Even though this movie is not that great, I have watched it several times because it represents one of my favorite kinds of humor, that of taking existing film or sound clips and piecing them together to make something new. I have loved this sort of thing ever since I watched Fractured Flickers as a kid. Unfortunately, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid isn't nearly as funny as Fractured Flickers. That's because it doesn't set out to "fracture" the clips by completely changing their meaning, but uses them with more or less the same connotation that they had originally, only with Steve Martin added. A more typically outrageous comedy exercise would have used these film noir clips to tell a story that had nothing to do with film noir, like making all the characters businesspeople or something equally unglamorous. This film is more subtle, in particular making great use of the actors' facial expressions and reactions to make them seem to interact with Martin in a very realistic way. The use of the verbal component is less inspired. (A clip of James Cagney saying "No, no, Ma, listen to me," is preceded by Martin saying, "Say something like, 'No, no, Ma, listen to me.'" Not exactly brilliant.) It is all technically adept, but the result is more clever than funny.
I think my favorite scene is the one where Martin offers the cantankerous Edward Arnold a puppy and then takes it away ("You don't deserve a puppy").
Of the 25 old-time movie stars listed in the end credits (including seven minor credits), 16 were still alive at the time this film was made, counting Ingrid Bergman, who died the year of release. Today, only one is still alive (Kirk Douglas).
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