Film: Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid
Guns don't kill detectives — love does.
1982 Film Noir
parody. Its central joke is the use of Stock Footage
from well-known '40s movies (mostly noirs, though the women's melodrama Humoresque
somehow crept in) to construct editing gags in both visuals (skillful cutting, stand-ins, and identical sets and costumes bring modern actors into classic scenes) and dialogue (pre-existing lines are recontextualized to the point of bizarrerie).
It stars Steve Martin
and Rachel Ward . . . and Ava Gardner, and Ingrid Bergman, and Fred MacMurray, and so forth. And, when you think about it, was directed by Carl Reiner ... and Robert Siodmak, and Alfred Hitchcock
, and Billy Wilder
, and so forth. The film had the luck of hiring veteran costumer Edith Head, who also did the costumes from most of the original films used. She passed shortly after, and the film is affectionately dedicated to her memory and to the people who worked on the films of the 40s and 50s. As a coincidence, it was also the last feature film of composer Miklós Rózsa
, who partly wrote music for scenes he had already scored 40 years before...
Most of the old-footage interactions are one-shots with characters who do not return. This was probably due to the limited number of potentially funny scenes in each of the source films, rather than a deliberate choice, but it actually manages to replicate the episodic, loosely-plotted feel of some low-budget noirs.
The Bogart and Ava Gardner characters do
appear several times throughout the story. The final section, set in a South American village, is more unified than the rest of the film because all of its pre-existing footage comes from one movie (The Bribe
), creating a consistent visual style and allowing the three imported characters (played by Gardner, Charles Laughton, and Vincent Price
) to refer to one another by name.
Many scenes in the film contain no old footage; these advance the plot, such as it is, but their broad humor is at odds with the subtler editing gags.
This film provides examples of:
- Affectionate Parody
- Adventure Rebuff: Juliette volunteers to spy for Rigby Reardon. He refuses telling her, "You're not blonde enough".
- Alliterative Name: Rigby Reardon, Doris Devermont and going by pronunciation, Kitty Collins.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Juliette asks Reardon to quit investigating her father's death:
Rigby Reardon: Why? Because I've been roughed up a little?
Juliette Forrest: You've also been shot, drugged...and probably had to go to bed with women you didn't know.
- Bang Bang BANG: Dated gun sound effects are used as part of the Homage
- Berserk Button: "Cleaning Woman! Cleaning Woman!! CLEANING WOMAN?!!! CLEANING WOMAN?!!!"
- Blessed Are the Cheesemakers
- Bloodless Carnage: For a guy who is beaten up and shot three times, Rigby doesn't bleed much. Done as an Homage to old Hollywood movies.
- Brick Joke: Reardon's Berserk Button helps him defeat the Big Bad in the end.
- "It's alright, it's only a bullet! My wife will suck it out later!"
- The Butler Did It
- Chekhov's Skill: Julliette's knowledge of the German language.
- Chekhov's Gunman: The Butler
- Comedic Sociopathy: Detective Reardon is a disturbed individual, only funny.
- Crapsack World: "It was a street of frustrated hopes and broken dreams. Everything was cheap, cut-rate. Even the prostitutes were having a sale."
- Deliberately Monochrome
- Disguised in Drag: Rigby Reardon. Twice.
Juliette Forrest: I'm beginning to think you enjoy dressing up as a woman.
- Dude, She's Like, in a Coma!: Rigby Reardon gropes Juliette just after she passes out, in the first scene of the movie. Played for Laughs. She gets him back at the end, though.
- Every Man Has His Price: Naturally occurs in The Bribe scene.
Rigby Reardon: Sorry, but my price for leaving stinking towns is 11,500 and a kiss on the lips from Carmen Miranda.
- Reardon tries this in the I Walk Alone scene.
Rigby Reardon: What's he paying you boys? I'll double it and we'll beat the shit out of him.
- Fainting: In the opening scene, Juliette faints at the sight of a front page newspaper headline proclaiming her father's death. Reardon thinks she fainted because of the sports headline that read "Dodgers Lose Again".
