Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid: Special Edition

“That’s the one thing I’ve learned about clients. Dead ones don’t pay their bills.”

Famed scientist and cheesemaker John Hay Forrest has died driving off of a cliff. It seems to be suicide, but the daughter of the noted man, Juliet Forrest (Rachael Ward) suspects something else: murder. That’s where private investigator, Rigby Reardon (Steve Martin) comes in. With the help of Juliet and many familiar faces from memorable Hollywood classics, Rigby follows a complex trail of clues to get to the bottom of Dr. Forrest’s mysterious death. 

"has something for any kind of viewer, but it is absolutely perfect for movie nerds"

It is silly and ridiculous at times, but frankly, Carl Reiner’s parody noir film, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, is a funny and delightful love letter to the film noir movies of the 1940s. If it isn’t already on many film lovers’ list of all-time favorite comedies…well, it should be. The amount of detail and care that went into the production of this film is amazing and has been widely under appreciated for too long. Steve Martin’s face may be on the poster, but the true star of the film is everything that surrounds him.

The lighting. The costumes. The hair and make-up. Apart from its widescreen aspect ratio, this film looks as though it came straight out of the era that it is paying tribute to. The way in which the lighting department was able to match the specific lighting used in the sourced noir films is remarkable, and is not as easy as it may simply sound. The costumes, courtesy of the infamous Edith Head (her final film), are exceptionally accurate. Martin’s suits are in the style of those worn by big stars like Cary Grant or James Stewart. She was also able to even match the pattern and material worn by the characters in the old clips, which can be seen in the “contemporary” over-the-shoulder shots. Those working in hair and make-up did the same in their department. The average viewer might not necessarily catch all of these details, but they are extraordinary and a huge part of why the film works so well.Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid: Special Edition

The editing combined with the dialogue for Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid makes the film exceptionally clever and hilarious. A whole film structured around pre-existing movie clips is quite a great feat, but writers George Gripe, Reiner, and Martin somehow pulled it off. It is a weird structure that at times does increasingly convolute the plot, but it just adds to the hilarity of the movie. Seeing old Hollywood clips used in this comedic context is very entertaining, and as the movie goes on, it is exciting to see what star is going to show up next. Rigby’s responding dialogue to the classic clips is surprisingly witty even though it is, of course, intentionally silly. 

This film, I would say, is a unique gem of classic comedies that has something for any kind of viewer, but it is absolutely perfect for movie nerds. Steve Martin is hilarious (as always), and Rachael Ward wonderfully emulates the leading ladies of the 1940 noir days. It’s got multiple running gags, great one-liners, and even some cross-dressing from Martin himself. And thanks to Kino Lorber, you can laugh and enjoy all of these things and more at home with their newly restored Blu-ray release.

5/5 beers


Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid: Special Edition

Blu-ray Details

Home Video Distributor: Kino Lorber
Available on Blu-ray
- September 21, 2021
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: English SDH
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Steve Martin and Carl Reiner, the ingenious brains behind The Jerk and The Man with Two Brains, team up for Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, the ultimate in comedy-noir. As the private eye of private eyes, Martin is Rigby Reardon. He’s tough, rough and ready to take on anything when Juliet Forrest (Rachel Ward, Sharky’s Machine, The Thorn Birds) appears on the scene with a case: her father, a noted scientist, philanthropist and cheesemaker, has died mysteriously. Reardon immediately smells a rat and follows a complex maze of clues that lead him to the “Carlotta Lists.” By weaving the plot and production design around memorable movie clips, Martin and Reiner summon some familiar friends to assist Reardon: Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Kirk Douglas, Ava Gardner, Cary Grant, Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Burt Lancaster, Charles Laughton, Fred MacMurray, Ray Milland, Vincent Price, Barbara Stanwyck and Lana Turner—just to name a few!


The film is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio with a decent 1920x1080p definition. It has a clean and crisp look, and compared to the previous DVD release, the definition is quite an astounding improvement. However, it does seem a bit of a shame there is not a bit more film grain present, especially when the movie is cut with the scenes of the old noir films used as their imperfections are quite noticeable. But, the contrasts and grey scale of the “new” film look beautiful and consistent. So, overall, it looks very good.


The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track is clear and consistent for most of the picture. There is a noticeable difference between the “new” film and the classic noirs, but that is forgivable since the levels between the clips and the main film do not seem to vary that drastically. All of the dialogue, music, and more come in great.


The supplements are few, but what is included is nevertheless entertaining and appreciated.


  • Included on the disc is brand new audio commentary by filmmaker Allan Arkush and film Historian/filmmaker Daniel Kremer that gives wonderful insight and praise for the production of the film, while also having a very rich film history discussion prompted by much of the classic film clips. Every true film fan will appreciate their discussion and have an even greater appreciation for the film by the end.

Special Features:

Basic, basic stuff, all of which makes this "special edition" limited indeed.

  • 4 Radio Spots
  • 3 TV Spots
  • Buttometer
  • Teaser Trailer
  • Theatrical Trailer

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 2/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

4/5 stars

Film Details

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid: Special Edition

MPAA Rating: PG.
88 mins
: Carl Reiner
Carl Reiner; George Gipe; Steve Martin
Steve Martin; Rachel Ward; Alan Ladd
: Comedy | Crime
Laugh... or I'll blow your lips off!
Memorable Movie Quote: "Can I use her underwear to make soup?"
Theatrical Distributor:
Universal Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
May 21, 1982
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
September 21, 2021.
Synopsis: When a famous cheese maker dies in a freak car crash, his daughter (Rachel Ward) is convinced that it was no accident. She thinks he was murdered for his top-secret cheese recipes. To prove her theory, she hires detective Roy Reardon (Steve Martin). His quest to find out what happened to the missing man brings him face-to-face with movie legends, actors such as Humphrey Bogart, Alan Ladd and Burt Lancaster, via footage from classic film noir and crime films.


Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid: Special Edition