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A Movie A Day: Quint watches noir D.O.A. (1950)
I don't think you fully understand, Bigelow. You've been murdered.

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day. [For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.] Today we hit noir D.O.A., following over character actor Luther Adler from yesterday’s John Wayne sea-faring actioneer WAKE OF THE RED WITCH. Let’s get some DVD technical information out of the way. The above-linked DVD is not the one I watched, but doing a little digging the restoration and film quality on the above release is said to be much better than the version I saw. I was gifted a compilation noir set a year or two back consisting of 5 noirs, all public domain. Public domain films can be put out by anybody, meaning that as long as you have a print and the ability to burn a DVD you can put it out as there is no copyright holder. Because of that there are notorious public domain titles that are released ten bazillion times and in all different shades of quality. The Questar set I have seems to be on the low end of quality. It’s great to have these movies (the titles are Detour, The Stranger, DOA, Scarlett Strett and Killer Bait, the last three having now been covered on this list), but it looks to be recorded off of a beat up original or good dupe 16mm print, meaning the contrast is fuzzy at times and the flaws in the film are noticeable. So, my understanding is the above-linked double pack with the Frank Sinatra flick SUDDENLY is the best transfer of D.O.A. Okay, now let’s get to talking about the movie.

Holy crap! The reputation the film has as a premiere sample of film noir isn’t exactly right (to what is in my brain as classic noir… with the sultry and smoking femme fatale and dickish, but morally centered antagonist), but goddamn is it an exciting, thrilling and incredibly smart story. Essentially the flick is told in flashback, opening with a disheveled Edmond O’Brien staggering into a police station wanting to report a murder. He is asked when the murder took place. He responds, “San Francisco, last night.” He is asked who was murdered. He responds, “I was.” And we get the story. O’Brien plays Frank Bigelow, a worn-out accountant who is being smothered by his clingy girlfriend, Paula (played by Pamela Britton), and just needs an escape, so he plans a solo trip to San Francisco. After much arguing with his girlfriend, she lets him go and, surprisingly, pretty much tells him to fuck whomever, that she trusts he’ll come back and no word has to be said about it. That was a little shocking, both for her uptight character and for it to be so clearly spelled out in a movie of this era. So he heads out and checks in to his hotel, getting caught up in a drunken shindig being thrown by a group of salesmen wrapping up a big sales conference. While out partying in San Fran, taking in the jazz scene and getting the number of a hot blonde, Bigelow’s drink is switched by someone we don’t get a good look at. He takes a sip and grimaces, not drinking the rest. The next day he feels bad, so he goes to a doctor who somehow gets his test results back within minutes and finds out he was slipped a poison and it has been fully absorbed by his body. He will die. Maybe in a day, maybe two, but he has been murdered. D.O.A. is all about Bigelow trying to solve his murder before he keels over, while at the same time making it right with his girlfriend and setting his life in order. Of course his search takes him to LA where he falls into a much bigger plot involving gangsters, dames and murderers, with a climactic sequence taking place in the instantly recognizable LA landmark Bradbury Building (you’ll remember it from Blade Runner and… well, Ray Bradbury Theater… that my earliest and fondest memory of the building). There’s a cast of characters here that really expand this world. My personal favorite being the toothy and simple, but psychopathic henchmen named Chester (Neville Brand). He works for the big crime magnet, played by Luther Adler, and constantly refers to himself in the third person. “Chester wants him to try it… He thinks Chester won’t hit back” etc. The movie’s quick, always involving and while the plot is filled with dead ends and red herrings it’s still easy to follow. While the transfer I viewed was muddy, I could tell the cinematography by Ernest Laszlo (LOGAN’S RUN, FANTASTIC VOYAGE) was beautiful. And don’t overlook the pounding score from Dimitri Tiomkin, who also provided a great score to both previous John Wayne AMADs THE ALAMO and RIO BRAVO.

Final thoughts: D.O.A. is a fantastic movie told in a superb way, with great performances throughout, a ticking clock that you actually feel, a growingly desperate atmosphere and a cast of zany characters that make this universe expansive, but still unique. An absolute recommend if you can find a decent copy. The schedule for the next 7 days is: Thursday, July 10th: SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943) Friday, July 11th: THE MATCHMAKER (1958) Saturday, July 12th: THE BLACK HOLE (1979) Sunday, July 13th: VENGEANCE IS MINE (1974) Monday, July 14th: STRANGE INVADERS (1983) Tuesday, July 15th: SLEUTH (1972) Wednesday, July 16th: FRENZY (1972) Tomorrow we follow composer Dimitri Tiompkin over to Alfred Hitchock’s 1943 thriller SHADOW OF A DOUBT. See you folks then! -Quint

Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch

Readers Talkback
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  • July 9, 2008, 4 p.m. CST



    I love this series of articles. Truly, it is da bomb.

  • July 9, 2008, 4:04 p.m. CST

    Can't Wait for Your Take on the Black Hole


    I still like that movie, but I think it's mostly nostalgia. Love it when Maximillian does the Cuisinart thing on Tony Perkins.

