‘Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid’

Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982) looks good for a film released in 1982. It’s constructed from new footage edited in with old film noir clips. The producers hired technicians who’d worked on the original movies to get the right match for the black and white film, the lighting, and the costumes.

The result is a pastiche and a homage that works well. It’s a funny film although some of the sexual gags don’t translate as well from 1982 into a post #metoo world.

The film plays on the clichés of film noir, the silly handwritten clues on torn pieces of paper, the flirtatious small talk, stereotypical killers, and Nazi henchmen.

Steve Martin’s comic character ensures that the film never gets too arty for its own good. The comedy is on the silliness level akin to a Naked Gun film.

The continual switching back and forth between vintage clips and Steve Martin’s sendups comes at a price. It stops the film from changing pace or going beyond its one joke. As a result, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid is a one trick pony, even if it’s a mostly funny one trick pony that’s been cleverly put together.