Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 24-Dec-2001

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1982
Running Time 84:54
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Carl Reiner

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Steve Martin
Rachel Ward
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Miklos Rozsa

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid is a comedy built around the great detective films of the 1940s. Filmed in black and white, it very cleverly uses actual footage from this period. This footage is intercut with new footage, and the old dialogue interwoven with the new. The end result is a very funny and clever movie. Our star is none other than Steve Martin, which gives a pretty clear indication of the type of comedy that you are going to see in this film.

    The intercut footage is in amazing condition considering its age, although you can pick when they use the original footage due to the difference in the level of grain and the amount of contrast. Having said that, you are in fact far too busy trying to pick the actor involved and the film from which they have lifted the scenes to bother with worrying about minor technical quality differences in the footage. Humphrey Bogart, Alan Ladd, Vincent Price and Barbara Stanwyck footage is used, just to mention some of the great names that are in this film.

    Rigby Reardon (Steve Martin) is a tough private eye of the type that they only made in the 1940s; tough and ready for action, and able to keep up a constant monologue voiceover. He is hired by the beautiful Juliet Forrest (Rachel Ward) to investigate her father's death. While trying not to fall in love with his client, Rigby's investigations lead him on a dangerous path through the film noir. He is beaten up, shot (more than once), and drugged as he follows a maze of clues towards the climax of the film.

    The jokes come thick and fast. Some are 'groaners' and some will have you laughing out loud. Some of the funniest moments are the new dialogue that is played against the original dialogue from the original films. If Steve Martin humour is your cup of tea then you will enjoy this film.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


   Considering the age of this film it is in surprisingly good condition.

    We are presented with a 1.85:1 transfer. According to the IMDB this is the original aspect ratio. Unfortunately, it is not 16x9 enhanced. Those with 16x9 capable display devices are not going to be happy.

    Sharpness is good throughout the film for the new footage, but the older footage does vary somewhat. Shadow detail follows a similar pattern with the new footage having good shadow detail. There is no low level noise.

    Colour - well, there isn't any. While this may sound odd, black and white footage can suffer from tinting or other colour problems, but this transfer does not suffer with any of these issues. This film will also test out the colour balance of your display device (as you should only see neutral greys from the transfer, not colours).

    Even though this is a single layer disc, the image is free of any MPEG artefacts. The bits saved on the mono audio tracks and the easy-to-compress black bars combined with the lack of extras have given us a good video image. The image on screen is quite detailed and smooth. Some fast motion is blurred a very small amount but this is really not distracting. There is a tiny amount of aliasing which won't be seen unless you have a large display. There are some film artefacts, the new footage has some flecks and marks and the older footage has a few more along with a couple of scratches.

    The English subtitles are described as being for "Deaf and Hard of Hearing". The dialogue was accurate, but there were less ambient noise descriptions than I have seen before. They were easy to read and single line entries appeared in the black bar below the picture. Double line entries were placed with one line on the picture. There are six other language subtitles on this disc as listed above.

    This is a single layered disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are two audio tracks on this disc, both mono; English Dolby Digital 2.0 (mono) and German Dolby Digital 2.0 (mono). I listened to the English soundtrack. The audio is a little disappointing overall, lacking in any real dynamics but this is more than made up for by the skill in matching the original audio from the old films with the new.

    Dialogue quality was excellent throughout and the audio was in sync with the on-screen action.

    The music is excellent. Miklós Rózsa's career dates back to 1937. He wrote the music on many of the films made in the 1940s. The music is the music of the film noir and works perfectly for the film.

    There was of course no activity from the surround speakers nor the subwoofer.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use




    The first menu that appears asks us to select a language for the following menus. The main menu is a static image, presented at 1.85:1 and not 16x9 enhanced. There is no audio.

Theatrical Trailer

    Our only extra, this trailer is presented at 1.33:1 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 (mono) sound track. The video is of the same quality as the main feature.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    Despite the missing items from the Region 4 version of this disc we are already down 33% on the video resolution of the image due to the lack of 16x9 enhancement. Dropping from PAL to NTSC would probably be the kiss of death for this image, particularly on a big screen.


    Considering the difficulty they must have had in trying to match both the image and the audio from the 1940s films, the makers of Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid have really pulled off a fantastic job. Remember, this film was released in 1982. Technical aspects aside, this is a great parody of the 1940s film noir and an enjoyable Steve Martin romp.

    The video is good.

    The audio does the job.

    The extras could have been more comprehensive.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Saturday, January 12, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDSkyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252Q CRT Projector, 254cm custom built 1.0 gain screen. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationSony STR-DB1070
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

Other Reviews
The DVD Bits - Daniel P (If you're really bored, you can read my bio...)
DVDownUnder - Kathryn T

Comments (Add)
How sad that you fail to point out that the R1 disc is anamorphically enhanced, while the R4 ain't - - Mr. Enhanced
Site Defence - Chris W (read my bio) REPLY POSTED