50 of 53 people found the following review helpful
A man named Frank Bigelow (Edmund O'Brian) shows up at Los Angeles police station to report a murder: his own. Frank is dying of luminous toxin poisoning. He recounts to police the incredible story that brought him to be at the brink of death in this police station in a strange city. Just a few days ago, he was a small business owner in a little town called Banning. He had an adoring girlfriend, Paula Gibson (Pamela Britton), who was also his personal secretary. But Frank had cold feet about marrying Paula and decided to take a little vacation to San Francisco to give himself some air. Paula called to tell him that a man named Phillips was desperately trying to reach him, but the name didn't ring a bell. The next day, Frank found out that he had been fatally and irreversibly poisoned. Frank's increasingly frantic search for the identity and motivation of his murderer takes him to two cities, into the criminal underworld, and onto the wrong end of several pistols before all is done.
Rudolph Mate's "D.O.A." is a film noir classic. And it takes the cynical view typical of the genre. Frank is a man whose fate is entirely beyond his control. As the audience roots for Frank to solve the mystery and find his murderer, fate unabashedly mocks his efforts. Frank is a dying man; what earthly difference will it make if he finds his killer? Whatever Frank does, the result will be the same. And it's all because he notarized a bill of sale...one out of hundreds of bills of sales. Who knew what being a notary could lead to? But for a movie with such a cynical story to tell, "D.O.A." has always been immensely popular. I think that's because Frank Bigelow is an "everyman" who rises to the occasion when difficult circumstances require it. He's not too smart and not too dumb. He has a nice girlfriend...to whom he isn't entirely faithful. He's basically a good guy, works hard, but imperfect. And when fate deals him a bad deal, he finds within him a strength and determination that even he may not have known he had. He's going to solve the mystery if it's the last thing he does. Even though it will be the last thing he does. Edmund O'Brian does an admirable job of conveying Frank's imperfection, his initial incredulity at his predicament, and then his determination when he stares reality in the face and decides to take matters into his own hands, to the extent that he can. The opening scene in which Frank enters the police station to report his own murder is a stroke of genius. What a way to hook an audience! The only fault that I find with the film are the ridiculous noises that we hear every time Frank spies an attractive woman. Their tone is completely inappropriate to the film, and they are a real blot on Dimitri Tiomkin's otherwise excellent score.
The DVD (This refers to the Roan Group DVD only): This film looks too contrasty and lacking in subtle tonality to me. Not having seen the film on the silver screen, I don't know if it was originally like that, if there was a problem with the print, or if it's a bad transfer. But the film stocks available in 1950 were technologically much better than this DVD would lead you to believe. The main menu on the disc doesn't show up before the movie. The disc starts to play as soon as it is inserted into the player, so you have to either hit the menu button on your remote or get yourself onto your couch quickly. There are two bonus features: An interview with actress Beverly Campbell (now Beverly Garland) in which she describes her experience being blacklisted by the Hollywood studios for several years following her appearance in "D.O.A." And there are a few pages of text that you can read about film noir in general and "D.O.A." in particular. Beverly Garland's story is interesting, but the DVD seems to be put together in a slipshod manner.
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 2010
This was early in my career as a stuntman. I doubled Edmund O'Brian in the flick...and also, was his stand in. They have remade this picture but I think the original is the best. Lot's of intrigue, etc. The old black and white movies were the best of all. You will enjoy this picture.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
1950's D.O.A. is classic film noir, 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 left 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 noir classic.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
D.O.A. starts off with one hell of a bang a hulky and overwhelmed Edmund O'Brien musters his way into a ploice station. As h emakes his way through the marble paved floors and pass the columns and the passage ways he finally arrives at the end of his journey. The journey to get him there is one that is so tight and compelling that when O'Brien announces that he has already been murdered the film turns into to a stark tail of death and lust told in flashback! O'Brien is Frank Bigelow an accountant who takes a trip to forget about his lover and just have a casual afair or two while in San Francisco. While in San Francisco heh finds a few hot ladies at his hotel and then he is whisked away to a Jazz club where he is poisoned and there isn't as antidote! the film moves ahead at whiplash speed from here. Shadows are cast over O'Briens hulking frame and sweat pours over his brow as he begins his trek to find his killer. th eplot and dialogue is as tight as any top grade Noir. But the most shoking element of the whole film is O'Brien he never once lets the viewer down he follows through with pure human emotion and if it seems like he is over actingn to some he is just playing a real life scenario oout on screen if you wer just poisoned would you be calm! Excellent Noir's have all the elements of the past from the sharp cut suits to the sheen of the telephones and with D.O.A. O'Brien seems to make all these elements seem ever more stark and fleeting with the fact that O'Brien is dying his precious reunion with the love he left for a good time seems more like fate instead of like the last time he will be in complete bliss! O'Brein is so powerful and commanding that i nver wanted him to die even though i knew it was inevitable now that makes the film as a whole a masterpiece!
