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Friday, January 21, 2011

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (released in 1982) - A homage to the film noir concept, starring Steve Martin

If you take scenes from the pulp detective movies of the 1940's and 50's and create a story based on those, you would get “Dead men don't wear plaid”. Directed by Carl Reiner, this 1982 musical comedy stars Steve Martin and Rachel Ward. The many characters are original actors from yesteryear films like the Exterminator, The killers, Big sleep etc. The footages used involve actors like Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, Ingrid Bergman, Alan Ladd, Kirk Douglas, Ava Gardner, Cary Grant etc. The editor Bud Collins does deserve credit for linking the yesteryear classics with the current footage.
When John Hayward, noted Scientist and cheese maker dies, his daughter Juliet hires the famous detective Rigby to investigate his death. Rigby has his own psychological demons, as he flows in to a rage on hearing the word cleaning lady as his father had run away with one. He almost throttles one in Juliet's house. This one gem of a scene itself is a warning enough for the laughs that may follow. On the crime scene Rigby finds a list named as friends of Carlota and Enemies of Carlotta, and an autographed picture of singer Kitty Collins. Rigby is shot but Juliet saves him by sucking out the bullet (yes thats what happens). Rigby follows Kitty Collins (Ava gardener from killers) who leaves her brooch with the information of Enemies of Carlotta (EOC) in the soup. From Juliet's uncle Sam who had been entrusted with a dollar bill he gets information of Friends of Carlotta (FOC). Soon Rigby is entrenched in a game of deceit and trouble, but with the help of Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart in his masterpiece The Big Sleep) he manages to outwit them all and solves the puzzle.

He finds the scientist father and Juliet in a remote island with their butler who introduces himself as field Marshall Wilfried Von Kluck. John Hayward has invented a cheese whose mold could corrode even the metals and the regrouping Neo Nazis were planning to sink American vessels using this mold. So the FOC were all Nazi Agents and before John could call in the FBI he is abducted and his death faked. So after a lot of hilarious moments the bad guys are vanquished with their hideout.
This movie pays homage to the countless masterpieces of the 40's and 50's and each of those movie scenes are perfectly interlaced with the film. Steve Martin is his usual brilliant self and one can treat this movie as a big laugh riot. He performs with his dead pan comic face which is just amazing. One of my favorite scene is Steve making Java for the hapless Alan Ladd (from movie Sleepless). You feel the giggle forming to a big guffaw with the continuous pouring of coffee and ends with the sucking out of the bullet by Juliet, splendid comedy !
This movie released to full fledged critical and box office acclaim. It may not be a land mark movie like Citizen Kane, but in the annals of movie making it will stand out as a crowd favorite.

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (released in 1982) - A homage to the film noir concept, starring Steve Martin

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