D.O.A. (1949) Poster


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Perhaps the best noir ever made
burgbob97527 May 2002
I hate formal film evaluation lists that ostentatiously rate the relative value of certain films, such as Citizen Kane for example. I do think Citizen Kane is a great film. But I also think that about fifteen or twenty other films I could quickly name are every bit as good as Kane in their own way. (Almost any Richard Gere movie, for example. Just kidding.)

This brings me to D.O.A., directed by Rudolf Maté. D.O.A. in my book is the Citizen Kane of the noirs. It's so good that I often wonder about how it got made in the first place. Since many of the people who were involved in its production are now no longer with us, I may never learn anything about its origins. That's a frustration, of course, but the more important thing is that I can recognize a great noir when I see it.

Why, you ask, is D.O.A. a great noir? The most obvious reason is its plot. A guy goes out for a night on the town and someone, a total stranger, slips him a mickey in a bar-a lethal mickey. But it doesn't kill him instantly. It kills him slowly, so slowly that he's given the chance to find out who did this terrible thing to him, and why.

Second, the film is exceptionally well made in every other respect. Okay, the Pamela Britton character is one dimensional and embarrassing, we all agree on that, but who really cares when everything else in the film is so good? Edmond O'Brien had one of the best roles of his career in D.O.A., and he took full advantage, though few critics give his performance much credit for the film's success.

O'Brien, a classically trained actor, plays a small-time Southern California businessman living his ordinary little life, minding his own business, regularly boffing his secretary (this was implied rather than made explicit; after all, this was 1949), and avoiding her whiney entreaties that they tie the knot, as he's been promising her he would do for ever so long.

You can't help liking O'Brien in part precisely because of his human flaws. He's basically decent, but harassed, overworked, and stretched to the limit by the pressure put on him by Britton. What adult male couldn't identify with this man, or at least sympathize? His very insignificance as one more human ant on the planet Earth, and the terrible thing that's about to happen to him, are the essence of great film noir. (Detour, although by no means a favorite noir of mine, is nevertheless another perfect example of an ordinary man, a small-timer, minding his own business and unexpectedly colliding with Fate and all that it has in store for him.) We resonate to D.O.A. because fate and contingency have been the fundamental conditions of life on the planet earth since before the beginning of history. Our time on Earth is brief and our lives but little scraps of paper blown about by the wind toward endings we know not. We live noir lives.

The film's particulars are wonderful. From the sunny hick town of Banning, the movie switches quickly to San Francisco. If ever there were a noir town, it's Frisco. (Hitchcock picked up on that real quick; watch Vertigo again to see how he saw the eerie side to that town, with its creepy deserted streets, little ghostlike fog-blown urban hills, and other abandoned places suggestive of loneliness and soullessness.)

From here one great noir scene follows another in astonishing succession: the smoky, crowded jazz bar where the sweaty black musicians are blowing up a storm (to an all-white 1949 audience of course), while a murder is silently committed with a switched drink. The doctor holding the eerily glowing glass tube of luminescent poison and informing O'Brien, "You've been murdered." O'Brien running through the crowded downtown streets like a madman, as if velocity could help him escape his fate. O'Brien, after being shot at, a gun now in his own hand, looking for his killer in the abandoned processing plant. His encounter with Luther Adler's insane, sadistic henchman played by Neville Brand. Brand, speaking softly, glints of spittle in the corners of his mouth, nutty little eyes lighting up with anticipated pleasure: "I'm gonna give it to you in the belly. You're soft in the belly, aren't'cha? " Then the fantastic night scene in the crowded Los Angeles drugstore with Brand stalking him among oblivious customers-till shots ring out, then screams, followed by death. Finally, again at night, O'Brien's confrontation with his killer, which (inevitably) occurs in the Bradbury Building, that great architectural shrine to noir, scene of so many other noir films.

Let's stop for a moment and go back to an earlier part of the film. Fatally poisoned, still not quite believing what has happened to him, exhausted and uncertain of anything, O'Brien has run for block after block, but now his energy has finally petered out and he finds himself alone near the docks. Utterly depleted, all hope lost, he wearily leans against the side of an old wooden newsstand in an otherwise bleak, abandoned area. Eyes glazing over, he's terrified, trying to catch his breath. During a medium close-up we briefly study him, then notice something to his left, a single long vertical row of magazines, all identical covers, arranged down the side of the kiosk just half a hand away from him. He isn't looking at them, isn't really aware of them, but we are. For just a few seconds we see: Life, Life, Life, Life, Life, Life, Life. Then the film quickly moves on and goes about its business, as if we had been shown nothing of importance.

You tell me this isn't a great film noir.
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The definitive Film Noir....
JOHN_REID13 October 2003
Frank Bigelow: "I want to report a murder." Homicide Captain: "Where was this murder committed?" Frank Bigelow: "San Francisco, last night." Homicide Captain: "Who was murdered?" Frank Bigelow: "I was."

