on 7 November 2008
Forget the 'famous' Dunkirk tracking scene in Atonement; here is a fine tracking shot at the start of this brilliant 1950 classic noir DOA. This scene of this movie is justly famous; Frank Bigelow (the excellent Edmond O'Brien)walks into a police station saying he wishes to report a murder -his own. The movie then goes into flashback mode and we witness the events that brought about his predicament and his tracing of the killer who poisoned Bigelow with a slow acting poison. It is a clever story and kudos should be bestowed upon the writers Clarence Greene and Russell Rouse for the ingenious plot .
This is O'Brien's movie and he is rarely absent from the screen. He does a superb job of holding things together displaying what an under-rated actor he was. Rudolph Mate's direction is exemplary.
on 16 December 2004
I have to say before I begin that I this film was in my brothers collection and I watched it on a rainy day, it turned out to be one of the greatest afternoons and has launched me on a giant film noir quest.
I loved the fact that the ideas in the film were new and fresh, Frank Bigelow heads out to San Francisco for a holiday but becomes mysteriously poisoned and finds out he only has 48 hours left to live. So Frank turns from accountant to detective in order to find out his murdered before he dies.
Needless to say you are with Frank for every step of the way, and this film really keeps you on the edge of your seat every second. With none of special effects from today's Hollywood the film is much more connective with you. Basically this film is a must see even if are normally a blockbuster type of person.
on 6 July 2013
I WOULD HAVE GIVEN THIS FILM 5 STARS BUT FOR THE DISAPPOINTING PICTURE QUALITY. HAVING SEEN IT BEFORE ON THE TV I SEEM TO REMEMBER IT BEING MUCH SHARPER. NEVERTHELESS, THIS IS A GREAT STORY - VERY UNUSUAL AND GRIPPING RIGHT TO THE END. THE FILM GOES AT A BREATHTAKING PACE AND EDMUND O'BRIEN PLAYS A GREAT PART. FOR ME HE IS A VERY UNDER-RATED ACTOR AND HE HAS BEEN SUPERB IN ALL THE FILMS I HAVE SEEN HIM IN.
Frank Bigelow is in San Francisco for a break away from his fiancée, after a night on the town he wakes up and feels a bit under the weather, after consulting a doctor he is told he has been poisoned by a luminous toxin and only has a few days to live. This sets Frank off on a furious journey to find out who is responsible, and why?
Thus is the story of this cracking mystery thriller, Edmond O'Brien is Bigelow and layers it perfectly, from Frank's calm soaking in of the events to the frantic slam bangery as he draws closer to his goals, it's a great show. The pace is perfect from director Rudolph Maté as he eases us gently thru the first third, and then ups the pace to keep us alive to the fraught nature of Bigelow's plight. Genuine menace drops into the picture in the form of Neville Brand's hit-man Chester, whilst Pamela Briton as Paula Gibson is a solid female presence in amongst the grimy feel of the story.
Hugely enjoyable. 8/10
The film, noir "D.O.A." received unenthusiastic reviews upon its release in 1950. With the passage of time, the film's reputation increased until it became regarded as a noir classic. In 2004, the film was added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress as "historically, culturally, or aesthetically significant."
"D.O.A." tells the story of Frank Bigelow (Edmond O'Brien) who has been murdered by poison. When doctors tell Bigelow he has only days to live, he sets out on a frantic, determined course to find his killer.
Bigelow's life becomes meaningful only when he faces the certainty of his impending death. He had been an accountant in a small town who drank heavily and who flirted incessantly with whatever pretty woman came his way. He had a lovely lady friend, Paula, (Pamela Britton) but was unsure of his feelings for her. When Bigelow took a vacation to San Francisco to drink and flirt, he was poisoned. He realized at last his feelings for Paula and he found meaning in determining and finding his killer before he died.
The story of the murder, the motive, and Bigelow's investigation is told frenetically as befitting a person on the verge of dying and in a sense already dead.. The main attractions of the film are the cinematography, the development of the primary character, and the tough acting. The film features a long group of villains in addition to the killers.
The story is told as a flashback as, in the opening scene, Bigelow walks down the long cold hallway of the Los Angeles police station to report his own murder. This opening scene is famous as is the scene in a San Francisco jazz club called the Fishermen. This is where Bigelow meets his doom, but the film also offers an early view of the "bop" driving jazz culture that was part of the Beat movement at the time. The cinematography also features angular scenes of San Francisco and Los Angeles streets, gangster hideaways, and bars.
The film is based on an original screenplay by Russell Rouse and Clarence Greene. It portrays well how death sometimes leads people to understand themselves and to live. Lovers of film noir will enjoy this film which is in the public domain and accessible online.
This 1950 film noir directed by legendary cinematographer Rudolph Maté (he of Dreyer and Welles fame) is a fast-moving, edge-of the-seat, rather original tale of one man's (Edmond O'Brien's Frank Bigelow) fight to find a murderer (his murderer!) before he succumbs to the effects of the deadly poison with which his drink has been laced. And what is, for me, most surprising is that despite the fact that Maté's film is overly melodramatic and cliché-ridden (yes, I know that is one of the key trademarks of this film genre), to the extent that it is almost impossible to take it seriously, it still manages to carry you along with it (for me, at least, with a big grin of astonishment on my face).