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2008
I've read some reviews of the other edition of this film and they also say that the quality is poor, so it's probably a problem with the available stock of this film for a transfer. There is no way that this "remastered" edition is any better, I couldn't imagine the quality being much worse for a film from 1950. And I've seen my share of noirs from the 40s, so I don't mean in comparison to modern DVDs. But, that being said, I don't regret my purchase because I do love this film that much. It pains me to not give it 5 stars.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2006
Frank Bigelow (played by the great Edmond O'Brien) is just a regular joe, a mild-mannered accountant who steps out to San Francisco for a few days of fun to get away from his smothering girlfriend. She never gives the guy a break! Once in SF things gets a little campy with the strange wolfish whistling sound every time a foxy dame walks by and the completely whacked out jive club scene! Wow, that was just nutty all the way through, but then things take a serious turn when somebody slips some luminous poison in Bigelow's drink.
The next morning he feels funny and goes to the hospital. When they tell him he's been poisoned and is gonna die in a few days he freaks out - "This is fantastic! This is the most ridiculous thing! This is impossible! You're nothing but a coupla phonies!" - and goes running down the street like a madman. Once he calms down he gets pissed and goes out in search of his killer.
Not as hard-boiled as I had hoped but who cares it was a lot of fun, plus you got Neville Brand! What more could you want?
Of the all DVD releases I seen (as of 5/06) the one from Image looks the best.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2002
This epic 1949 noir thriller, one of the greatest on film, involves the ultimate oxymoron, that of solving your own murder. While seemingly contradictory to the ear, the solid premise makes sense within its own context. Edmond O'Brien, cast as Banning accountant Frank Bigelow, is slipped a fatal dose of luminous toxic poison, finding out too late to save his life but with just enough time ticking on the clock to solve his own murder. By the end of the film he is staggering, stubbornly seeking to endure long enough to put the finishing touches on his detective work.
The fatal act occurs not in his hometown just northwest of ritzy Palm Springs, but in San Francisco, where O'Brien, to use his own words, knows "not one soul." He takes the trip to determine ultimately, after one painful divorce, if his secretary Paula Gibson, played by Pamela Britton, is truly right for him. Britton begs O'Brien to take her with him, but ultimately she realizes that he needs the experiment to convince himself that their romance is meant to endure. After one night on the town O'Brien realizes that he loves Paula and he has no more wild oats to sow, but his realization comes too late. In the interim, while visiting The Fisherman, a jazz nightclub on The Wharf, he is slipped luminous toxic poison by a mysterious man with a hat and scarf, who stays just long enough to switch drinks with his victim.
O'Brien has a funny feeling in his stomach the following morning and checks out his condition, learning that he has ingested a fatal dose of luminous toxic poison. Had he found out in time his life could have been spared with a stomach wash.
After initially reeling from the shocking disclosure, and after running down crowded Market Street like a man totally lost, O'Brien collects his thoughts and decides to solve his own murder before dying. He is told that he may have no more than one day to live. As it turns out, that is all the time that remains for him.
O'Brien's first clue is provided by Britton, who phones him to reveal that a Los Angeles export-import operator named Phillips has been eager to reach him. When she telephones Phillips' office again, she learns that the businessman has died in the interim. This convinces O'Brien that he needs to travel quickly to Los Angeles, where he hopes to find the necessary answers to ultimately solve his own murder.
Ultimately O'Brien learns that he has been poisoned because he happened to notarize a bill of sale for an order of iridium, which was stolen. Luther Adler plays a ruthless mob boss who initially sold the iridium to Phillips, then bought it back, after which the facts became known and Phillips was arrested. In the center of the action is femme fatale Laurette Luez, a beautiful young model who used his charms to get Phillips to buy the iridium.
The plot twists and turns soar at breakneck speed with the clock constantly ticking for O'Brien. At one point he looks as good as dead after Adler turns him over to his would be executioner, psychopathic killer Neville Brand, a sadist who enjoys torturing O'Brien by slugging him in the belly, then reciting in a crazed mantra, "Soft in the belly, he can't take it, he's soft in the belly!" One fast move ultimately gets O'Brien out of harm's path as Brand is gunned down in the Hollywood drugstore O'Brien has entered to escape from the gun wielding executioner.
Eventually,with not an extra moment to spare, O'Brien is able to dispose of his killer. From there he is just able to make it to police headquarters in downtown Los Angeles and tell his amazing story, after which he collapses on the floor. The homicide boss tells the officer to make out the report on O'Brien as "Dead on Arrival," in police shorthand "D.O.A."
