Monday, August 11, 2008

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid


Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid; Comedy, USA, 1982; D: Carl Reiner, S: Steve Martin, Rachel Ward, Reni Santoni, Carl Reiner, Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, Joan Crawford, Ray Milland, Ava Gardner, Ingrid Bergman, Veronica Lake

John Hay Forrest, a famous cheese scientist, dies in a car accident. The private detective Rigby Reardon is then hired by Forrest's daughter Juliet to investigate the suspicious death. Rigby spies on the dashing Kitty, discovering a list of numerous people. He gets shoot in the arm, but Juliet sucks out the bullet out of him. He also hires his assistant Marlowe to help him on the case. After numerous questioning, he discovers that Nazis were behind all in order to use giant cheese mold to attack the US. But Rigby stops them and falls in love with Juliet.

Director Carl Reiner made a fascinating little parody of the film noir classics incorporating archive footage of old actors who all, willingly or unwillingly, participated in "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid", yet on one hand the comic author seems very clever, but on the other he seems rather dumb since he fills the film with bellow average, cheap gags. One has to praise the authors for constructing the story so that it can fit in numerous scenes from over 20 classic films, from "The Killers" through "This Gun for Hire" up to "Humoresque", because even though the plot is nonsensical and seems to go vaguely from one film to another like a ping-pong ball, it testifies that it's authors were big cineasts who watched classic films carefully and managed to organize all those scenes to use them.

One of the funniest scenes of this inter cut idea is when Rigby (Steve Martin) talks with Edward Arnold (from his clip from the film "Johnny Eager") and gives him a little dog as a present, but Arnold tells him to get out and "pick it up", "alluding" to the dog feces left behind in his office. There are also quite charming and funny moments, like when Rigby meets Cary Grant in a train and makes him fall asleep using his mouth harmonica or when he tells his associate Humphrey Bogart to wear a tie, managing to pick up the quality and flair of those films. But, while those interaction scenes work, the scenes playing out in the modern, original story don't, because Reiner inserted a few vulgar jokes, like "adjusting your breasts" or "adjusting your willie", that wreck the mood and simply don't seem faithful to the classic films that inspired the story. Still, even though the slalom between highbrow and lowbrow humor seems uneven, the movie is quite fun.

Grade:++

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