It must be the dream of all directors to open a film with a scene or line which carries great impact and remains in the memory. The opening line in D.O.A must rank among the most dramatically effective and intriguing lines that has ever opened a movie. This is the quintessential film noir. Edmond O'Brien as the tough, hard drinking businessman who has grown tired of the normalcy of his life and the clinging Paula. His holiday in San Francisco is an opportunity to break the shackels. The premise that the hero has been given a slow poison for which there is no cure, and only a day or so to solve his own murder before he dies, is exceptional. We also have an array of sultry "bad girls", a seedy villain and a manic hitman. Rudoph Mate directs brilliantly, not missing a moment to twist and turn the action at a fast pace with no dull moments. Scenes of O'Brien running through city streets after he has learned his fate are superb with incredibly realistic wide shots. The fact that his direction is so effective makes one wonder how he could have allowed the lapses of ridiculous canned "wolf whistles" whenever the hero passed a good looking girl in the early scenes. Although these "wolf whistles" are really out of place and very annoying, the film is so effective that we can forgive the indiscretion. This is a classic example of a brilliant plot superbly told in a way that is still gripping 50 years after it was made. D.O.A. defines Film Noir.
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Utterly brilliant thriller!
Infofreak5 September 2003
Forget the crappy 1980s remake starring Dennis Quaid, this is the real deal! From the fantastic opening sequence ("I want to report a murder" ... "Who was murdered?" "I was") to the inevitable end, this is an utterly brilliant thriller that will have you riveted to your seat! Edmond O'Brien, a great character actor who was in everything from the classic rock'n'roll movie 'The Girl Can't Help It' to Peckinpah's western masterpiece 'The Wild Bunch' (he played the old coot, you probably won't recognize him here), is the "hero" who is told he has been poisoned and has days, maybe even hours to live. He frantically tries to find out who did it and why. Some people complain that O'Brien's character isn't all that likable, but I think that makes the movie even stronger. When you DO find out the who and why it doesn't really make that much sense but I don't think it matters all that much in the end, the journey is the thing, and only a very picky Noir fan could be disappointed with this. On top of that, Neville Brand, who later in the 1950s played Al Capone in 'The Untouchables' TV series, and later still starred in Tobe Hooper's gonzo cult classic 'Death Trap' (a.k.a. 'Eaten Alive'), plays one of the most memorable screen villains of all time, the dim witted Chester, a real nasty piece of work! 'D.O.A.' comes with my highest recommendation. If you like thrillers you'll LOVE this!
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Classic noir film with suspense and a first-rate starring
ma-cortes20 July 2006
The tale concerns about a lengthy flashback where the protagonist (Edmond O'Brien) after leaving his girlfriend (Pamela Britton ) goes to San Francisco . There is given an extremely slow-action poison . The starring relates his own murder and becomes himself in detective , spending his ending moments trying to uncover his hit men . As his time runs out , he has only hours to identify , he desperately seeks to discover who is responsible his death . The search for the suspect is further complicated by thrilling facts , numerous intrigues , deceits and confrontation against mobsters (Luther Adler , Neville Brand) .

It's an exciting B-thriller of vibrating pace that unites various elements as the fatalism , cynicism , corruption with a noir vision of America from the time . The original title belongs the notes about the deceased person . Magnificent interpretation by usually secondary Edmond O'Brien as when he is frantically running by San Francisco streets . The scene in which he runs in panic through the streets after learning he has been poisoned was a stolen shot . The pedestrians had no idea a movie was being made and no warning that Edmond O'Brien would be plowing through them . Nice secondary cast , being film debut of Beverly Garland and Neville Brand . The film gets a good black and white (though available colorized) cinematography with some excellent close-ups (the jazzmen) by Ernest Lazslo . Atmospheric music by the classic Dimitri Tiomkin . The movie is well done by Rudolph Mate , a famous and habitual cameraman . It's followed by inferior remakes as ¨Color me dead¨ (1969) with Tom Tryon and 1988 version with Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan . The motion picture will appeal to dark noir movies fans . Rating : Notable and well worth seeing.
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This Film Shines Like Luminescence
bkoganbing5 June 2007
DOA was made on the cusp of Edmond O'Brien's transition from leads to character roles and it may very well be his career part.

It's a cheaply made thriller and it shows in spots. But it more than makes up for it in originality of plot and the performances of a superb cast of players.

DOA involves nothing less than Edmond O'Brien solving his own murder. He's in some kind of business and as a sideline he makes a little extra money as a notary. He notarizes a bill of sale and in doing so is a witness to a piece of evidence that a man who was a party to the sale had no reason to commit suicide.

But the perpetrator doesn't slip O'Brien something fast acting like cyanide. No he gets something called luminescent poisoning which is slow acting, but irreversibly fatal if not caught within a few hours of ingesting. When he learns what happens, O'Brien has nothing to lose in his hunt for his own killer.

Best in the cast of supporting players without a doubt is Neville Brand who invades Lyle Bettger territory in playing a psychopathic thug in Luther Adler's employ. Adler himself is always good as are good girl Pamela Britton and bad girl Beverly Garland.

