First off, let’s get one thing straight — it was my idea, not the dame’s, okay?
Salome at BNoirDetour is adamant about providing Live Tweet movies on Twitter.com at no charge to her audience. But how could I present a hilarious film noir parody on #SatMat — even if it’s a movie that can only be rented — without getting the BNoirDetour stamp of co-approval?
Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid stars Steve Martin (who co-wrote the movie with director Carl Reiner) as Rigby Reardon, a low-level private eye who might or might not be getting the wool pulled over his eyes by a fulsome femme fatale (the undeniably curvy Rachel Ward). Other than that, about the only thing you need to know about the movie is that, through the miracle of special effects, Martin nonchalantly acts alongside 1940’s versions of noir stars including Cary Grant, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, and too many others to mention.
Even if you’re not thoroughly versed in the elements of noir, Martin’s early-career wackiness is enough to carry you for the movie. His mini-ballet on skinned knees, or his mouthing along to the movie’s scorchy score (by another noir veteran, Miklos Rozsa), are just a couple of the movie’s comedy highlights.
So please join us this Saturday at 4:30 p.m. EST at Twitter.com, and use the hashtag #SatMat to follow along and comment on the movie. You’ll need to pay a rental fee to YouTube ($2.99) or Amazon.com ($3.99) to watch the movie, but it’s a small price to pay for big laughs, so cough up the dough, ya mug!
I liked Steve Martin when Steve Martin wasn’t cool (in the movies, at least). After his surprising box-office success in The Jerk (1979), Martin went the Woody Allen route and lost his way with his audience for a while — including Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, a film noir spoof that earned middling box-office. I found it one of the funniest comedies of its year.
Martin (who co-wrote with director Carl Reiner) plays Rigby Reardon, a 1940’s gumshoe in the Bogart style. (In fact, via interspliced film footage, Martin constantly chastizes Bogart about his downtrodden appearance.) Reardon helps a gorgeous femme fatale (Rachel Ward at her most voluptuous) to solve the mystery of her scientist father’s disappearance.
This is mostly an excuse to throw Martin together in (seemingly, and seamlessly) the same scene with old film clips of Bogart, Cary Grant, and other noir stars. The gimmick isn’t always hilarious, but at the very least it’s fun to watch. But Martin manages to be quite hilarious on his own — doing a schizoid ballet on skinned knees, or nonchalantly “adjusting” (i.e. groping) Ward’s ample breasts. The later Reiner/Martin collaboration All of Me (1984) proved to the world what a flawless physical comedian Martin could be, but there’s ample display of his talent here.
Reiner and veteran composer Miklos Rosza (Double Indemnity) also deserve credit for evoking noir moods about as lovingly as you could ask for. The movie is filled with shadowy corners and appropriately slithery music. (Check out the scene where Rosza duplicates Martin’s expression of the phrase “cleaning woman.”) Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid — the title is explained within the movie, by the way, but it doesn’t help — is an overlooked but delightful entry in the Martin canon.