#265 Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982)

Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid is built on the premise of mixing clips from classic film noir movies together with new footage shot in black and white to match the scenes and lighting of the old movies.

Here Steve Martin plays a hard boiled, but goofy detective and Rachel Ward the mysterious femme fatale giving him an assignment leading him up against hard boiled gangsters. The play with the clichés of the lowest common denominator is apparent here.

Unlike today, back in 1982 film editing, and all the source movie material wasn’t available for everyone and it took much more planning and manual work to pull this kind of work through. In that context Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid is a fairly smooth experience. But, in the context of this day and age – when video editing is available for even the preschoolers – Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid’s pasting together old movie clips with new ones doesn’t feel that impressive at all.

The Blu-Ray also reveals that the flawed end result with old movie clips looking distinctly more blurry between cuts compared to the newer footage, and audible hiss appearing and disappearing whenever old sound vs a new one is being used.

With the story tied to the old clips, the overall plot also feels very patchy and self-indulgent, and doesn’t make an interesting watch excluding the end which relies less on the old material. The few jokes scattered around are mostly ok, but never side-splittingly funny.

In the end, it’s a shame. Martin (with his hair dyed black here) actually makes a pretty good film noir star and based on what’s seen here he could’ve easily supported a full length movie by himself, instead making of a 90-minute prolonged joke, a cheap mock of the classic film noir movies.