Topped and tailed with a flavour of Billy Wilder's masterpiece Double Indemnity, as having identified himself to questioning police as a murder victim, Bigelow recalls in flashback his sorry tale and Maté's film sets in train a plot so convoluted as to make The Big Sleep look like an episode of Coronation Street, whereby, following a business trip to San Francisco (and a 'hip' and 'jiving' jazz club), Frank discovers himself suffering from luminous poisoning (courtesy of a mickey at the night club), and thereafter starts to uncover a plot involving an underhand transaction for the purchase of iridium (to which Frank was 'party' via his auditing business). We then get shots of O'Brien running through the San Francisco streets (for some reason) to Dimitri Tiomkin's rousing score, some evocative night-time shots courtesy of cinematographer Ernest Laszlo and our hero being rebuffed at every turn in his pursuit of his 'murderer'. Along the way we are also treated to some man on woman violence, as Frank restrains Beverly Garland's Miss Foster in his quest, whilst each of Luther Adler's smooth gangster Majak and his henchman Neville Brand's Chester (brandishing an impressive set of choppers) exude appropriate levels of menace.
By the time Frank's 'girlfriend' Pamela Britton's Paula has found her way to 'Frisco, and her beloved has found time (whilst being on the verge of death) to ask, 'Is that a new outfit?', we discover that the actual baddie is the bloke who double-crossed the main bloke's wife's second cousin,.... (you get the picture), before our hero (who, by the way, has been looking uncannily like Tony Hancock for the film's duration) finds himself standing toe to toe with the 'murderer' for what is an impressive final denouement on the stairs. And even though the film's closing shot is of a bizarre caption to the effect that Technical Adviser, Edward F. Dunne, M.D. assures us that the 'medical facts in this motion picture are authentic', and that D.O.A. was never going to rival the likes of Double Indemnity, The Maltese Falcon, Out Of The Past, etc to the 'noir crown', we realise that we've just witnessed an intoxicating cinematic rollercoaster of a ride for the last 80 minutes or so!
1950's D.O.A. is classic film noire, one of the true classics of the genre. The characters are intense, everyone is up to something, and the clock is ticking for one Frank Bigelow (Edmond O'Brien), who must attempt to find his own murderer before his last grain of sand trickles to the bottom of the hourglass. Bigelow is an accountant who up and takes a week off to visit San Francisco, ostensibly to get away from his secretary and incredibly needy, codependent, marathon-talking girlfriend Paula (Pamela Britton). Once he arrives at the hotel, he's like an elephant in a peanut factory, trying to go every direction at once in order to have a good time with every woman he sees. While the neurotic Paula broods, Bigelow goes out to paint the town red with a gang of his hotel neighbors, only to wake up the next morning feeling less than healthy. A trip to the doctor's office instantly changes his entire perspective on life, for he finds out that he has been poisoned with a luminous toxin, for which there is no cure whatsoever. With anywhere from a day to two weeks to live, he starts off on a relentless quest to discover his murderer. The plot takes a number of twists and turns, and it can get a little confusing at times because of all the characters and all the shenanigans each of them are pulling. Bigelow has nothing to lose, though, and he refuses to give up as long as he has a breath in his body.
D.O.A. starts off a little slow, and the fact that a silly musical wolf call greeted the appearance of any woman early on had me doubting the merits of this film, but when things really get going, they really get going. The action and suspense build inexorably with each passing minute of the film, and the background music only reinforces the gripping effect upon the viewer. The camera work is also quite effective, strongly conveying the increasing alienation Bigelow is faced with as the Grim Reaper makes plans to pay him an imminent visit. It is easy to become mesmerized by all of the story's twists and turns, as on top of the great atmosphere, you have to think about each new clue and surprise that Bigelow encounters on his mission. You have to admire Bigelow's relentless determination and quick-thinking mind, and he quickly transforms himself from a character of dubious merit and possibly ignoble feelings into a tragic hero/victim of classic proportions. If the whole luminous poisoning thing doesn't make you sympathize with the character, the neurotically suffocating burden of love he has to deal with continuously from Paula will. Other films have taken this idea of a poisoned man hunting down his murderer in his dying days and hours, but none has produced such a gritty tale that drips with realism and builds to the type of crescendo found in this remarkable film noire classic.
on 16 February 2011
Now this is the one to watch. . .
I have recently watched the remake and it wasn't too bad in parts, but it really cannot compare with this B&W original.
It starts slowly, but begins to pile on the tension and mystery pretty quick and maintains it thoughout.
There was no need for swearing or stupid inuendo to keep the youngsters amused, (like the remake).
It relys on good story telling and fine acting.
Shop around though, as this later release is a bit pricy.
Frank Bigelow (Edmond O'Brien, you may remember him as Winston Smith in `1984' 1956) realizes after he had a one night fling that he does not feel so good. He feels bad enough to see a doctor. Yep he is D.O.A. (Dead On Arrival) as he has been poisoned and only has a little time left to live.
Obsessed with finding out who did it and why, Frank has to reconstruct his wild night. Will he find out in time? If so what then?
on 2 July 2014
"Beautifully restored from the producer's negative"? Well, the Image Entertainment DVD is no better than it has to be: dirt, scratches, and jitter abound, not enough to ruin the experience of watching the movie, but enough to remind you that this is no Criterion Collection (or Masters of Cinema) job.
There are no special features on the Image DVD (which is region 1, by the way). All you get is one of the finest existential crime thrillers in the B movie canon. Frank Bigelow is a heel with a conscience, a man whose actions in the course of his hunt for his own killer are pointless, yet defining, perhaps even ennobling. The newsstand scene in which the panicked, dying Bigleow collapses, breathless, against a display of LIFE magazines, as the children he'll never have and the lovers he'll never enjoy pass by -- that scene lasts only a few telling seconds, but it's burned into my brain.