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The second movie in our tribute to Steve Martin: Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982).

As you know, we here at JPFmovies are in the midst of tribute to the legendary comic Steve Martin.  Our first review was The Man With Two Brains (1983).  The year before The Man With Two Brains was released Carl Reiner and Steve Martin were teamed up again in the second of four films the two would collaborate on.  The film uses a very interesting technique of inter-splicing of scenes from eighteen classic detective/film noir thrillers into the narrative.  The story is a Bogart-Sam Spade type of private detective, played by Martin, trying to solve the case of his beautiful client while falling in love with her.  Sound familiar?  Something like the Maltese Falcon?  Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid both pays tribute and satirizes the film noir genre.  According to my research, Reiner and Martin assembled group known for their technical expertise; in fact, many of them had worked on the original films featured in Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid.  Luckily they were still alive. 

Apparently Edith Head (to date she is the most honored woman and costume designer in Academy Award history) was the costume designer for six of the eighteen films featured within the picture: Notorious (1946) and Sorry, Wrong Number (1948).  She outfitted Martin with twenty suits during production, each created to integrate seamlessly into the original classic action.  She died and 1981 and Dead Men was her last film was dedicated to her. 

The Film’s musical director had to ensure that the audience could not tell the difference between the old and the new music.  The man in charge of production had the really tough job because of the high number of different scenes from all the clips; eighty-five separate sets were created.  The production manager found the actual train compartment used in Suspicion (1941) with Cary Grant – this set piece would be used in the scenes featuring Martin interacting with Grant that only helped to increase the realism of the action.

Without the resources such as blue screen technology and computer animation that are available today, Dead Men had to rely on precise perspective filming.  Many of the films of the forties and fifties used camera views that shot over the shoulder of the characters allowing the makers to replicate the set-up of the shot, with a stand-in posing as the shoulder with Martin in full view. Another technique used was filming Martin in front of a screen on which the classic film was projected; with the proper perspective and angles in place, the two films effectively merged for the viewer.

Among the actors who appear from classic films are Edward Arnold, Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, Wally Brown, James Cagney, William Conrad, Jeff Corey, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Brian Donlevy, Kirk Douglas, Ava Gardner, Cary Grant, Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Burt Lancaster, Charles Laughton, Charles McGraw, Fred MacMurray, John Miljan, Ray Milland, Edmund O’Brien, Vincent Price, Barbara Stanwyck, Lana Turner and Norma Varden.  If that is not an all-star cast you tell me what is.

In the opening scene, John Hay Forrest (George Gaynes), noted scientist and cheese maker, dies in a single-vehicle car accident (represented by the car wreck scene from Keeper of the Flame). In the next scene, private investigator Rigby Reardon (Steve Martin) is reading a newspaper when Forrest’s daughter, Juliet (Rachel Ward), enters his office and faints when the paper’s headline reminds her of her father’s death.  Upon coming to, she hires Rigby to investigate the death, which she thinks was murder. In Dr. Forrest’s lab, Rigby finds two lists, one titled “Friends of Carlotta” and the other “Enemies of Carlotta”, as well as an affectionately autographed photo of singer Kitty Collins, whose name appears on one of the lists.  His search is interrupted by a man posing as an exterminator (Alan Ladd, in This Gun for Hire), who shoots Rigby in the arm and frisks the lists from the seemingly dead investigator. 

Rigby manages to find his way to Juliet’s house, where she sucks out the bullet, snakebite-style, and points Rigby to the club at which Kitty sings. Juliet also reveals a note to her father from her alcoholic brother-in-law, Sam Hastings, which in turn reveals that Dr. Forrest gave him a dollar bill “for safekeeping”. Despite warnings that the mentally disturbed Leona will not be of much use, Rigby calls Leona, who after a rambling discussion, hangs up (Barbara Stanwyck, in Sorry, Wrong Number). On the way out, Juliet asks Rigby to leave further news with her butler or cleaning woman. Mention of the latter causes Rigby to go berserk due to his own father running off with the cleaning woman and his mother dying of a broken heart.

