Dexter Cornell, an English Professor becomes embroiled in a series of murders involving people around him. Dexter has good reason to want to find the murderer but hasn't much time. He finds... See full summary »


(screenplay), (story) | 2 more credits »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Mrs. Fitzwaring
Gail Cornell
Robin Johnson ...
Cookie Fitzwaring
Nicholas Lang (as Rob Knepper)
Graham Corey
Detective Ulmer
Jack Kehoe ...
Detective Brockton
Elaine Wells
Karen Radcliffe ...
Jane Corey
Chief Resident
Lee Gideon ...
Mr. Fitzwaring


Dexter Cornell, an English Professor becomes embroiled in a series of murders involving people around him. Dexter has good reason to want to find the murderer but hasn't much time. He finds help and comfort from one of his students, Sydney Fuller. Written by Rob Hartill

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Someone poisoned Dexter Cornell. He's got to find out who. He's got to find out why. He's got to find out now. In 24 hours, he'll be Dead On Arrival.


Mystery | Thriller


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

18 March 1988 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Dead on Arrival  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$12,706,478 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


(some sequences)|

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Stars Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid met on this film and were subsequently married. The pair tied the knot in 1991 but were divorced in 2001. See more »


Dexter suddenly gains glasses when he first asks Sydney to join him for a date. See more »


[last lines]
Dexter Cornell: Just somebody's homework, is all.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The opening Touchstone Logo is in black & white and the logo's flash is accompanied by a thunder clap. See more »


Referenced in Saved by the Bell: The New Class: Boy II Man (1997) See more »


Written by Mike Scott & Karl Wallinger
Performed by The Waterboys
Courtesy of Ensign/Chrysalis Records
See more »

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User Reviews

Remake of a classic which just doesn't even come close to the required standard.
2 October 2004 | by (Todmorden, England) – See all my reviews

D.O.A has a good premise, borrowed from a 1950 film of the same name and a 1969 film entitled Color Me Dead. But beyond the premise it fails to develop into anything worthwhile. The script mistakes ludicrousness for cleverness; the directors peculiarly seem to think they're making a pop video rather than a film; and Dennis Quaid puts on a weird grin and raises his eyebrows maniacally as if he's auditioning as a Jack Nicholson impersonator. It's good for a laugh but, since that wasn't the original intention, it's hard to rate this as a worthwhile film.

English lecturer Dexter Cornell (Quaid) is a bitter, bored shell of a man. Formerly a great author, he never recovered from the critical failure of his fourth and final novel and vowed never to write again. Without the drive of writing to fill his life, he gave up on everything else too, including his marriage and his dedication to the job. When pupil Nick Lang (Rob Knepper) apparently commits suicide after handing in an assignment, Cornell hits the booze to get over the shock. But soon thereafter, he learns that he has drunk a slow-acting poison, and that within 48 hours he will be dead. So close to death, he finally finds a renewed purpose in being alive.... as, aided by student Sydney Fuller (Meg Ryan), he desperately attempts to solve his own "murder".

It's such a good idea that one can hardly imagine how it could fail. But it does. It really, really does fail in a big way. All the pointlessly fancy camera angles, all the inappropriate musical scoring, and especially the jaw-droppingly stupid solution to the mystery, conspire to ruin the film. D.O.A stands for "Dead On Arrival", and that's the perfect adjectival phrase for the entire film. Some day, this wonderful idea for a film might be used once again to better effect, but for now you'd be best advised to stick with the 1950 version.

15 of 22 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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