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USA 1982
Directed by
Carl Reiner
88 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid

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. For $10 a day and expenses he takes the job.

Although some of the so-called jokes are wincingly off-colour, for the most part Martin’s combination of pulp fiction narration and taut onscreen physicality works well and there are many genuinely amusing moments in this cleverly-executed spoof of 1940s film noir thrillers. For noir buffs especially the real fun is in the skilful intersplicing and precise matching of lots of clips from '40s classics such as The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity with the newly-shot material to form a narrative whole that actually makes sense. Thus, 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, both staples of the era) 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.

Available from: Shock Entertainment




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