Rigby tracks down alcoholic Sam (Ray Milland, from Lost Weekend) and gets Dr. Forrest’s dollar, which has “FOC” (Friends of Carlotta) names scrawled on it — including Kitty Collins and Swede Anderson (Kitty’s boyfriend). Rigby tracks down Kitty Collins (Ava Gardner, from The Killers) at the Brentwood Room. He asks if she’s one of Carlotta’s friends, which causes her to leave abruptly. He trails her to a restaurant, where she ditches her brooch into her soup. Rigby subsequently retrieves the brooch, which contains an “EOC” list, on which all names are crossed out, except Swede Anderson’s. Rigby visits Swede (Burt Lancaster, from The Killers) but while Rigby prepares a “java”, Swede is killed. 

Rigby goes to the train station to collect the contents of locker 1936, which contains more lists. A “handsome” guy (Cary Grant, from Suspicion) follows him onto a train but, Rigby puts him to sleep with the help of his harmonica. Rigby finds F.X. Huberman, whose name he found on one of the lists and who turns out to be a “classy dame,” throwing a party (Ingrid Bergman, from Notorious). She flirts with Rigby (represented by Cary Grant’s silhouette), then drugs his drink and steals the locker key.

Rigby wakes up back at his office, where Juliet informs him that Sam Hastings fell out of a window to his death. She also has a New York Times reference for him from her father’s office. The reference is to an article about a South American cruise ship called Immer Essen (German for always eating) on whose last voyage Sam Hastings was a passenger. When Marlowe (Bogart, from The Big Sleep) calls, Rigby questions him about Walter Neff, the ship’s owner, and learns that Neff cruises supermarkets looking for blondes.

Rigby goes into drag by disguises himself as a blonde and meets Neff (Fred MacMurray from Double Indemnity).  Rigby drugs him and finds documents about the Immer Essen, including a passenger list identical to an EOC list, and articles about the ship’s imprisoned captain, Cody Jarrett, who refuses to talk to anyone about it but his mother.  Rigby then dresses up in drag again as Jarrett’s mother to visit Jarrett in prison without arousing the prison guards’ suspicion (James Cagney from White Heat).  He tries to win Jarrett’s confidence by explaining the Friends of Carlotta are after him. Rigby doesn’t learn anything from Jarrett though, so he cashes in a favor with the warden to act as a prisoner for a few days.  Jarrett turns out to be a Friend of Carlotta after all, kidnaps Rigby on a jail break, and shoots him while he’s still in the trunk of the getaway car.

After sucking out a third bullet, Juliet leaves for the drugstore for medicine. On her way out, a call comes in from an old flame (Joan Crawford, in Humoresque). Juliet overhears parts of it, takes it to be a double dating by Rigby and closes the case. While Rigby is drinking, thinking himself betrayed by Juliet, Marlowe calls and tips Rigby off that Carlotta is an island off Peru. There Rigby tracks down the hideout where he finds Juliet, her father (actually still alive), and her butler, who introduces himself as Field Marshal Wilfried von Kluck (Carl Reiner).

Rigby and the Field Marshal compete about the right to explain what happened. It turns out that Dr. Forrest had been tricked into divulging a secret cheese mold by Nazis posing as a humanitarian organization.  Once he discovered their true intent, to use the mold’s corrosive properties to destroy America and make a comeback, he assembled a list of Nazi agents, the “Friends of Carlotta.” Before he could divulge the names to the FBI, he was abducted and his death faked to prevent a police investigation.  The Immer Essen, a cruise ship passing by, witnessed the corrosive effects of the mold tests, making all passengers “Enemies of Carlotta” and targets for murder. Rigby is captured but Juliet gets the Field Marshal to say “cleaning woman,” causing Rigby to go berserk, break his chains and overpower the Nazis.  While Juliet gets Rodriguez, the Field Marshal manages to pull one of the switches, destroying Terre Haute, Indiana, before being shot dead by Rigby who remakes that they just got a new public library.

