Rigby Reardon (Steve Martin) is the quintessential private eye. A student of Philip Marlowe, the laconic gumshoe is hired by Juliet Forrest (played suprisingly well by Rachel Ward) to investigate the death of her father, a noted scientist, philanthropist and cheesemaker. Reardon immediately smells rats around every corner…
With a little help from his friends – Alan Ladd, Barbara Stanwyck, Ray Milland, Burt Lancaster, Humphrey Bogart, Eva Gardner, Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Charles Laughton, Joan Crawford Veronica Lake, Bette Davis, Lana Turner, Kirk Douglas, Fred McMurray, James Cagney and Vincent Price – Reardon finally gets his man…
This 1982 spoof paid homage to the classic film noirs of the 1940s by cleverly intercutting 19 movies (see the full list below) with Steve Martin (giving one of his best performances) as he works on his baffling case.
Whilst writing the film, Carl Reiner and George Gipe spent countless hours looking for specific shots and ‘listening for a line that was ambiguous enough but had enough meat in it to contribute a line’, while 85 sets were constructed for the movie, much larger than the average film due to the need to edit in and merge the old film footage.
The result is irresistibly silly and exceptionally funny (aside from the misogyny, which was typical of films of the era), while the film’s climax sees Martin co-star with Vincent Price’s villainous Carwood from 1949’s The Bribe, which you can see in full in this gallery.
Available on Blu-ray in the UK from Fabulous Films, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid really makes you want to revisit the classic films spliced into the light-hearted spoof. And here they all are.
Johnny Eager (1941)
Keeper of the Flame (1942) (uncredited)
This Gun for Hire (1942)
The Glass Key (1942)
Double Indemnity (1944)
The Lost Weekend (1945)
The Killers (1946)
The Big Sleep (1946)
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
I Walk Alone (1947)
Dark Passage (1947)
Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)
White Heat (1949)
The Bribe (1949)
In a Lonely Place (1950)