The film was made on a shoestring, but occasionally those films can prove worthwhile.
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Based on a True Story!! (Possible Spoilers)
enthusiast15 December 2003
Warning: Spoilers
The poison that forms the plot of this movie does actually exist. However, one glass of it will not kill you unless it is VERY concentrated and then it would be glowing! I doubt if anybody would drink that stuff in such concentration. However, in the late 1920s and early 1930s a patent medicine was sold in the United States. It was called "Radiothor". It was a small amount of radium within water; sold in 1 oz bottles. A few bottles would not hurt you, but a few people bought quite a few of those bottles and drank them. They died slow, lingering deaths (it took months of agony before death released them). The man who marketed this product was put in prison and the Food and Drug Administration was created to keep this from ever happening again.
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extremely simple yet extremely effective
MartinHafer30 May 2005
One of the best film noir flicks of all-time (along with The Killers). DO NOT CONFUSE THIS WITH THE REMAKE!! The film stars our unattractive hero, O'Brien, as the man who has been poisoned and is told he has only 24 hours to live. He has no idea who did it and spends almost the entire film tracking down the dirty rat that done him in. It's amazing how many wonderful noir films O'Brien appeared in over the years.

The pacing is good, acting top-rate and very noir-ish, and it manages to pull so much out of a very simple plot with minimal sets. In other words, it gives a fantastic "bang for the buck" and modern filmmakers would really benefit from learning a lesson or two from DOA.

I just checked the IMDb Top 50 Film Noir films and for some odd reason this film is not listed. How is this possible?
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A forgotten classic?
Michael Terceiro16 November 2009
I am not too sure if DOA should be classed as a forgotten classic. I am a bit of movie buff and I had never heard of it before.

I came across it on the Internet Archive and was quite surprised at how good the movie is. The story itself is quite remarkable. Frank Bigelow (played by Edmund O'Brien) plays a small time accountant / lawyer who travels to San Francisco for time away from his somewhat nagging girlfriend.

While Frank is in San Francisco his drink is spiked with a lethal poison by a mystery person. Frank does not know who the mystery person was, why his drink was spiked and why someone wants to kill him.

Frank does not do what probably most of us would do in a similar situation - sulk, cry, get drunk, etc. Rather he sets out to find out who did this to him and why.

Apart from a fantastic plot, the movie is very memorable for the collection of shady characters who Frank has to deal with in trying to find out who poisoned him, particularly the psychopathic Chester.

One thing to note is that the plot is quite complicated. I found myself having to go back and watch scenes a second time to work out what was going on. So make sure you concentrate when you watch this movie.

This is an excellent movie. Highly recommended.
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Over his dead body
jc-osms13 April 2011
Great B-movie film noir, played as if his life depended on it (and it does) by Edmond O'Brien as a small-town notary who pays a big price for signing the wrong document at the wrong time, turning what should have been a pleasure trip to the west coast into a murderous affair altogether.

It starts with a bang, O'Brien staggering into the local homicide unit to tell the cops that there's been a murder - his, before launching into the massive flash-back which takes up pretty much the rest of the movie. The action from there on is hectic and as convoluted as all the best noirs are as O'Brien, infected by a deadly poison, races against the clock to track down his own killer and the reason behind it.

The film makes fine use of actual San Francisco and Los Angeles locations as well as authentically depicting the hot and steamy atmosphere at a Frisco jazz club. O'Brien is great as the doomed Bigelow, racing, often literally, against the clock, stopping only to palm off his adoring secretary girl-friend, Pamela Britten, who of course doesn't find out what's wrong with him until too late.

The pacing is almost non-stop once it gathers momentum, unfortunately when it does, some of the scene-writing gets over-ripe and correspondingly over-acted as O'Brien and his girl pour out their hearts somewhat unnecessarily. The film ends bravely though with a downbeat conclusion, delivering what the title says it must and at least tying up all the loose ends by that time.
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The waking dead
sol21 July 2010
**SPOILERS** Staggering into a L.A police station barely alive Frank Bigelow, Edmound O'Brien, has a story to tell about a murder that he witnessed, his own! It all happened two days ago when Bigelow was straying in San Francisco on vacation from his job as a tax accountant during Market Week. At the Fisherman Club Bigelow got a bit juiced up and during drinks he was slipped a dose of luminous toxin in his glass. It's that toxin that's now on the verge of killing him. The reason that he was poisoned had to do with him notarizing a bill of sale for a shipment of iridium that was stolen and could put the person who shipped it behind bars for at least five years!

It took a while for Bigelow to realize that he had a fatal dose of luminous toxin in his system and by the time he did it was too late to save his life. But it wasn't too late for Bigelow to track down and find the person or persons who had him poisoned. And it's during the rest of the movie, in flashback, that's exactly what he did! And did it with an unrelenting fury as if his life depended on it!

In what is undoubtedly Edmound O'Brien's best role as Frank "Biggie" Bigeow the film "D.O.A" has him move heaven and earth to find the person who eventually murdered him. From San Francisco to Los Angeles as well as parts in between Bigelow finally track him down to the Philips Inport-Export office at the Bradbury Building in downtown L.A. It in fact was Philips who was murdered, by being thrown to his death, because of the illegal iridium shipment that he later realized he was tricked into handling. With Philips dead the only person who could connect both his murderer and the person whom he shipped the iridium for is Frank Bigelow who handled, by notarizing the bill of sale, the shipment!

