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Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid - Steve Martin as a Noir Detective

Aug 27, 2011
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Very entertaining movie.  Strong cast.

Cons:Plot may not appeal to some people.

The Bottom Line: Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid is a well done noir type movie that deserves to be seen.


I really like Steve Martin, and I've liked most of his movies that I've seen, even some other people don't care for.  I haven't seen every movie he's made.  I've heard a little about Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid without really knowing what it is about.  I finally watched it after it turned up on one of the cable channels I get.

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid is a bit different.  The movie, made in 1982, was filmed in black and white and features clips from eighteen different noir movies.  The clips are noticeable because of the actors in them, but they still manage to blend in well with the new material.  I don't think I've seen this technique in any other movies before and I think it works well for the movie.

Scientist and cheese maker John Forrest dies in a car accident.  His daughter, Juliet, is suspicious about the accident and believes that her father was actually murdered.  She hires private detective Rigby Reardon to look into what happened.  Rigby quickly starts discovering clues tied to friends and enemies of Carlotta.  As Rigby continues his investigation, he faces danger and turns to Marlowe, another detective, for assistance.  Things are somewhat complicated by the fact that there is some chemistry between Rigby and Juliet.

The plot for Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid is interesting and entertaining.  Several things happen, and things are slightly complicated, but not to the point where it is difficult to follow what is going on.  It does seem like a few things are brought up only as attempts to make things more complicated.  The clips from the older movies manage to fit in well with what is going on.  The picture quality of the clips is a little different, but none of them have really bad quality.  Some people may not care for the story of the way older movie clips are used.  I think that works for the movie and helps to make it more entertaining.

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid is basically a spoof of noir movies.  Certain scenes and lines poke fun at other noir movies, but it doesn't go overboard with it or get too silly like has happened with other spoof movies.  The humor works well for the movie and what is going on.  Some of the humor is a little more subtle, and I think that is part of why the movie works overall.  Rigby does most of the things that I thought were funny, like when he decides to dress up like a woman to follow a lead.  He did not make an attractive woman.  Rigby does end up in some entertaining situations.

Rigby and Juliet meet really early in Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid.  It is fairly clear right away that he is attracted to her and she does seem to return the interest.  There is an attraction between them that works for the movie and everything that is happening.  Not much is shown though.  Rigby does end up targeting a few women during the course of his investigation and it is made clear, again without showing much, that he is willing to use sex to get information.  There really isn't a lot of sexual content, though there is some innuendo in some scenes.  None of the relationships shown add any romance to what is going on.

Rigby serves as the main character.  He is a detective who gets pulled into a dangerous case by a beautiful woman.  Once he starts uncovering some things, Rigby becomes determined to stay on the case and figure out what is going on.  He does provide some narration every so often in some scenes as well.  Steve Martin is wonderful in the part.  Juliet is really the only other main character.  She has suspicions about her father's death.  Rachel Ward is fine in the part.

Field Marshal VonKluck turns up in a few scenes late in the movie.  Carl Reiner, who also directs the movie, does a good job with the part even though he doesn't have a lot to do.  George Gaynes is briefly shown as Dr. Forrest, Juliet's father.  Most of the other characters are actually characters from scenes from other movies that have been added to the movie.  

Main Cast

George Gaynes - Dr. Forrest
Steve Martin - Rigby
Carl Reiner - Field Marshal VonKluck
Rachel Ward - Juliet

Carl Reiner - Director

I watched Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid when I found it on one of the HBO channels that I get.  I'm not sure if the movie is available on DVD or not.

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid is an entertaining movie that is worth checking out, especially for Steve Martin fans.

Steve Martin Movie Reviews
All of Me ~ Baby Mama ~ Bringing Down the House ~ Bowfinger ~ Cheaper by the Dozen ~ Cheaper by the Dozen 2 ~ Dirty Rotten Scoundrels ~ Father of the Bride ~ Father of the Bride Part II ~ Housesitter ~ It's Complicated ~ Looney Tunes: Back in Action ~ The Man With Two Brains ~ Mixed Nuts ~ The Muppet Movie ~ Novocaine ~ The Out-of-Towners ~ Parenthood ~ The Pink Panther ~ The Pink Panther 2 ~ Planes, Trains and Automobiles ~ Roxanne ~


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