D.O.A. (1950) Rudolph Maté
Mill Creek Crime Wave DVD
D.O.A. contains one of the most original openings in film noir. A man named Frank Bigelow (Edmond O’Brien) walks into a police station wanting to report a murder. The cops ask him who was murdered. Bigelow replies, “I was.”
Thus begins a long flashback as Bigelow pieces together the story for the cops and, of course, for us. Somehow Bigelow was been poisoned with a “luminous toxin” and there’s no antidote. Having only days to live, he frantically goes in search of the person who wants him dead and the reason why.
Edmond O’Brien’s name is high on my list of favorite film noir actors. He’s certainly not pretty, but he’s got that “everyman” look about him, like he’s the guy you sat next to in English class. He’s just an average Joe trying to get along when somebody slips him a poisoned drink. And nobody else would have quite the same reaction when faced with a sadistic hood played by Neville Brand (left). Good stuff.
I originally saw this film about 30 years ago and remembered little of it, so I was glad to see it again. Maté does a fine job of creating a claustrophobic, frantic feel early on in a nightclub scene with quick close-up cuts of a jazz combo playing, setting the tone (no pun intended) for the frenzied atmosphere that follows. Ernest Laszlo’s cinematography is also impressive, although it may be tough to appreciate depending upon the quality of print/video/DVD you watch. It’s a public domain film and you can find it just about anywhere, which has its good and bad points. D.O.A. is in the archive of The Film Detective, a company that specializes in remastering public domain titles. I would love to see a restored Blu-ray of this title soon. Maybe we’ll even see it at an upcoming Noir City festival. We can only hope.
Photos: A Life at the Movies, Seven Days