Non stop action thriller as a dying, or murdered, man turns L.A upside down in trying to find his killer and exact punishment on him before he himself expires! Bigelow also gets involved with L.A mobster Majak, Luther Adler, whom the illegal iridium was delivered for. In knowing about Majak's involvement in it had Bigelow targeted by him and his sadistic and unstable hit man Chester, Naville Brand, for immediate termination. That's if the luminous toxin doesn't kill him first!

Even though the movie is a scant 83 minutes long it packs enough action to fill some half dozen films of it's type: Film Noir Thrillers. Frank Bigelow is a man who knows that he hasn't long to live and therefore throws caution to the wind in trying to find his killer before the curtain comes down on him. It was in fact that almost suicidal determination on Bigelow's part that in the end brought him results!
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Iridium, Desperation & Luminous Toxin Poison
seymourblack-17 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
D.O.A is a top noir with a "no way out" motif which provides tremendous impetus for the story of a man in pursuit of his own murderer. The action starts with the man going into a police station to report his own murder. This set up is so bizarre and memorable that any replication of it in another movie would immediately be recognised as a D.O.A homage or rip off.

The man in question is Frank Bigelow (Edmond O'Brien). The police are not surprised by his information and invite him to tell them his story.

Frank runs a small business in the little town of Banning; he'd gone on a short holiday to San Francisco during "Market Week" and got caught up in the partying going on in his hotel. When a group of people went on from the party to "The Fisherman" club, he went with them. At the club, a man at the bar swapped Frank's unattended drink with another one. Frank consumed some of the drink but didn't finish it because it had an unpleasant taste.

Next day, back at the hotel. he felt unwell and went to the Medical Building where one of his tests confirmed the presence of luminous toxin poisoning. He was told that this was fatal, there was no antidote and he had only a very short time to live. He went on to a hospital emergency unit where further tests confirmed the previous diagnosis and he was told that he only had a maximum of a week to live. The doctor deduced that he had been murdered and notified the Homicide Department. Frank panicked and raced out of the building and along a series of streets until he got to "The Fisherman" which was closed. Back at the hotel he found that the people he'd partied with had left. The only possible lead he had to help him find out who had killed him was that a man called Philips had been trying desperately to talk to him. Frank had not responded to his request because he didn't want to interrupt his holiday. A telephone conversation with Paula (his secretary / fiancée) confirmed that Philips had died. Frank then decided to go on to Los Angeles, where Philips' office was located to see if he could find out what he'd wanted to discuss so urgently.

Through his investigations Frank found that Philips had purchased some iridium from a man called George Reynolds and sold it to someone called Majak. The iridium, which was very rare and costly, had been stolen. Philips was on bail and was facing a possible jail sentence unless he could show that his part in the deal was legitimate. He could've cleared himself if he could've produced the bill of sale which had been notarised by Frank. Further investigations revealed that Philips had not committed suicide but was murdered and his murderer had then poisoned Frank to prevent him from producing the document. Frank eventually confronted his killer before getting his revenge.

D.O.A. provided Edmond O'Brien with the role for which he is best remembered and his depiction of Frank's descent into increasingly aggressive, brusque and desperate behaviour as his efforts to find his killer are met with a series of dead ends and complications, is suitably frantic and convincing.
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Great film in classic noir style
funkyfry15 February 2003
An exceptionally well thought-out and executed film noir. A man who is fatally poisoned with a slow-acting substance wants to discover who killed him -- and why. The answers seem pathetically insignificant compared to their repurcussions. O'Brien provides a solid "everyman" type leading performance that puts Gary Cooper and Glenn Ford's best attempts at the same to utter shame. Bev Garland puts in a good show too as a sort of misunderstood femme fatale in a minor key. Credit should go to director Mate and photographer Laszlo, who match the words and feelings of the story perfectly, neither showing us too much or too little at any time. The narrative force of this story is strong because it is focused on one man, with whom we can identify, who has been placed in an exciting, intriguing, and terrifying situation by events out of his control.
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Quite a nifty/superb little film
MisterWhiplash15 January 2006
This film is the kind that doesn't kid itself at all- it knows what it is and is pretty happy to have it that way. It's filled with the classic tough-guy, 'real-to-life' dialog of the thriller, while staying a foot ahead of the audience. This is because the director, Rudolph Matte (the great cinematographer behind many a film-noir and Carl Dreyer's masterpieces) has such a clever hand of the material. One wrong step and it could slip into being too hokey. In fact there is a camp factor in a couple of scenes; the subject matter almost slips into Naked Gun parody before stepping back up for air. But for the fans of mysteries of today would want to check this out, as it provides a twist on the usual logic of the sub-genre (if a genre at all). While not as 'dark' as other film-noir pictures, it still ranks very high in it storytelling, having a potent enough story to tell, and a slew of actors just pushing the limits of the B-movie style.

Edmond O'Brien is at his absolute best as the worried Frank Bigelow, worried because he's in a rotten predicament: poisoned by a random drop of 'luminous poison' at a jazz club, with no chances of survival. The one thing to do then is to investigate it, 'his' way, through searching the histories of men like Phillips and Rakubian. One has to pay attention to his story a few times, but after a while everything does come together, adding to the suspense. O'Brien doesn't play him very naturalistically- it's actually quite great at being a simply cinematic performance, with the occasional swagger, roughness, but determination of the best of the doomed heroes of these stories. There's soul in his work, even as he says lines fast or with such vigor to maybe go overboard. But it works, especially because of the other cast around him being so solid. Several are good, and a few are stand-out; Luther Adler as Majack gives some worth in his scenes, and especially a small but very memorable part for a nasty character, Chester, done to a T by Neville Brand (the little dialog scenes between them are as shamelessly pulp as any other film like this, but compelling and very entertaining).