Here is a list of the films used in Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid:

This Gun for Hire (1942)

The Glass Key (1942)

Double Indemnity (1944)

The Lost Weekend (1945)

The Killers (1946)

Deception (1946)

Humoresque (1946)

The Big Sleep (1946)

Dark Passage (1947)

White Heat (1949)

Johnny Eager (1941)

Keeper of the Flame (1942)

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

The Bribe (1949)

Suspicion (1941)

Notorious (1946)

I Walk Alone (1947)

Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)

In a Lonely Place (1950)

The film grossed about 4 million in its first weekend and has grossed to date about 18 million.  All in all a very interesting film and get an A for creativity since I have not seen a film try what Dead Men accomplished intermingling the old and the new of film history.  The cheese mold think is a little corny but watching it is like watching the “best of” of some great old film noir movies.  Go ahead and watch it it is even safe viewing for the whole family.

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2013 in Movie Reviews

 

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Don’t Drink the Wine–It Does Not Taste Fine. Cary Grant in Arsenic & Old Lace (1944)

Emma and Sally Review Arsenic and Old Lace: Charge!

Why did you want to see A and OL?

Emma: Because it’s a good movie.

Sally: Because I love the Teddy Roosevelt thing. It’s really funny.

Can you describe the plot?

Sally: It was a pretty good funny movie.

Emma: It’s about two old ladies who kill people. They poison them and bury them in their cellar.

Sally: And they think it’s a good thing and their not real nephew finds out about it and he knows that it’s bad so…

Why do the old ladies think it’s a good idea to kill people?

Sally: Because they’re putting them out of their misery.

Emma: Because they are only killing people who are lonely and have no friends.

Sally: They only kill old gentlemen.

What’s your favorite part of the movie?

Sally: When the other guy who doesn’t think he’s Teddy Roosevelt charged up the stairs.

Emma: I don’t know.

Do you think Cary Grant and his new wife will live happily ever after?

Sally: No, I don’t think so. I think they’ll live insanely. Possibly happily.

Emma: I don’t know.

Do you think the aunts belonged in the insane asylum?

Emma: Well they were murdering people.

Sally: And they are kind of crazy. They were murdering people and thinking it was a good thing. They’re insane.

Do you think Teddy belonged in the insane asylum?

Sally: Yes. Although if they had a lot of stairs it might be not so good.

Do you belong in the insane asylum?

Sally: NO. That insane asylum was for people who thought they were historical people. And he said they were a little short on Napoleons.

Emma: Not necessarily. The aunts didn’t think they were historical people.

Sally: True, but they were still insane.

Who did the best acting job?

Sally: The person who turned out not to be a Brewster.

Emma: Mortimer?

Sally: Yeah.

Emma: I thought it was Teddy Roosevelt.

What did you think of Boris Karlov?

Emma: It said that it wasn’t actually, at the end. I thought that he was but he wasn’t. He looked a lot like him though.

Sally: He was weird.

What would you have thought if you were the cab driver?

Emma: I would have been annoyed.

Sally: I would have been really annoyed too.

What did you think of the police officer?

Emma: They all seemed pretty oblivious.

Sally: Yeah, they seemed pretty oblivious.

What did you learn from this movie?

Sally: Nothing.

Emma: Nothing.

Would you have tea with the aunts?

Sally: No.

Emma: I might have TEA with them.

Sally: Yeah, I might have tea with them.

Emma: Just not elderberry wine.

Sally: But you don’t drink, so…

Emma: Yes. Exactly.

What would you do if the aunts invited you to services in their cellar?

Sally : I would ask them why.

Emma: [shrugs]

Which of you is most likely to be found to be insane when you are older?

Sally: Emma!

Emma: Sally!

Explain your answer.

Sally: Well, she’s kind of crazy now.

Emma: So are you.

Sally: No I am not!

Emma: Well, you kind of are.

Sally: No I am not!

Do you consider this a girl power movie, and why or why not?

Sally: No, because it doesn’t really have girl power in it. The girl is just kind of helpless and the two aunts are insane. It’s not really girl power.

Emma: No, because the two aunts are insane.

Did you know that this play is commonly done by high school drama groups? Would you want to be in the play?

Sally: No.

Emma: Yes.

What part would you want to play, and why?

Emma: One of the aunts.

Sally: Yeah, I suppose one of the aunts. If I had to play some part.

Emma: It would be fun.

Sally: I don’t really want to be the other person, so…one of the aunts.

What is your favorite line from the movie?

Sally: Charge!

Emma: I don’t know.

