Steve Martin stars in this intricately structured and thoroughly entertaining spoof on Hollywood's private eye movies. He plays Rigby Reardon, a dapper, certainly no overworked sleuth who is hired by an alluring young woman (Rachel Ward) to look into the death of her father, a celebrated scientist, philanthropist, and cheese-maker. When things get tough, Rigby finds that her expertise at sucking bullets out of his shoulder can be very helpful not to mention sexy.
Director Carl Reiner (who co-wrote the screenplay with George Gipe and Steve Martin) gives this very funny movie a special twist by integrating into the storyline clips from 18 other 1940s movies. Hence, Humphrey Bogart appears as a rumpled assistant to Reardon (actual scenes from In a Lonely Place, Dark Passage, and The Big Sleep). From over the shoulder points-of-view and through nifty editing tricks, other superstars from yesteryear (Alan Ladd, Ray Milland, Burt Lancaster, Barbara Stanwyck, Cary Grant, Ava Gardner, Ingrid Bergman, James Cagney, and Bette Davis) appear opposite Martin.
Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid is one film which works as well on the screen as it must have first seemed on the drawing boards. Steve Martin delivers a top-notch performance. Rachel Ward (Sharkey's Machine), a new female screen-star, gives ample evidence of her abundant beauty and talent. Editor Bud Molin and cinematographer Martin Chapman deserve high praise for their Herculean efforts at making the mix of old clips with new footage blend together so successfully. This escapist film fare is just the right tonic for those afflicted with spring fever.