Aside from the merits of most of the cast, and Matte's visual approach (much of the outside running scenes and chase bits are shot right on location, like in a pre-guerrilla style of film-making), there's the aspect of the script. Stories like this are hard to come by now, even ones being almost this simple. At the same time, the screenwriters implement a kind of twisty logic that happens in the course of the film. The sort of MacGuffin lies in the bill of sale (as maybe I missed something) as it's the last thing to worry about. What one looks for in something like D.O.A., is how the written matter can go through the director's visual mind-warp. Under the radar in a sense, the film does some techniques that wouldn't of made it had it been a bigger A-list film. Two examples of this were striking to me, making D.O.A. of some note (this is besides the adept on-location work. One was the mix of shots shown in the jazz club scene, the musicians. This is a great, great little scene, adding a sense of atmosphere that another filmmaker would've passed over. Another was during a short scene when Bigelow arrives at the hostel- women pass by, and with each one a little sound effect comes through. This is whimsy, maybe, or maybe just some un-explainable little joke put into the film, but either way its terrific. When a filmmaker can add a little flavor to the film like that, it elevates the material.

D.O.A. is on a short list of numerous writers regarding the histories of 40's-50's 'film-noir' pictures in America as one of the premiere examples, and it's not far from the truth. It's compact enough to not make Bigelow's strange mix of abrasiveness, confusion, and drops of tenderness to his secretary/love interest Paula, while allowing enough of a story to be told to make it feel complete. And that scene near the end in the hallway...
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D.O.A. 1 and 2.
dbdumonteil4 February 2002
This is probably Rudolph Maté's peak.When a B-movie reaches such heights,it should be called nothing but classic.The movie starts slowly,after a brilliant opening,then picks up speed and ends up leaving the spectator panting for breath.Like every film noir -why do they use a French expression for a typically American genre?-,it's very hard to catch up with the very complicated plot,although the cause for the fighting is laughable(a bill of sale).There are a lot of characters,male and female,but the scenarists manage to preserve cohesion.This film noir recalls the Greek tragedy,because we learn in the very first scene that the hero has been irremediably poisoned . Some scenes are particularly brilliant:the killer sadistically smiling,as he tells the hero he's going to kill him slowly,very slowly(the irony lies in the fact that he does not know his prisoner is really slowly dying);the short-lived reunion with his girlfriend;the funeral urn.The last line is the very title of the film.

There have been very harsh words about the remake("color me dead"(1988)),featuring Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan.Probably unfair.It's no longer a film noir,but rather a whodunit,the plot -only the initial situation is the same- multiplies the wrong tracks .Quaid is a college professor and Ryan a student.So do not try to compare it with its highly superior predecessor,and you'll be able to enjoy it .
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Businessman is innocently involved in a murder plot
helpless_dancer28 October 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Good mystery about an accountant who had the wrong guy for a client. A sinister killer needs to see him dead in order to tie up any unforseen loose ends that may louse up his scheme. Very well done with a realistic sense of how something like this would go down. Neville Brand made a perfect evil creep as Chester the psycho, a part he always plays to perfection.
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D.O.A delivers
johno-217 March 2006
I first this on TV as a kid and have probably seen it a dozen times since then. Ask anyone to name a film noir movie or two and D.O.A is likely to mentioned simply because it has had a long TV life and so many generations of people have seen this. there is a reason why this is one of the most shown film noir flicks too, not because it is the best of the genre but because it is a good film with an instant hook to grab your interest and a great ride all the way through. Edmund o'Brien is great as the poisoned Frank Bigelow in search of his those responsible for his doomed plight and why they did it. look for fine performances by Neville Brand and Beverly Garland. Film music giant Dimitri Tiomkin provides the score. Two great cinematographers collaborate on D.O.A in Rudolf Maté and Ernest Laszlo. Maté who had done the cinematography for such films as Come and Get it, Foreign Correspondent, That Hamilton Woman, Gilda, and Sahara among many others takes the helm as director for this film and enlists Laszlo as cinematographer. Laszlo had a 50 year career in cinematography beginning in the 20's through the 70's including such films as Inherit the Wind, Kiss Me Deadly, Judgment at Nurenberg, Stalag 17, Baby the Rain Must Fall, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Airport. Logan's run and many many more. Good film editing here as well. I would give this an 8.5 out of 10 and recommend it.
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watch your drinks
RanchoTuVu12 February 2009
A small town California accountant goes to San Francisco for some R&R before he gets married. One of his recent seemingly insignifigant business dealings back at the office that was filed away and forgotten comes back in a gruesome way when he's poisoned in a wild San Francisco bar which features a live jazz band and is filled with a lot of Beatniks hanging out and snapping their fingers. This film has vaulted to my personal favorite of Edmond O'Brien's films. It's truly a wonderful performance in which he carries his usual regular guy image and adds a lot extra to it, at one point running full speed on sidewalks and crossing busy streets to get back to the bar where it all began. In addition to O'Brien, Neville Brand is in rare form as a sadistic killer, and the two of them share a long night time car ride scene together as the film seems to propel itself into overdrive heading to the finish.
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Reporting His Own Murder
Claudio Carvalho9 October 2011
In San Francisco, the accountant Frank Bigelow (Edmond O'Brien) goes to the Homicide Division of the Police Station to report his murder and the captain and detectives listen to his intriguing story.

