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.
Steve Martin ... Rigby Reardon
Rachel Ward ... Juliet Forrest
Alan Ladd ... in This Gun For Hire (archive footage)
Carl Reiner ... Field Marshall VonKluck
Barbara Stanwyck ... in Sorry, Wrong Number (archive footage)
Ray Milland ... in Lost Weekend (archive footage)
Ava Gardner ... in The Killers / The Bribe (archive footage)
Burt Lancaster ... in The Killers (archive footage)
Humphrey Bogart ... in The Big Sleep / In A Lonely Place / Dark Passage (archive footage)
Cary Grant ... in Suspicion (archive footage)
Ingrid Bergman ... in Notorious (archive footage)
Veronica Lake ... in The Glass Key (archive footage)
Bette Davis ... in Deception (archive footage)
Lana Turner ... in Johnny Eager / The Postman Always Rings Twice (archive footage)
Edward Arnold ... in Johnny Eager (archive footage)
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!
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...
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 was legendary Costume Designer Edith Head\'s final film. There is a tribute to her in the closing credits denoting this. Fittingly, the film features many of her earlier designs in cleverly edited clips from old movies.
* Also the last film of legendary composer Miklós Rózsa. This was ironic since he was also asked to rescore music for original images that he had worked on in the 1940s and \'50s.
* The car accident at the beginning of the movie (the killing of the scientist) is taken from Keeper of the Flame (1942). That movie, however, is not listed in the credits as the source of the footage.
* The movie was initially planned by Steve Martin and Carl Reiner to be a \'30s-era film titled \"Depression\". After Reiner incorporated some footage of a \'30s star into the movie, he and Martin decided that the entire movie should be done that way, and re-wrote it into a mock-detective story.
* Rigby Reardon tells Lana Turner he left her sitting at a counter at Schwabs. Turner is rumored to have been discovered sitting at the counter in a Schwabs drugstore.
* At the end of the film, as Rigby Reardon and Juliette Forest are passionately kissing, Steve Martin\'s voiceover announces that there will be a sequel (which features a possible nude scene by Juliette) in cinemas soon. In 2008, 26 years after the film\'s original release, no sequel has been produced.
* Initially, Steve Martin\'s character was written to tell off Humphrey Bogart\'s \"mentor\" character as an old has-been. The scene in which Martin did this was restored for network-TV showings.
* While Steve Martin\'s character is at the bar in Carlotta, a clip is used of Charles Laughton from The Bribe (1949) asking, \"You know who I could be?\" and Martin replies, \"The Hunchback of Notre Dame?\" Laughton played that role in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939).
* Performers who appear in this film in footage from earlier classic movies include: Edward Arnold, Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, Wally Brown, James Cagney, William Conrad, Jeff Corey, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Brian Donlevy, Kirk Douglas, Ava Gardner, Cary Grant, Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Charles Laughton,Fred MacMurray, Charles McGraw, Ray Milland, Edmond O\'Brien, Vincent Price, Barbara Stanwyck and Lana Turner.
* Steve Martin suggested using footage of William Hartnell, Red Skelton, Jerry Lewis, Jack Benny, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. But Carl Reiner refused, because he felt it would be funnier if they used footage of actors who spent their careers mostly away from comedies.
* When Rigby Reardon (the character played by Steve Martin) finds the \"Top Secret\" Nazi packet labeled \"Final Instructions\", the date on the packet is 14 August 1946. Steve Martin\'s actual birth date is 14 August 1945.