- Reardon pretends to faint after he is shot by a gunman in Dr. Forrest's office. He faints for real once he reaches Julliette's house.
Butler: Are you all right? You look as though you're going to faint.
Rigby Reardon: Faint? Never...catch me.
Butler: Sorry. I'm a butler. Not a catcher.
- Film Noir: Lots of 'em
- Follow That Cab
- Fun with Acronyms: "But what does 'FOC' mean?"
Rigby Reardon: It's a slang word. It's when a man and a woman are in love, the man puts his...
Juliette Forrest: No, no. It's written here: "F. O. C."
Rigby Reardon: Unless I miss my guess, that stands for "Friends Of Carlotta".
- SHH doesn't mean "be quiet". It actually stands for Samuel H. Hastings.
- Gainaxing: Juliette Forrest may have this ability considering that when she fainted, her breasts "shifted all out of whack"...or so Rigby Reardon claims.
- Gender-Blender Name: "When I arrived at Mr. Huberman's I was surprised. Mr. Huberman turned out to be a sexy dame who was throwing a party."
- GPS Evidence: Every single bit of evidence seems to have Reardon driving across town to interview somebody.
- Hardboiled Detective: Rigby Reardon, the lead character. It is a film noir after all.
- Hollywood Healing: See Suck Out the Poison
- Homage: To classic Hollywood Film Noir. Also to The Three Stooges.
- Humphrey Bogart: As Marlowe, Reardon's legman.
- In Memoriam: A quite touching one to Edith Head. This was the final film that the legendary costume designer (and winner of the most Oscars in history) worked on, and fittingly her work is also featured in many of the clips.
- Just Between You and Me vs. The Summation: The villain and the hero get into an argument over who gets to deliver the exposition of the villain's plot, invoking both of these tropes. They end up shouting them over each other.
- Mickey Finn: F X Huberman slips Reardon one.
- Mistaken for Gay: Juliette and Cody Jarrett's mother kiss passionately as three prison guards look on. They don't know that the mother is actually Rigby Reardon in disguise.
- Noodle Incident: "My last case I had to throw my own brother out of an airplane. Poor sap."
- One-Scene Wonder: Several of the actors in the stock footage.
- Only a Flesh Wound: Reardon is shot in the arm repeatedly. In the same exact spot.
- Over the Shoulder: The camera technique that makes most of the interactions possible.
- Overly Long Gag: Reardon's method for making "java." It goes on so long he himself gets bored.
- Private Eye Monologue: Parodied
Rigby Reardon: On my way to the Firehouse place I tried not to think of Juliet Forest. I hadn't seen a body put together like that since I solved the case of the murdered girl with the big tits.
- Product Placement: Probably not. But in one scene, Reardon sings the old Barbasol shaving cream jingle.
- There's also a box of Brut cologne in Reardon's medicine cabinet.
- Rule of Three: Reardon goes berserk and gets shot three times.
- Sequel Hook: Strictly a joke:
Little did I realize that less than a year later, she and I would have an even more exciting adventure, which is coming soon to your neighborhood theater — with a possible nude scene by Juliette.
- (This is also an homage to Godard's Bande a Part.)
- Stock Footage: In this case, footage from well-known movies.
- Stuffed into a Trashcan
- Suck Out the Poison: Or the bullet, in this case.
- Those Wacky Nazis
- Three Stooges Shout-Out
- Throw-Away Country: Terre Haute, Indiana. And they were just about to get a public library...
- Title Drop: Marlowe told him the title as a complete non-sequitur.
Rigby Reardon: I still don't know what it means.
- Vincent Price: as Kitty Collins' accomplice Rice.
- Wholesome Crossdresser: Rigby is a little too insistent on taking female undercover jobs.
- Xtreme Kool Letterz: "Carlotta was the kind of town where they spell trouble T-R-U-B-I-L. And if you try to correct them, they kill you".