Frank has an accounting office in the small town Benny, on the way to Palm Spring. He tells his secretary and fiancée Paula Gibson (Pamela Britton) that he will travel alone to San Francisco to spend a couple of days on vacation expecting to have fun. Paul lodges in the hotel and befriends a group that is participating in the market week event. They go to The Fishermen and Frank is bothered by Sue, who is married with his host. Frank leaves the woman and meets the lonely socialite Jeanie and a man swaps his bourbon by another. Meanwhile Paula calls him telling that a man called Philip from Los Angeles wants to meet him.

On the next morning, Franks wakes up with hangover and goes to the Medical Building and the doctors tell him that he had drunk luminous toxin poison that affects vital organs and there is no antidote. Frank rushes to the Southern Pacific Hospital and the doctors confirm the diagnostic and give one week of life maximum. Frank Bigelow decides to investigate the reason why he was poisoned in a quest to find the truth.

"D.O.A." is a film with the intriguing story of a simple accountant that comes to the police station to report his own murder. The plot has a complex development and an ironic motive for the murder – the notarization of a bill of sale. Paula Gibson is irritating and annoying character.

In 1988, I saw the good remake of D.O.A. with Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan and Charlotte Rampling. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "D.O.A. Com As Horas Contadas" ("D.O.A. With the Hours Counted")
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A Better Print Helps This Unique Noir Story
ccthemovieman-128 October 2006
When I started watching all the film noirs I could find, I was a bit disappointed in this. However, after three viewings I now find it decent. It's nothing super, but certainly better than what I though at first. A big help is having a better print of the film. This is one of those movies that always had a poor VHS quality transfer and many times the same on DVD. Finding a good print is hard, although I finally got a decent one with this Killer Classic DVD set that includes this movie.

The story, like the print, is not always easy to follow, either, even though the premise is very simple. A man discovers he has been poisoned and there is no hope for recovery. Before he dies, he retraces his steps to find out who "murdered him" (even though he's still alive when saying that) and why.

The story gets a bit complicated. Like a Sherlock Holmes or Charlie Chan mystery, there are a number of suspects that keep popping up. Many of them are hard to figure.

This is an odd film noir for several quirky things in this movie. The lead character, "Frank Bigelow" (Edmund O'Brien), is strange and kind of stupid in the beginning. There are a half dozen of these dumb whistle-like wolf call sound-effects that come out every time he sees a pretty woman. It just doesn't fit in a tough film noir. Then there is his possessive girlfriend/secretary "Paula," (Pamela Britton) who is constantly calling him and paranoid about his whereabouts. She acts more like an insecure, nagging wife but she obviously cares a great deal about him. But, man, give the poor guy some space!

The dialog in this film ranges from incredibly stupid to very clever and solid film noir material.

We also see one of the most sadistic people I have ever seen on film: "Chester," played by the sadistic-looking Neville Brand. Wow, is this guy sick or what? He reminded me of "Vera" (Ann Savage) in "Detour." Those two would have made an interesting couple! Brand's character is only interested in one thing in life: inflicting pain and the slower and more brutal, the better.

Anyway, if you find a good print, tolerate some of the goofy things in the film, this is an interesting film noir that gets better with each viewing, as you understand the story better.
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Exciting, Frenetic, Much-Imitated Film Noir Of Poisoned Man Trying To Find Who's Killed Him
ShootingShark10 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
After a night out he feels unwell and goes to a doctor, who explains he's been poisoned and only has a few days to live. Reeling with shock, Bigelow desperately tries to uncover who is responsible and why before his number is up.

