard-boiled burn outs and women are impeccably dressed and dripping with attitude. And makes it the springboard for one of the wackiest film-noirs you'll ever see.

Just about every actor from the Golden Age of Cinema appears in DMDWP. Although Lauren Bacall is a conspicuous absentee. But its the way the film incorporates footage from more films than I can count that makes what you're seeing so special. We're talking about different classics, all with vastly different plots. And Reiner combines them in a way that verges on the inspired.

Its all typical film-noir. Complete with dark alleys, femme fatales and exotic locales. Shot in beautifully crisp B&W. And right in the middle of it is a hair-dyed Steve Martin.

His latest case is the murder of cheese-maker(!) Dr John Forrest. His daughter Juliet Forrest (Rachel Ward) brings Rigby in to do some investigating. I can't really say anymore, because its such a wacky investigation. But it includes everything from sucking bullets out of chest wounds, Rigby's custom-made Java to wearing a blonde wig and a dress.

What a brilliant film this is! I have no idea when Reiner and Martin dreamt this up. And its a film that shouldn't even begin to work. But oddly enough it does. The filmmakers have set themselves a real arduous task. But somehow they take these wildly different plots from all over the place and turn it into an almost cohesive film. Remember, I said almost!

OK, I'll be honest with you. DMDWP doesn't always make a lot of sense. But then film-noir usually doesn't. Even Raymond Chandler had trouble keeping up with The Big Sleep while he was writing it! But the fact that the film makes any kind of coherent sense at all is down to Steve Martin.

He has seldom been better in anything else. Martin was still in his crazed, manic man phase, so the role of Rigby Reardon was something of a pleasant diversion. Martin was a real trooper. Going far above and beyond the call of duty. Most of the time he has to talk to thin air. While the footage is incorporated at a later date. I suppose you can tell where the reality ends and the footage begins. It is noticeably grainier, but Martin makes sure every scene hits it's mark.

There are so many great little gags. Particularly inspired is the way DMDWP takes scenes from these films that are meant to be deadly serious and reworks them through clever editing and Martin's reactions so they become comedic instead. I especially loved Rigby's conversations with Humphrey Bogart's Philip Marlowe. And the scene where he throttles Bette Davis is unnerving.

Martin gets a lot of droll dialogue that he delivers to perfection. I had no idea that he had such a talent for deadpan humour. And he gets to show off his talent for physical comedy too. The scene where he makes coffee has to be seen to be believed. I don't want to spoil it for you, but it provides one of the greatest sight gags you'll ever see.

Aside from Martin, the only other person who provides a human element is Rachel Ward. She certainly looks enticing, but she is occasionally a little bland. She never quite sizzles the way you expect her to.

But that doesn't matter. Because this is Martin's show. DMDWP was also one of the rare occasions where he had the opportunity to flex his considerable skills as a writer. I'm sure he's tailored a few situations to match his talents. But whether it calls for him to be deadpan or (occasionally) manic, Martin does brilliantly.

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid does admittedly run out of steam about 10 minutes before the end. As soon as it runs out of clips to use, the film loses some momentum. But even still, its a very, very good film indeed. One of Steve Martin's best. A tightly plotted, gag-packed laugh-a-thon that doesn't deserve obscurity. And getting to see Martin with dark hair is worth the price of admission alone!

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:


Author: trz1951 from United States
2 October 2007

Who cares about the plot in this wonderful comedy! It's about as important as the search for the greatest egg salad recipe in Woody Allen's "What's Up Tiger Lily." In fact, a sensible plot would have detracted from the comedy and wonderful editing of old film clips. I watched this twice recently on cable (it's one of those movies, like "Airplane," that once you start watching, you can't turn it off. This time around I found Reni Santoni's obsession with Rigby's pajamas hilarious. How did I miss it last time? I'm still laughing about it a few days later and am picking up a DVD tonight. Martin was great -- I love his sleight-of-hand tricks, the coffee, lighting both ends of the cigarette, tearing it in half and offering one half to Rachel Ward (spoof of Paul Henreid in "Now, Voyageur.") Sweinhundt! (sp) Jerk! and so many other great moments. As for Terre Haute -- why not Terre Haute? It could have been any of a million other towns, DeKalb, Ill., where I live, for example.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Don't worry about your Payamas!

