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Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (Kino Lorber) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (Kino Lorber) Blu-ray Review



    Released by: Kino Lorber
    Released on: September 21st 2021.
    Director: Carl Reiner
    Cast: Alan Ladd, Steve Martin, Rachel Ward, Carl Reiner, Reni Santoni
    Year: 1982
    Purchase From Amazon

    Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid - Movie Review:

    Directed by Carl Reiner from a script he co-wrote with George Gipe and leading man Steve Martin, 1982's Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, is an amusing homage/parody of the classic noir and thriller pictures made in the forties and fifties, in fact, it goes so far as to actually incorporate footage from a few classics into the actual narrative itself.

    Martin plays a private eye named Rigby Reardon, a tough and grizzled man of the world who smokes too much, drinks a fair bit and has an eye for the ladies. When beautiful Juliet Forrest (Rachel Ward) walks into his office and passes out, he's kind enough to adjust her breasts (the fall put them out of whack), after which she talks to him about a job. She wants to hire him to find out who killed her father - a famous scientist, philanthropist and cheesemaker- and why. She isn't convinced that the car crash that took his life in the film's opening scene was an accident. He asks for ten dollars a day and she gives him two hundred in cash up front, and they're off.

    Reardon knows pretty early on that there's more to this case than meets the eye and he enlists the aid of his pal Marlowe (Humphry Bogart) to help him out. When Rigby discovers a piece of paper with 'The Friends and Enemies of Carlotta' scrawled on it, he slowly but surely starts to put together the pieces of the puzzle. To figure it all out, he'll have to visit old friends and old flames alike, impersonate a beautiful blonde and stay far away from anything to do with cleaning ladies, until the time is right.

    Featuring appearances from the likes of Ingrid Bergman, James Cagney, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Kirk Douglas, Ava Gardner, Cary Grant, Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Edward Arnold, Burt Lancaster (as Swede Anderson!), an extra-greasy Charles Laughton (as 'The Fat One Who Sweats A Lot'), Fred MacMurray, Ray Milland, Vincent Price, Barbara Stanwyck, William Conrad, Edmund O'Brien, Lana Turner and the aforementioned Humphry Bogart, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid relies more on Martin and Ward, with some supporting work from Reiner himself and a very funny Reni Santoni. And the two leads handle things very well. Martin actually suits the part of an old school noir film detective pretty well, he looks right in the costume and while obviously the emphasis of his performance is on the comedic side of things, he proves the right choice to play Rigby. He and Ward, who looks great all dolled up here in period attire, sexy, mysterious and just as game for handling the funny stuff as Martin is.

    The movie starts off very strong, it's pace is quick and the jokes come fast, usually very effective as well. That said, the movie does slowdown in its second half, never getting tedious but definitely limping a bit, though things do pick up quite nicely in the last ten minutes or so and the ending redeems things quite nicely. Despite the pacing problems, Reiner and company do a good job of incorporating footage from films like Suspicion, The Killers, In A Lonely Place, The Glass Key, The Lost Weekend, This Gun For Hire, Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, I Walk Alone and quite a few more. The film stock varies a few times so it isn't particularly tough to figure out where the inserts occur even if you aren't familiar with the films in question, but it works pretty well overall.

    Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid - Blu-ray Review:

    Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid arrives on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber on a 25GB region free disc with the feature taking up 28.8GBs of space on the 50GB disc and framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. Presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition taken from what we can only assume is an older existing master supplied by Universal Studios. Some mild to moderate digital noise reduction has been applied here, giving skin an artificially smooth appearance and resulting in some smearing and blurring in background detail. Contrast looks good but there's some frequent and noticeable crush present throughout. Compression is handled well enough and this definitely looks better than DVD would have, but a new master would have been very welcome as the movie could have looked a lot better than it does here.

    Audio for the feature is handled by an English language 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track, with optional subtitles offered in English only. Audio quality is more than solid, there's good depth to the track and the score sounds great. The audio quality is nice and clean and the dialogue always easy to understand and follow, no problems with any hiss or distortion to note here.

    The main extra on the disc is a new audio commentary by filmmaker Allan Arkush and film historian/filmmaker Daniel Kremer. When these guys are on topic, the track is interesting. They cover the use of inserts from the older movies fairly nicely and offer up a lot of detail on the cast and crew members as well as Reiner's directing style and lots more. Unfortunately they go off topic on a fairly regular basis.

    The disc also includes four radio spots, three TV spots, a Buttometer teaser trailer, a theatrical trailer, bonus trailers for A Simple Twist Of Fate and Where's Poppa?, menus and chapter selection options.

    Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid - The Final Word:

    Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid is neither Reiner nor Martin's best work but it is a creative and often times very funny send up of classic film noir tropes. Kino's release would have been better with a newer transfer, but that didn't happen. The audio is solid and the commentary offers some value. Not an amazing release, but the movie is pretty fun and for now this is the best way to see it, even if it leaves a fair bit of room for improvement.

    Click on the images below for full sized Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid Blu-ray screen caps!





























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