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Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid
USA 1982
Directed by Carl Reiner
Running time 88 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


Steve Martin plays Rigby Reardon, a world weary Raymond Chandleresque private eye who gets hired by a beautiful dame (Rachel Ward), to investigate her father’s death in this clever spoof of 1940s film noir thrillers.

Although some of the jokes are wincingly off-colour, for the most part Martin’s combination of dry delivery and taut physicality works well and there are many genuinely amusing moments. For film buffs the real fun, however, is in the skilful  intersplicing and matching of lots of clips from 40s classics such as The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity to form a narrative whole that actually makes sense. Lana Turner, Ava Gardner, Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis and Ray Milland amongst others end up being players in a film that successfully emulates the style of the originals (including costumes by Edith Head and music by Miklós Rózsa) while at the same time maintaining an absurdist tongue-in-cheek élan.

Rachel Ward obligingly enters into the spirit of things in what was probably the highest profile film of her career whilst director Carl Reiner appears as a stereotypically demented SS officer.

 

 

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