Interviewer: My favorite is when Cary Grant says to one of the aunts, “You’ve just admitted to me that you have been murdering people and burying them in the cellar,” and she replies, “Yes, but you don’t think I would stoop to telling a fib!”

What rating do you think JPFMovies should give this movie, and why? On a scale of 1-10?

Emma: A nine.

Sally: A six.

And why?

Emma: It’s a funny movie.

Sally: Yeah, it’s a pretty fun movie. Especially the [imitates trumpet blowing] and charge!

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2012 in Movie Reviews

 

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We Interrupt thsi Bruce Campbell Tribute to Bring you Another Review from EJ & SJ: Arsenic & Old Lace (1944) or How to have a Mausoleum in your basement.

EJ & SJ have hit us with another review this time about the classic Cary Grant film Arsenic & Old Lace (1944). Let’s see what they have have to say about this classic comedy starring the larger than life Cary Grant.

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2012 in Movie Reviews

 

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Dr. H and JP Look at “Operation Petticoat” what we dub as Humor In Uniform:

Dr. H and JP Look at “Operation Petticoat” what we dub as Humor In Uniform:

Operation Petticoat is an early (1959) a post WWII comedy directed by Blake Edwards (the Pink Panther Series, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Great Race, “10”, Victor/Victoria and others) filled with a cast that were either big names like Cary Grant or rising stars like Tony Curtis (Some Like it Hot), Marrion Ross (Happy Days) and Gavin MacLeod (the Love Boat) and others.  The movie could even be seen as an early attempt at bringing feminism to the big screen and the precursor to the rash of 1960’s sex comedies that soon followed.

The film story goes something like this, following the attack on Pearl Harbor the Japanese prepared to invade the American-occupied Philippine Islands.  During an air raid on the American naval base there almost sink the new submarine the “Sea Tiger.”  The boat’s insistent and professional commander, Matt Sherman – played by Cary Grant – wants to get the Sea Tiger operational at any cost.  After persuading the powers the be who give Sherman permission to make the Sea Tiger sea worthy, he and the remnants of the ships original crew (which has been decimated by transfers because the boat is considered sunken condition) succeeds in raising the sub from the harbor bottom and commence getting her seaworthy enough to escape to Australia before the pending Japanese assault.  Unfortunately the repair efforts are hampered by the bureaucratically-based shortage of necessary parts and supplies.  Enter Tony Curtis as Lt. Nick Holden; an accomplished back-alley smoke filled room deal cutter who joined the Navy to get into a nice uniform which he believes will land him a very wealthy wife.  Alas, having secured a cushy job as an admiral’s aid the sudden outbreak of the war results in all Mr. Holden’s carefully laid schemes sent completely awry.  Thus being at the end of his rope, Holden finds himself assigned as a replacement officer to the Sea Tiger.  Faced with the alternative of being stuck on Bataan to endure the certain Japanese onslaught, he sees it is in his best interest to make up for the seagoing experience he has managed to avoid by becoming the Sea Tiger’s Supply Officer and secures everything the captain needs to get “the . . . submarine” out of there and to someplace where he can get a better deal.

Holden implements his supply procurement program which at best is unorthodox and at worst just plain felonious.  Holden out does him self when he manages to “scavenge” five stranded Army nurses and convinces Cary Grant that he must take them aboard.  From then on the film becomes Cary Grant’s battle to get this backfiring-limping submarine to Australia while avoiding the “exchange of information” about the proverbial “birds and the bees” between the crew and their female guests.  Grant’s struggle becomes more and more complicated as the film moves on to the point where a maternity ward has to be opened on the Sea Tiger to accommodate its passengers.

For those who enjoy MASH (the movie), Stripes or the Russians are Coming this movie is a must see.  A perfect example of how a good comedy can be made without resorting to “blue humor” or three stooges like slap stick.  Fifty years later, the jokes a still witty and story remains fresh.  This film was also one of the first movies to inspire a TV spin-off.  In 1977 Operation Petticoat the TV. series aired starring none other than Jamie Lee Curtis who’s father, Tony Curtis, starred as one of the lead male roles in the 1959 movie.

Per Dr. H—This one is a rose for your bouquet.

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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