The camera work, editing, and direction are superb. Veteran cinematographer Ernest Laszlo did a first rate job, as did Rudolph Mate, the former cinematographer who made Rita Hayworth look so desirable in "Gilda," who was making his directorial debut. Oscar-winning musical composer Dimitri Tiomkin delivered pulse-beating music in concert with the swift pace of the film. Clarence Greene and Russell Rouse, who would later found Seven Arts, delivered a superb script. As for the cast, not a beat was missed. This might well be O'Brien's top acting effort in a leading role. He secured a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for "The Barefoot Contessa" starring Humphrey Bogart and Ava Gardner, playing nervous, perpetually sweating publicist Oscar Muldoon.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 2, 2006
D.O.A. (1950) is one of those films I try to watch about once a year (a lot easier since purchasing it on DVD) as it's a classic American film-noir mystery/drama with quite a bit going for it, along with a few, minor flaws (the minor flaws tend to stand out a little more here because most of the other aspects are so strong). Directed by Rudolph Maté (When Worlds Collide, The Violent Men), an accomplished cinematographer prior to moving into the realm of directing, the feature stars Oscar winning character actor Edmond O'Brien (The Hitch-Hiker, The Barefoot Contessa, The Wild Bunch). Also appearing is Pamela Britton ("Blondie", "My Favorite Martian"), Lynn Baggett (The Time of Their Lives), Luther Adler (Voyage of the Damned), Beverly Garland (The Alligator People), William Ching (In a Lonely Place), Laurette Luez (Prehistoric Women), and Neville Brand (Halls of Montezuma, Stalag 17), in his first credited feature film role. For fans of the television show "Green Acres", keep an eye peeled for Frank `Sam Drucker' Cady, as he's got a bit part early on as a bartender.
As the film opens we see a man entering a large, metropolitan police station and head towards the homicide division. Upon arriving, we learn he's there to report a murder...his own! Turns out the man's name is Frank Bigelow (O'Brien), and he's a accountant from a small, Californian town, to which we move into a lengthy flashback as he relates his tale. Frank works in a small, podunk town along with secretary/girlfriend Paula (Britton), and it seems Paula's a little put out by the fact Frank has announced, on very short notice, that he's taking a trip to San Francisco to get a little time for himself. As Frank arrives at his hotel, the joint's jumping with conventioneers, a group of them Frank ends up hooking up with...after a night out on the town Frank returns to the hotel and wakes the next morning feeling rather poorly, enough so to cause him to see a doctor, which he's then informed he's been poisoned! Not only that, but the poison is fatal, and he's got perhaps a week, at the most, to live. Some vacation...anyway, Frank eventually discovers his predicament was deliberately caused, and sets out to discover the whos and the whys. The trail leads Frank to a minor business dealing he had some time ago with a character named Renoylds, one involving the sale of some precious metals. As Frank delves deeper into the mystery he stirs up a hornet's nest of trouble, mainly for himself, as there are those who don't appreciate his sudden interest their affairs, and runs afoul of some thugs, the result being if the poison coursing through his system doesn't kill him, the various bullets thrown his way might...
I think one of the more interesting aspects of this film for me was how O' Brien's character just wasn't an entirely likeable fellow in the beginning, one that I found myself rooting for by the end (albeit halfheartedly). You see, in scenes near the beginning, Frank is portrayed as a sort of philanderer, especially once he hits San Francisco. That, in and of itself wouldn't mean much to me, except for the fact he's stringing along a swell dame in Paula (Ms. Britton looked incredibly beautiful here, but not inaccessible) who's completely devoted to him, so much so she's willing to put up with his peccadilloes. Sure she gets miffed, but she always ends up coming around, and, at one point, she basically tells Frank there isn't anything he can do that would cause her feelings for him to falter...probably not something you should relate to someone with a wandering eye. Once Frank accepts his predicament (that whole dying thing), he does eventually come around, realizing what's important, so there is a strong, moral element involved. Another element I enjoyed was the character of Chester the thug, played by Neville Brand, who appears later in the story. It's always fun when they throw a sadistic, wild-eyed psychotic in the mix, especially one who tends to refer to himself in the third person and call his handgun `Baby'. There's a couple really great lines of dialogue present, one of which I used for the title of this review. It occurs once Frank begins unraveling the mystery of his murder, and he gets terse with femme fatale whom he believes to be involved (she is), to which she tells him "If you were a man I'd punch your dirty face in.". Another good one comes just prior to this, as he's strong arming a tight-lipped secretary, played by Beverly Garland, into spilling her guts telling her she's "in this right up to your pretty, little neck!". I thought the performances, the direction, the writing, and cinematography all very strong, complimented wonderfully by Dimitri Tiomkin's vibrant musical score. The pacing is quick and leads up to an exciting and engaging climax, one definitely worth sticking around for...there is one aspect I did find annoying, and it wasn't the fact so many fabulous babes seemed willing to throw themselves at a slightly paunchy Edmond O'Brien. It involved the usage of a slide whistle. As O'Brien's character arrives at his hotel in San Francisco early on, every time he sees a babe there's a simulated wolf call sound effect created with a slide whistle. Now this is something I'd expect in a screwball comedy starring Jerry Lewis, but not something that fits in with the material here, especially given the rather dramatic opening sequence. I'm unsure who decided to throw that particular sound effect in, but they didn't do the picture any favors. It certainly doesn't ruin the film, but I thought I should warn those interesting in see it, as it may draw you out of the feature as it did me, eliciting a "What the fudge?" response. Despite that minor point, the rest is gold, especially if you're a fan of noir.