Author: amosduncan_2000 from United States
27 June 2007

I saw this when it came out in the theaters and it didn't work for me at all.... Over the years I would catch a bit on T.V. here and there and it would seem funnier than I remembered...

I took the tape out of the library and thought I would give it another try, having been on a bit of a film noir jag. I think I am going to rank it as a small classic; perhaps as good as Carl's old partner's best film "Young Frankenstein." Admittedly, you have to get on the frequency of extreme silliness that Martin and Reiner ask you accept without forcing things. Some of the gag's meander a bit, like Bogart's Marlowe; yet I somehow feel Bogie's odd, bemused non reaction to the mayhem is perfect. He may fit into this movie better than "Beat The Devil."

Martin get's a chance to do some of his best ever physical comedy. And hat's off to Rachel Ward, who looks great and finds just the right tone for this somewhat odd acting assignment. She can adjust my willie anytime.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Don't watch it if you hate Film Noir

Author: loufalce from United States
30 April 2007

A one joke movie- but its a great joke.1940s gumshoe Rigby Reardon{Steve Martin} gets a visit by sultry client Rachel Ward whose father has gone missing. Then the fun begins.Set in and around 40s LA, this film combines Martin interacting with clips of characters and scenes from classic 40s noir.He gets advice from Marlowe- the actual clip of Bogart is shown and flawlessly inserted into the film. Along the way, he gets to interact with Alan Ladd{This Gun For Hire}, Barbara Stanwick and Fred Mac Murray{from Double Indemnity}, Burt Lancaster{from The Killers}, Cagney {The prison scene from White Heat} Cary Grant {from Suspicion} Edward Arnold, Bette Davis, Charles Laughton, etc. This film works like a charm because it parodies the noir that it spoofs in a lovable and respectable way. It is never held up to ridicule. The beautiful black and white photography and costume designs by the late great Edith Head all work as one.The ending is a riot! If director Reiner playing a Nazi with a bogus German accent doesn't make you laugh, hothing will. Its all there- the seedy office, the rainy nights, the 40s cars, and the typical noir jargon that made these films great. Ir will probably appeal more to film buffs than the average viewer, but thats OK. Martin has never been better- and Rachel Ward is a knockout too.Great fun!

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid

Author: Scarecrow-88 from United States
18 November 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Gumshoe dick Steve Martin is called on by lovely Rachel Ward to find her missing father, a cheese manufacturer. When he finds a list containing names, people put a licking on him to keep those names from turning up in the wrong hands.

An exhilarating, amazing, and rewarding film experience for Classic Movie fans, most of the key characters in this plot are played, through astonishing editing by Bud Molin, terrific cinematography by Michael Chapman, marvelous period costumes from Edith Head(her final film for which this is dedicated), by classic film stars such as Ava Gardner, Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, Ray Milland, Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, among others as they are confronted through meetings and conversations from detective Martin.

The flawless, seamless ability to place Martin in scenarios with so many stars of the great films from the 40's and 50's is such a pleasure to behold. Sure, many might feel some of the comedy falls flat, but I think Martin(..and Ward & Carl Reiner who also directed)is perfectly cast. His scenes dressed as a woman are hilarious especially when he kisses Ward and confronts James Cagney(..from his role in "White Heat" portraying his mother).

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Hilarious movie.

