"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."
A film noir classic in every sense of the word
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 09/27/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."
About the dvd
J. A. Torrontegui | Spain | 07/24/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I just wanted to add to his wonderful reviews that in my opinion the Image dvd edition is the one to buy. A really great looking transfer, with very sharp image, which is what I value the most. There is only one bad shot in the later part of the movie obviously taken from an inferior source."
Solving Your Own Murder
William Hare | Seattle, Washington | 03/24/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."
One OF The best Film Noir's Ever Made!
A* | New York, N.Y. United States | 09/29/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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!"