Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Whodunnit Wednesday - D.O.A. (1950)

"I want to report a murder."
"Sit down... Where was this murder committed/"
"San Francisco. Last night"
"Who was murdered?"
"I was."

Ok, seriously, Kiddies, with an opening like that it's obvious that while the title of today's film may be D.O.A., the movie itself definitely isn't.

Edmond O'Brien plays  Frank Bigleow, an accountant in the town of Banning California who walks into the homicide division of the local police station to make the above announcement. Oddly, the detective he is talking to (unlike the audience) not only doesn't seem surprised at what he says, but seems to have been expecting him. From there we are told the story in flashback from Bigelow's perspective.

Surprising his secretary/lover by announcing he is suddenly taking a trip out of town, Bigelow soon hooks up with a group of conventioneers upon arriving in San Francisco. While out on the town at a local jazz club, we see that, unknown to him, Bigelow's drink is swapped for another. When he awakens the next morning feeling badly, he goes to a doctor who tells him that he has been poisoned. from there on, the film turns into a true noir mystery with Bigelow trying to track down not only who killed him but why, and to do it before the clock runs out on his own life. There is a growing sense of desperation throughout the film as the poison begins to take effect and Bigelow feels his life slipping away with every tick of the clock. Can Bigelow find out what and who is behind his poisoning, or is he destined to die without even knowing why?

On its initial release, D.O.A. was not exactly a critical darling, with the New York Times, for instance, calling it "fairly obvious and plodding recital, involving crime, passion, stolen iridium, gangland beatings and one man's innocent bewilderment upon being caught up in a web of circumstance that marks him for death", but I think that focuses way too much on the plot. The true appeal of this movie is in the performances and the atmosphere, and this has been reflected in later reviews, such as the one from A.K Rode which states "The lighting, locations, and atmosphere of brooding darkness were captured expertly by [director Rudolph] Mate and director of photography Ernest Lazlo." or Michael Sragow's review which calls it a "high-concept movie before its time." The film has also been recognized and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress which cited it as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

I'm gonna give you a bit of a different trailer today. Apparently this was done as a school assignment and posted to YouTube by ShadowMaster0511. It's not official, but i think it actually does a pretty good job of giving you the essentials and picking up on the tone and atmosphere of the film. And it's a good example, since the film is part of the public domain, of one of the things that can be done with it:

Ok, here's the skinny:
Title: D.O.A.
Release Date: 1950
Running Time: 83min
Black and White
Starring: Edmond O'Brien
Directed by: Rudolph Mate'
Produced by Leo C. Popkin
Distributed by: United Artists

D.O.A. is available for free to watch or download here.
Amazon has the DVD for purchase: DOA (Enhnaced) 1950.
It's also available for rental at Netflix: Film Noir Collection: D.O.A..

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian


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