D.O.A. has a killer opening - a guy walks into a police station to report a murder where he's the victim. The subsequent flashback structure is then doubly intriguing in that we know he's gonna get it and we share all his puzzlement over the details. The story, by writing partners Russell Rouse and Clarence Greene, exploits Frank's predicament to the hilt, throwing him into a dizzying conspiracy of theft, double-cross and infidelity with which he has only the most marginal connection. I love the way almost all the women in this picture seem to be cheating; the hoofer of a wife with Frank, the gossipy secretary with Stanley the brother, the exotic model with the victim, and that old stalwart, the grieving widow with her husband's killer. The only femme who isn't fatale is Frank's secretary Paula, although she's possibly the most needy female since Salome. Maté, a talented cameraman turned director (he shot Foreign Correspondent and Gilda and directed When Worlds Collide) makes the film's low-budget threadbare quality stylish, and the look clearly influenced Kubrick's early work. It does have some liabilities - once the story gets going it pops, but the first couple of reels are a bit turgid and aren't helped by some dated Beat Culture trappings and Dimitri Tiomkin's deafening score. Also, leads O'Brien and Britton are both a little pedestrian; they have some style but they're not remotely real people and the tale depends on us believing in them. The best performance for me is the completely over-the-top one by Brand as Chester the scary henchman - if you're not familiar with him, check out his heavies in movies like Riot In Cell Block 11 and Birdman Of Alcatraz - along with Richard Widmark and Timothy Carey he was arguably the craziest villain of his day. Note the use of the iconic Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles, where Halliday's office is located - it's also the setting for Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer's memorable duel in Blade Runner, and features in several other movies. This is classic film noir territory, and a must for all fans of the genre. Remade in 1988 with Dennis Quaid in the lead.
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Film noir that is alright I guess
willcundallreview2 January 2016
D.O.A is a 1950's film noir all about a man who has been poisoned and we see him then trying to find out who did it and why. It's a film that could almost feel like something from Hitchcock but no it comes from Rudolph Maté a most of the time cinematographer who had directed also though in the previous few years to this. Maté manages to create a story that is interesting but not really in my opinion one that is a classic, different yes but it feels the whole gimmick overrides this to make it look and feel like it should be a classic. Nevertheless this movie is not boring at all, with a decent running time as well it whizzes by quite nicely and the whole plot wraps itself up in just over 80 minutes.

It stars Edmond O'Brien as Frank Bigelow the man who has been poisoned, he has no idea why because he has no obvious enemies and he doesn't even know where he was poisoned. Pamela Britton, William Ching and Luther Adler join O'Brien in the cast and most do a good job but I couldn't help feel the acting is just a little bit too shaky. I just felt at certain points when the script throws up some quite dramatic part, the actors kind of go a bit over the top with what they've got, no one fails in this film but it is only some scenes are ruined by none believable acting though.

Rudolph Maté uses the script from Russell Rouse and Clarence Greene to make a very fast yet efficient film, it never gets too bogged down in its own story and although it can open up too many avenues of investigation, it still comes to a conclusion that makes sense. Maté works well with the cast at his disposal and also uses his skills with the camera to make this feel even faster then it really is, some scenes look great though even if the camera is moving about extremely fast. I also liked the bad people or person(could be either,no spoilers) in this, of course I will not claim who they are so I do not ruin for possible readers of this but although they are not superbly evil, they definitely have a ruthless streak waiting to come out.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys well film noir, I still don't think many will find this near being a masterpiece although I am sure some will enjoy it massively more than I did. I must say though I did pretty much enjoy this myself though, I never quite felt wrapped up in this mystery, you know edge of your seat kind of stuff but I did at least want to see what happened next and who was responsible and that makes this a pretty decent film from my view. Whether Maté was a better director or cinematographer well that is for those who have seen all his work to decide, he certainly manages to tell a story here and make it come across as more than just your average tale of mystery or a whodunit, he makes it OK and that is all that is needed. And so overall as said I felt it to be pretty good but not completely well, good, a movie that maybe is not the absolute best but certainly one I would tell people to go and watch.
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Dead on arrival
Petri Pelkonen22 November 2008
Frank Bigelow walks into a police station and talks about his own death.He has been poisoned by luminous toxin in San Francisco and only has a short time to live.Rudolph Maté's D.O.A.(1950) is a brilliant film-noir about a man searching for his own murderer.Edmond O'Brien is a perfect man in the lead.Other players are great as well.Pamela Britton plays Paula GibsonLuther Adler is Majak.Beverly Garland is Miss Foster.The movie has many brilliant scenes.It's a fantastic sequence when Frank has just found out he's going to die and goes running in the streets.This is a cynical movie that is not intended to entertain you.D.O.A. is classic of the film-noir genre.
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First—class thriller, suspenseful and virtuously played, masterly directed, though fatalistic like a noir
Cristi_Ciopron7 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
First, I want to settle a disputed question—the merits and value of Edmond O'Brien (35 yrs. in this role)'s performance; he was a formidable actor. He brings half of DOA's interest.

DOA has several moments of very intense emotion, of undiluted emotion. It is a mystery thriller ,dynamic, suspenseful, sharp, enormously, tremendously enjoyable. It has some features that remind the noir conventions—first of all, its fatalist premise—the doom of an innocent man, victim, prey of an occupational hazard; then, the MALTESE … traits—the group of bums that capture Edmond O'Brien. Yet there is much in favor of DOA—the fact that the mystery is not just a pretext for an incursion in the underworld;--the lack of cynicism;--the pure moments of poetry and emotion;--the light, funny comedic notes at the input of Edmond O'Brien's escapade ….And there is an undeniable directorial brio and flair, a wonderfully maintained tempo ,a high sense of adventure and suspense. It is a movie you feel the need to share, to recommend to pals. (You might rightly conclude from the above that I refuse considering DOA as a noir, since it is so much more than the standard exponents and lessons of the noir—like DETOUR, etc..DOA has a diversity and a cordial attitude the noir usually do not possess. DOA is not noir, it surpasses the genre—it is much more than a noir ….) DOA is very inventive, ingenious, and, stylistically, a delight. It is what the kids call a roller-coaster. Visually, DOA is spectacular and aw-some—former director of photography, distinguished collaborator of someone like Dreyer himself, then Hollywoodian cinematographer, Rudolph Maté proves a consummate director with DOA, movie that marked his beginnings as a director .Schooled in Europe, Rudolph Maté appears, if compared with someone like Ulmer or Mann, to be the most skilled and refined. There is, indeed, a manly refinement in the very concept of DOA. You can sense the wide experience and the technical expertise of the director. (During the same period, Mann ,not much younger than Maté, was directing He Walked By Night …--there is a difference of scripts and concepts, yeah, but also one of skill and expertise!) Edmond O'Brien was so fine a lead! Handsome and virile, he had nonetheless a quite mean expression (in the way Bogart also had one).He played much finer than many of his more famous and awarded contemporaries. His role here is a marvelous achievement, a creation to be cherished, remarkably competent.

