In this post-modernist exercise, star/writer Steve Martin and director Carl Reiner spoof the film noir yarns of the '40s with Martin playing gumshoe Rigby Reardon, who interacts with a legion of Hollywood greats -- including Humphrey Bogart, Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Edward Arnold, Barbara Stanwyck, Ingrid Bergman, Veronica Lake, Bette Davis, Lana Turner and Joan Crawford -- in a succession of intercut clips from seventeen vintage Hollywood films.
Rigby is a low-rent detective (his fee is $10 per day) sitting in his office, waiting for something to happen. That something happens when the voluptuous Juliet Forrest (Rachel Ward) arrives in his office and faints dead away at the sight of a newspaper that reports on her father's death in a car accident.
Juliet is convinced that her father was murdered and offers Rigby $200 to investigate. Upon searching Mr. Forrest's office, he comes upon a list of names under the headings The Friends and Enemies of Carlotta.
As the two delve deeper into the mystery and its requisite deceptions, they encounter an exterminator, Juliet's surly Nazi butler, Field Marshal Von Kluck (Carl Reiner) and an overly helpful Mexican friend, Carlos Rodriguez (Reni Santoni).