It looks as if this film has been release onto DVD various times, by a few, different companies, but the version I own was released by Image Entertainment, as part of The Wade Williams Collection. The DVD case states the source material used was a restored producer's negative. The picture, presented in full screen (1.33:1) does look clean and sharp, but there are minor imperfection throughout (no frames seem to be missing, though). As far as the Dolby Digital mono audio, it seemed to me the levels weren't entirely consistent, as I found myself regularly adjusting the volume (maybe my ears are going bad, I don't know). There aren't any extras included, but there are chapter stops. I haven't seen the other DVD releases so I can't compare this to them, but I'm familiar enough with Image Entertainment's DVD releases to feel comfortable in saying the overall quality here is probably better than on some of the less expensive releases. I did notice a Roan release available, and I've found their releases to be solid, so if your looking for a less expensive version but still better than average quality, that might be a way to go.
By the way, I've seen the 1988 remake featuring Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan...it's not bad, but comes up lacking when compared to the original, in my opinion.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2005
Rarely, at my age, does a 5-star drama get past me that has been out for 57 years. Well this one did. Seeing it for the first time last week was a rare, refreshing treat.
After reading many of the fine reviews here, I became intrigued with what was described by many reviewers as "a strange noise", "whistle", or "music", every time Frank Bigelow [Edmond O'Brien] saw an attractive woman. I watched it alone, with my spouse, and with my daughter, and we all found it rather unsettling when indeed the strange music, like whistling glissandos, followed Frank Bigelow's stare toward young females in San Francisco. We believe that the strange sound was to show the contrast between Bigelow's original demeanor of just another "typical" guy out for some capricious fun in San Francisco and the one we saw later in the movie. Once he knew he was a walking dead man, this "glissando effect" was abruptly absent to show his new outlook and his maniacal focus on discovering who in fact had killed him. That's right, "who HAD killed him". That is what the movie is about -- Frank Bigelow's investigation of his own murder.
Once the happy-go-lucky scenes passed early in the film, the scenes became very intense and the movie's pace really booked! Sub-plots and new co-stars like Luther Adler and Neville Brand were introduced and given three-dimensional characterizations through action, which is something to see. Edmond O'Brien very believably depicted a man who became strengthened by his freedom of fear of death, which made him into an almost-irresistible force. He was certainly a far cry from the milquetoast accountant out to sow a few wild oats during a trip to San Francisco before getting married as which he began the film. All of this intrigue happened in only 83 minutes. I have watched D.O.A. five times in the last 4 days. The only modern film that compares is "Point Blank" with Lee Marvin from 1967.
This DVD played without fault but had NO features whatsoever, but for $6.98 through Amazon that was more than I expected.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2000
Why does this movie, in my opinion, deserves five stars ? Because, if you're a film noir fan, you cannot be but astonished by the treatment of the subject. Rudolph Maté's D.O.A. is a B movie, alright, but a movie you have to possess if you are a movie lover.
Firstly, there is the musical score, signed by his majesty Dimitri Tiomkin. Imagine that, in the middle of D.O.A., Tiomkin and Maté have dared to give to the music an unusual role one would rather find in comic movies. When Edmond O'Brien arrives in San Francisco, he's surrounded by beautiful girls in his hotel's lobby. Everytime he's admiring one of these ladies, the orchestra whistles ! Quite unique in a film noir !
Then, the rythm is suffocating and won't let you breathe at all. Apart of Edmond O'Brien, Neville Brand is outstanding in the role of a psychotic bodyguard.
As bonus features, the Master Movies in my possession, offers a few filmographies and critical articles. No english subtitles. Sound and images are below-average to average, so don't hesitate to check the Image or Roan Group DVD.
A DVD for your library.