(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was for a “book spine” poem made up of book titles. In this case, I strung together movie titles, which are underlined, with the perfect movie for this kind of composite idea.)


This gun for hire, Rigby Reardon knows indeed the facts of life,
That little women seeking justice bring a touch of class and strife.
In the bedroom, on the town, and everywhere pulp fiction goes,
The cheap detective gets his man, although how only heaven knows.

One time, his dangerous liaisons, full of dark secrets & lies,
Brought a new fatal attraction, sure to tempt the other guys.
The mission stuck, but was her father missing or a saboteur?
The hours spent in sly suspicion made him fall in love with her.

The night and the city complement the risky business of a sleuth:
The malice of the usual suspects running from the awful truth,
The prestige of that awkward moment when a wrong turn stalls the chase,
The signs that stink like my left foot and help the clueless crack the case.

MPAA rating: PG (probably could be PG-13 due to innuendo)

Boasting a genius idea that seems ripe for a modern incarnation, Carl Reiner’s Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid lets Steve Martin play hard-boiled detective while interacting with extracted clips from various old movies of the 1940s. While names and key events are drawn mainly from 1949’s The Bribe, fans of classic film noir will also recognize scenes from The Killers, Double Indemnity, White Heat, and The Postman Always Rings Twice, among others. I for one am not well-versed in the black-and-white classics, and the only one that I’ve actually seen is Hitchcock’s Notorious, the scene from which I didn’t even recognize. Part of the fun, though, is playing “name that face” as stars like Cary Grant, Kirk Douglas, Charles Laughton, and Humphrey Bogart grace the screen.

Of course, this is a spoof, and while Martin’s comedic talents aren’t at their best, he’s still effortlessly amusing, as is Rachel Ward as the alluring femme fatale. Certain gags get funnier with repetition, especially when they’re fused into the old films, and my life is now fuller having witnessed Steve Martin shave his tongue.

A lot of praise is also owed to the set and costume designers, who matched everything from crowds to crown molding with what is seen in the old footage. Old film noirs have a habit of shooting scenes over a character’s shoulder which lends itself to the interactions on display, and the costumes brilliantly uphold the illusion. While those less interested in vintage movies may not get as much out of it, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid is a cleverly mounted parody.

Best line: (Rigby) “All dames are alike: they reach down your throat so they can grab your heart, pull it out, and they throw it on the floor, and they step on it with their high heels. They spit on it, shove it in the oven, and they cook the s*** out of it. Then they slice it into little pieces, slam it on a hunk of toast, and they serve it to you. And they expect you to say, ‘Thanks, honey, it’s delicious.’”


Rank: List Runner-Up


© 2016 S. G. Liput

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