'DOA' is one of the finest, and O'Brien's performance, especially good.
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They done me wrong
lastliberal23 March 2007
Edmond O'Brien, who later would win awards for his performances in "The Barefoot Contessa" and "Seven days in May" gave an outstanding performance as a man who was poisoned and spent his remaining time trying to find out who did it and why. Turns out it was just one of those unfortunate deals of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but he is dead anyway.

Pamela Britton, who would find later acclaim as Blondie and a regular on "My Favorite Martin" gave a passionate performance as his ditsy girlfriend.

This was classic film noir and the score was terrific. It really added to the suspense of the film. It should also be noted that the depiction of jazz musicians was a bit racist. The camera angle made them all look as if they were on drugs. Maybe that was common then. It bears more investigation.

It is always good to go back to the beginning to see how a film was first handles. Now, I will take another look at the 1988 version with Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan. I have seen it, but need to refresh my memory. Last years "Crank" with Jason Statham is a modern version of this film.
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A Dissent From the Consensus
telegonus17 November 2001
I'm generally partial to film noir, and D.O.A. is about as close to pure noir, at least in spirit, as a movie can be. But I don't like it and never did. Both the director and cinematographer have done brilliant work elsewhere, and the film is no no means incompetently made; but it's poorly written, has way too convoluted a plot, and is for the most part very badly acted. There are no likable characters in the film, and no engaging performances. I grant that much of the outdoor photography is excellent, and that the views of postwar California offer a sociologically fascinating and at times aesthetically striking picture of real life at a certain time and in a certain place. But such ancillary pleasures do not a good movie make.

One of my chief problems with the film is its leading actor, Edmond O'Brien. When well cast, O'Brien could be excellent. He had a fine background in the legitimate theater and could play Shakespeare quite proficiently (as his Casca in Julius Caesar attests). But he is a dull hero. In D.O.A. his mere presence makes his hounded character absurd almost from the start. With Bogart, Ladd or even Dick Powell in the role the movie would have worked better, as these actors, whatever their limitations, were bona fide stars, and would have audience empathy just by showing up. O'Brien, while not a loathsome presence, isn't the sort of actor people care for. He is workmanlike as the unfortunate "hero", but there's no spark there, no reason, from a likability standpoint, to identify with him. My greatest concern for O'Brien was for the actor himself. As he was a heavy-set, beefy fellow, his running up and down stairs all the time made me worry that he might have a heart attack. The best thing about O'Brien, and one of the reasons he was never out of work, is that he was, in the parlance of Old Hollywood, a great dialog man. He always spoke clearly, never muffed his lines; and no matter how stupid the things he had to say might sound, he delivery was impeccable.

In a lesser role, Luther Adler makes a tedious, predictable villain. It's the sort of performance Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt or George Macready could have delivered in his sleep. Adler tries hard, but is defeated by the script; and he is badly photographed and directed. There's no menace to him. As his henchman, Neville Brand is so obviously trying to give the kind of "dangerous" performance that put Richard Widmark over in Kiss Of Death a few years earlier, that he's impossible to take seriously. As the years went by he became a capable screen performer, but here his grinning and eye-popping, while fun to watch, just make him look silly. Pamela Britton is a dull love interest, and like O'Brien seems to be in the wrong film.

How this film ever became a cult classic baffles me. I like dark cinema as much as the next guy, but I don't cherish films just because they're dark, or because they have doomed heroes, or are photographed at night, or offer brilliant, dandyish European villains. Such things had become clichés by the time D.O.A. was made anyway, and the formula was wearing thin. Noirs would continue to be made, fitfully, through the next decade, but in a different mode, more realistically than before, with greater subtlety. D.O.A. is caught between two modes. As it came out in 1950, it still has some of the Chandler-Woolrich feeling of the previous decade: dark cities, eccentric secondary characters, evil women, indifferent or corrupt cops, and an air of fatalism. Yet it also reflects the semi-documentaries of the postwar period in its location shooting and in the absence of much studio artifice, which ought, at least in theory, give it an air of hope, of modernity, which alas, its ironclad plot doesn't possess. It would take the talents of, among others, men like Phil Karlson, Don Siegel and Robert Aldrich to move noirs in a contemporary direction more appropriate to the times. Indeed, Aldrich seemed to have learned a thing or two from this film, which his later Kiss Me Deadly, though vastly superior, seems stylistically to be at times an homage to.
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