Author: randyhndrsn from United States
16 January 2006

This movie is very funny and well written, it is another classic comedy by the great Steve martin and excellent Carl reiner.The night i first watched this movie, my dad had told me he thought it was very funny and said id like it.Well because i have a good sense of humor, i just loved this movie for all the comedy it had in it.I think it is great how they take the old detective type movies and make it into this comedy, what a excellent idea to have Steve martin in it.I love movies and comedy is one of my favorite type of movies to watch, dead men don't wear plaid is one of the best out there.If you want to watch a good comedy or wanna watch a pretty well done movie, then i say watch dead men don't wear plaid and have a good time.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

a class in advanced editing for future filmakers

Author: randall pennington ( from Chattanooga, Tennessee
22 August 2003

I absolutely adored this film.It is by far Carl Reiner's best work.The way he put together the old films from the fourties,together with Steve,was brilliant.Some of the lines were a bit corny,but you expect that with Steve and with Carl.He truly captured and satirized the film noir one could have played such a cool character in such an uncool way as Martin.if you have ever even had an inkling you wanted to be a filmaker,then this is more of a must see than Citizen Kane.rp

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Private detective Martin

Author: Petri Pelkonen ( from Finland
24 January 2001

Rachel Ward plays femme fatale called Juliet Forrest who comes to private detective Rigby Reardon (Steve Martin) to ask for help.And how could Rigby say no to a beautiful woman who keeps collapsing.Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid from 1982 is a brilliant crime comedy from Carl Reiner.Reiner himself plays Field Marshal Von Kluck.The movie is black and white and you can see a punch of old film noir stars from the 40's and the 50's in the movie.Humphrey Bogart is Rigby's assistant.Then there are stars such as Bette Davis, Kirk Douglas, Cary Grant with lots of others.Your job is to recognize them.Steve Martin is an excellent comedian and he does brilliant work in this cult classic.And Rachel's not bad either.This movie offers you lots of laughs.It's impossible to get bored with Martin and the gang.I guarantee it.I recommend Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid for everyone who is a fan of good comedy.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

More hits than misses

Author: Andy Aldridge (grange85) from London
6 June 2000

OK, the plot is ridiculously weak, and the film loses it's way a little at the end. But Steve Martin was rarely better, Rachel Ward was NEVER better (funny how someone with nothing else worthwhile to her name can be quite so good in this), and the rest of the "cast" is phenomenal. The inter-cutting is cleverly and convincingly done, the gags hit more times than they miss and the whole is a worthwhile watch for anyone with a penchant for 40s film noir and enjoys a game of name-that-star.

Probably the saddest thing is that it's unlikely that Steve Martin will ever make me laugh this much again. Despite its failings well worth the 8 I've given it.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Unjustly neglected, even by Steve Martin

Author: David Franks ( from Wichita, Kansas
10 January 1999

In several interviews over the years, Steve Martin has only once even obliquely mentions this film. He is almost as mum on the subject of "Pennies From Heaven" (which I do not care for) and "The Man With Two Brains" which has a brilliant running joke about names). His apparent refusal to acknowledge this film is curious, as its deadpan humor is right on target, and the level of technical achievement in writing, editing, and set and costume design is extraordinary.

Perhaps the gimmickry of the film's premise and construction puts people off. Seeing past the fact that the film even exists can be a bit of a task. I first saw it on cable, and got over the "Gee, whiz" hurdle by watching it several times. But the narration and dialogue got my attention as well, and viewing it repeatedly was not a chore.

Martin's constrained physical humor is an extension, however illogical, of action one might see in the original films-- turning the usual "business" with coins and cigarettes into coin and cigarette tricks. And the whole procedure of making some of his "famous java" for Kirk Douglas is beautifully done.

Several years ago, I saw this film broadcast on regular television, and that broadcast included about fifteen minutes of material involving a Marlowe's girlfriend subplot. This material clarifies some issues in the plot of the theatrical release, and probably should have been included in it. The last time I saw the film on television, this additional material was not included.

I'm still waiting for the sequel; never mind the possible nude scene by Juliet.

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