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Robert Harris

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There's a story (possibly apocryphal, that a Carl Reiner ran into Howard Hawks at the Universal commissary in late in 1944, just after The Big Sleep went into production nearby at Warners.

Hawks had recently completed To Have and Have Not, and the two got into a discussion of noir projects - as Hawks had with Faulkner about horror. Hawks had Bogart and just about anyone else he desired for Big Sleep, but Reiner made a bet that he could do a bigger, better and (strangely) funnier project.

And thus came about one of the truly great Hollywood noir comedies - Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, which opened at the Chinese in October of 1946.

Reiner had called in every favor owed, and pulled together an extraordinary cast. Where Hawks had Bogart, Bacall, Martha ("She tried to sit in my lap while I was standing up") Vickers, and Dorothy Malone...

Reiner was able to pull in talent for bits (adding measurably to foreign pre-sales) from the likes of Alan Ladd, Barbara Stanwyck, Ray Milland, Ava Gardner, Burt Lancaster, Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Veronica Lake, Bette Davis, Lana Turner, Edward Arnold, Kirk Douglas, Fred MacMurray, James Cagney, Joan Crawford, Charles Laughton, Vincent Price, William Conrad, Charles McGraw, Jeff Corey, John Miljan, Brian Donlevy, Norma Varden, Edmond O'Brien, and a special one-up to his friend Hawks, Humphrey Bogart.

The film turned out to be comic masterpiece, which several of the actors apparently never fully understood, and also confused critics.

It wouldn't be for another 36 years for the film to blossom and find a proper audience, when it was re-cut at Universal, adding some modern players - Steve Martin and Rachel Ward - and finally winning over audiences.

It's actually a bit difficult to discern some of the added material, which unlike Ambersons and a totally different photographic style, had Michael Chapman perfectly lighting and reproducing the work John Seitz.

One for the ages, and finally available via Kino, albeit via an older transfer.

My advice, grab a copy, sit back and don't pixel peep.


Image – 4

Audio – 5

Pass / Fail – Pass

Upgrade from DVD - Yes

Highly Recommended

RAH
 

Robert Crawford

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Funny story, I do wonder how many will take the bait? As to this movie, I found out that those old movie excerpts were taken from the various trailers which is why they didn't look as good as the rest of the movie. It was a cheap way to not having to pay royalties to the various right's holders. According to Eddie Muller, during a "Noir City" screening some years ago of "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid", Reiner was very unhappy as he thought the film looked like crap due to those trailer excerpts not being of the same quality as the rest of the movie.
 

Robert Harris

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Funny story, I do wonder how many will take the bait? As to this movie, I found out that those old movie excerpts were taken from the various trailers which is why they didn't look as good as the rest of the movie. It was a cheap way to not having to pay royalties to the various right's holders. According to Eddie Muller, during a "Noir City" screening some years ago of "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid", Reiner was very unhappy as he thought the film looked like crap due to those trailer excerpts not being of the same quality as the rest of the movie.
I don't believe that they're all trailer bits, as Universal owns many of the Paramount noirs.
 

Thomas T

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When Reiner contacted Miklos Rozsa about doing the score, Rozsa turned him down saying "I don't do comedies". Reiner explained he didn't want a comedy score but wanted Rozsa to score the film as if he were actually scoring a 1940s film noir. Rozsa took the challenge and the film is all the better for it. It was also the last film of the legendary Edith Head.
 

Robert Harris

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When Reiner contacted Miklos Rozsa about doing the score, Rozsa turned him down saying "I don't do comedies". Reiner explained he didn't want a comedy score but wanted Rozsa to score the film as if he were actually scoring a 1940s film noir. Rozsa took the challenge and the film is all the better for it. It was also the last film of the legendary Edith Head.
and it's a wonderful score
 

Bryan^H

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There's a story (possibly apocryphal, that a Carl Reiner ran into Howard Hawks at the Universal commissary in late in 1944, just after The Big Sleep went into production nearby at Warners.

Hawks had recently completed To Have and Have Not, and the two got into a discussion of noir projects - as Hawks had with Faulkner about horror. Hawks had Bogart and just about anyone else he desired for Big Sleep, but Reiner made a bet that he could do a bigger, better and (strangely) funnier project.

And thus came about one of the truly great Hollywood noir comedies - Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, which opened at the Chinese in October of 1946.

Reiner had called in every favor owed, and pulled together an extraordinary cast. Where Hawks had Bogart, Bacall, Martha ("She tried to sit in my lap while I was standing up") Vickers, and Dorothy Malone...

