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D.O.A. (1988)

A college professor's day: his top student allegedly commits suicide, his wife presents him with divorce papers and he overnights in a freshman girl's dorm. The next day: more murders around him. Will he find the killer in time?

Writers:

Charles Edward Pogue (screenplay), Charles Edward Pogue (story) | 2 more credits »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Dennis Quaid ... Dexter Cornell
Meg Ryan ... Sydney Fuller
Charlotte Rampling ... Mrs. Fitzwaring
Daniel Stern ... Hal Petersham
Jane Kaczmarek ... Gail Cornell
Christopher Neame ... Bernard
Robin Johnson ... Cookie Fitzwaring
Robert Knepper ... Nicholas Lang (as Rob Knepper)
Jay Patterson ... Graham Corey
Brion James ... Detective Ulmer
Jack Kehoe ... Detective Brockton
Elizabeth Arlen ... Elaine Wells
Karen Radcliffe Karen Radcliffe ... Jane Corey
William Forward ... Chief Resident
Lee Gideon Lee Gideon ... Mr. Fitzwaring
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

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.

Genres:

Mystery | Thriller

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

18 March 1988 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Dead on Arrival See more »

Filming Locations:

Austin, Texas, USA See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$12,706,478
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Black and White (some sequences)| Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The movie's MacGuffin was not just the one thing but the film utilizes "two central MacGuffins" according to show-business trade paper 'Variety'. These were an unpublished fiction novel manuscript and the identity of the person who lethally poisoned Professor Dexter Cornell (Dennis Quaid). See more »

Goofs

At the end of the movie, Dex shoots the villain, who falls out of a window. Dex shot the villain in the front and the villain took several steps backwards without turning around. The next shot shows the villain very obviously jumping out of the window by running up to it facing forward and spinning around in the air. See more »

Quotes

Mrs. Fitzwaring: How did you know about Nick?
Dexter Cornell: I'm psychic.
Bernard: Good. Then you know what's going to happen to you.
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 »

Connections

Version of Color Me Dead (1969) See more »

Soundtracks

TIE A YELLOW RIBBON 'ROUND THE OLD OAK TREE
Written by Irwin Levine & L. Russell Brown (as Larry Brown)
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Another One slipped by
4 December 2001 | by artbyjudeSee all my reviews

For all those people who believe the dialog is worth something, and who appreciate a farce that is clever enough for you to take it seriously, this movie will surprise you. It is not a 'whodunit' for people who can't aren't able to follow the verbal exchange of our hero, Professor Dexter Cornell (Dennis Quaid).

Cornell teaches in Southern California, near the tar pits. He has not published a novel in four years, his wife is divorcing him, he drinks a bit much, and is blessed or cursed with caustic wit, which he freely dispenses to his students. He has recommended a friend for advancement, and one bright young student has submitted a manuscript to him as an independent project. Cornell doesn't even want to read it, so gives it an "A", and pushes it to the side. Leaning back with a drink in his office he stares out the window, when the bright young student falls past his window on the way to meeting the sidewalk in a splat encounter.

Hal comes to talk, and they chat, drinking some more. The Cornell realizes that he HAS to read the manuscript, now. When he goes home, his wife is waiting with divorce papers. He drinks some more. She leaves, and he goes to a faculty affair, only to find her there. He drinks even more. And when his wife learns that the student is dead, she swoons, and he learns that she had been having an affair with the student. This of course prompts him to do some more serious drinking. The next morning he wakes up to find himself in the dorm room of one of his students, a freshman named Syd (Meg Ryan).

He feels worse than a hangover, goes to the doctor and learns that he has been poisoned, it is irreversible, and he has 24-48 hours to live. He doesn't have much time to find out who killed him, and there are sub-plots, motives, relationships and surprises at every turn, although everything makes sense at the end. All his discoveries and exchanges are adorned with sarcasm, dry wit and keen observations. Let's just say that this movie will give new meaning to the adage "publish or perish".

There are no bad performances in this movie. There are recurrent images, and symbolism used at careful intervals. Watch for the cracked glass, and images distorted through glass. Some of the camera shots are revolutionary for 1988, and some of the violent action is carefully and skillfully choreographed. The music is unobtrusive and appropriate, although occasionally it makes it's own statement, in song lyrics. The visuals in this flick are impressive.

If there are any failures, it is that the opening 20 minutes move a little slow, and nearly puts you to sleep. But the pacing picks up quickly, with just the right amount of exposition in between action segments.

There are no explicit sexual encounters, although there is violence and some bad language.

This is a writer's movie, and is best appreciated by those who have a sense of humor about their own success or failure. I do think if you take it seriously, you're already in big trouble.


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