I confess not to be a big fan of  Steve Martin, an actor whose comedies I find to be too often on the exaggeration side of the joke, playing all the time almost in the same register. Yet, Carl Reiner‘s Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid is in many instances a charm, and it also succeeds to be funny and respectful in its reverence to the film noir movies of the 40s and 50s.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083798/

 

Even the much younger Steve Martin, with black hair and sparkling eyes looks here completely fresh as private eye Rigby Reardon, hired to solve a Californian mystery which combines all the 1940s detective novels that you may have read and the films inspired by them all together. The trick used by director Reiner is to take full scenes from original film noir movies, mix, edit and insert them into his own story line. Martin gets the privilege to talk and interact with the greater idols of the genre, from Humphrey Bogart to Cary Grant, while the feminine interest is being triggered by such divine silhouettes as Ingrid Bergman or Ava Gardner. Borrowed scenes come from famous movies like Notorious, Suspicion, or The Big Sleep, but you need not worry, there is no real scary stuff, it is all fun.

 

(video source 86sterjo)

 

I do not know if Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid received any award, but the cinematography, editing and make-up are all amazing. The look with the original scenes filmed in black-and-white strongly reminds The Artist, but only a fraction of the scenes are original, the majority are cut from various sources, and combined, so that the heroes of the film talk and interact with the original film characters. It’s a smart idea and it is almost flawlessly executed, so that the film runs smoothly. I said the film, not the story, which is a parody, and there is no mandatory minimal dose of logic in a parody. Best for future viewers is to take this film for what it is – a big joke, but an elaborated one, combined with an homage for a literary and cinematographic genre that thrilled many generations.