Reiner was able to pull in talent for bits (adding measurably to foreign pre-sales) from the likes of Alan Ladd, Barbara Stanwyck, Ray Milland, Ava Gardner, Burt Lancaster, Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Veronica Lake, Bette Davis, Lana Turner, Edward Arnold, Kirk Douglas, Fred MacMurray, James Cagney, Joan Crawford, Charles Laughton, Vincent Price, William Conrad, Charles McGraw, Jeff Corey, John Miljan, Brian Donlevy, Norma Varden, Edmond O'Brien, and a special one-up to his friend Hawks, Humphrey Bogart.

The film turned out to be comic masterpiece, which several of the actors apparently never fully understood, and also confused critics.

It wouldn't be for another 36 years for the film to blossom and find a proper audience, when it was re-cut at Universal, adding some modern players - Steve Martin and Rachel Ward - and finally winning over audiences.

It's actually a bit difficult to discern some of the added material, which unlike Ambersons and a totally different photographic style, had Michael Chapman perfectly lighting and reproducing the work John Seitz.

One for the ages, and finally available via Kino, albeit via an older transfer.

My advice, grab a copy, sit back and don't pixel peep.


Image – 4

Audio – 5

Pass / Fail – Pass

Upgrade from DVD - Yes

Highly Recommended


RAH
I just watched an episode of "At The Movies" with Siskel, and Ebert the other day in which both well respected critics gave it a big "NO" recommendation. I was saddened by what I was hearing. how could they?
 
Last edited:

AnthonyClarke

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This is such a wonderful movie. We love it to bits. And thanks Robert for the info on its literally incredible genesis. I never knew .....
I've recounted somewhere else how while sharing more than one wine of glass with actor Bryan Brown in a little menage a trois with my old mate Michael Leunig, (a little name-dropping for benefit of my fellow Aussies here) I mentioned how totally attracted I was to his gorgeous wife Rachel Ward in 'Dead Men'. "Just don't get too attracted" he warned in a very menacing way. What an actor (I think). What a movie.
 

Paul Penna

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I just watched an episode of "At The Movies" with Siskel, and Ebert the other day in which both well respected critics gave it a big "NO" recommendation. I was saddened by what I was hearing. how could they?
Which is why, in the vast majority of cases when I read a movie review (which is a rare occurrence in the first place) I do it for amusement purposes only.
 

bugsy-pal

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This is such a wonderful movie. We love it to bits. And thanks Robert for the info on its literally incredible genesis. I never knew .....
I've recounted somewhere else how while sharing more than one wine of glass with actor Bryan Brown in a little menage a trois with my old mate Michael Leunig, (a little name-dropping for benefit of my fellow Aussies here) I mentioned how totally attracted I was to his gorgeous wife Rachel Ward in 'Dead Men'. "Just don't get too attracted" he warned in a very menacing way. What an actor (I think). What a movie.
As a fellow Aussie, I like your anecdote and your name-dropping.
 

Moleman X

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Rob Peace
I'm still wishing for an open matte (4x3) release, for that full period effect (and so the original clips aren't cropped.)
 
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John C Simpson
Looking over the Blu Ray Special Features I'm disappointed that they didn't mention the deleted footage that was shown on the TV broadcast version a while back.
The new commentary sounds interesting although I wish Steve Martin and the late Carl Reiner had recorded a commentary or short video feature of what the creative process for DMDWP was like.
The closest thing I've found is this Q&A session filmed about a year before he died but it's kind of difficult to understand and painful to watch.
 
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Mr. Handley

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I saw this film in the theater back then. I must say that I think Siskel & Ebert were right on the money on this one. A concept that was interesting, but couldn't sustain a feature length film. Just not enough laughs for me, given the talent involved.
 

Matt Hough

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I might not have laughed as much as I was expecting to, but as a film buff, I was continually trying to match the clips to their films as they appeared. There were a couple I didn't know at the time (The Bribe, for instance), and I was just mortified that I was not able to place every clip.
 

Matt Hough

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I rewatched my Blu-ray tonight. I have to admit a simple bit of phsyical business early on made me laugh out loud: when Rachel falls into Steve's arms right at the start, he shakes her in a very funny, rather klutzy way to see if she'll wake up. Something about the way he just jostled her in his arms hit me as being very funny. I did note this time around that the clips do vary wildly in quality and most aren't as smooth and sharp as the recent footage. Too bad they couldn't employ digital techniques to match up the look of the clips with the new footage.

And having seen The Bribe recently on Noir Alley, it was easy to see where those excerpts were used.
 

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