  • July 9, 2008, 4:09 p.m. CST

    Isn't this moving coming out again?

    by GregoryHarbin

    I seem to remember seeing a trailer for a movie with this same basic premise. Anyone know what I'm talking about?

  • July 9, 2008, 4:11 p.m. CST

    DOA 1950 is Public Domain

    by Longtime Lurker

    The original DOA is in the public domain. It can be downloaded from a number of public domain sites including, I believe, the Internet Archive. Check it out. Cheers. :)

  • July 9, 2008, 4:15 p.m. CST




  • July 9, 2008, 4:16 p.m. CST




  • July 9, 2008, 4:16 p.m. CST

    GH, there was a remake in the late 80s

    by Longtime Lurker

    It starred Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, Daniel Stern and Charlotte Rampling. I seem to remember it being pretty good, actually. Then again, I haven't seen it since it first came out.

  • July 9, 2008, 4:29 p.m. CST


    by coen_fan

    I actually have that on my queue. Might bump it up now.

  • July 9, 2008, 4:38 p.m. CST . . .


    I am touched. Seriously. Thank you for spending the time and effort for that touching tribute. BTW, 9th or 10th!! Awesommmme!!

  • July 9, 2008, 4:38 p.m. CST

    I'm dreading the Black Hole

    by mooli_mooli

    I remember the Black Hole as the most exciting film I'd ever seen as a kid - but part of me knows now that it hasn't aged well, and I haven't rewatched it in 25 years or so... I almost don't want to find out that its actually a load of crap.

  • July 9, 2008, 4:39 p.m. CST

    The long shot of O'Brien running up Market Street

    by Tacom

    after he finds out he's going to die is spectacular. First as a native San Franciscan it's cool to see how the city looked way back then. Second, it's just a pretty amazing shot where the camera just looks from up high at Edmond O'Brien running frantically through the crowded street all the way up to the Ferry building.

  • July 9, 2008, 4:40 p.m. CST

    BTW, . . .


    Your URL doesn't resolve. You might want to check that out. I was looking forward to checking out your site. You seem like a thoughtful, articulate kind of guy.

  • July 9, 2008, 4:45 p.m. CST

    I Haven't Seen Black Hole in Years . . .


    But I enjoyed it, last time I caught it. I think there was a lot of nostalgia involved in my experience, tho, which is always dangerous.

  • July 9, 2008, 5:03 p.m. CST

    Frank Bigelow, DOA Gigalo.

    by fiester


  • July 9, 2008, 5:13 p.m. CST

    Starring Rob Schneider



  • July 9, 2008, 5:19 p.m. CST

    What no Kevin Nash?

    by Alkeoholic77

  • July 9, 2008, 5:20 p.m. CST

    What no Kevin Nash?

    by Alkeoholic77

  • July 9, 2008, 5:55 p.m. CST

    All right! I'll return for Frenzy.

    by Lenny Nero

    Not entirely interested in some of the rest just yet, but Frenzy is just a fucking hoot.

  • July 9, 2008, 6:15 p.m. CST

    Great flick...very atypical.

    by Ninja Nerd

    Saw the original (this one) when I was a kid. Freaked me out. And hooked me as well. I thought it was a neat trick...solving your own murder...without a time machine or Deus Ex Machina or any sort. Brilliant stuff. Made O'Brien an actor I started to look for in films. I did see the remake...didn't do much for me.

  • July 9, 2008, 6:15 p.m. CST

    Great flick...very atypical.

    by Ninja Nerd

    Saw the original (this one) when I was a kid. Freaked me out. And hooked me as well. I thought it was a neat trick...solving your own murder...without a time machine or Deus Ex Machina or any sort. Brilliant stuff. Made O'Brien an actor I started to look for in films. I did see the remake...didn't do much for me.

  • July 9, 2008, 6:49 p.m. CST

    There are 2 remakes

    by Mr.Krinkle

    One is D.O.A. from the 80's starring Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan. The other is the Jason Statham action movie Crank! It took the entire plot and structure from D.O.A. Think about it.

  • July 9, 2008, 8:58 p.m. CST

    What no GIANT? Jett Rink rules.

    by EvilWizardGlick

    Giant has to be one of the best movies ever made. <p> Rock Hudson was continually out acted by Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, Dennis Hopper, and even Earl Holliman jr and Chill Wills. <p> Fuck, even an unspeaking Sal Mineo out acted Hudson. <p> I'm also fairly certain that when Rove prepped W to run for governor, planning on the WH stint, he forced him to copy some of Deans mannerisms.

  • July 9, 2008, 9:40 p.m. CST


    by Chicken Thunder

    That's a great movie. Haven't seen it in years, might be time for a revisit.

  • July 9, 2008, 10 p.m. CST

    How is it you've never seen a lot of these flicks?

    by fiester

    Don't you have cable? I mean "The Black Hole"? And "Frenzy"?

  • July 9, 2008, 10:43 p.m. CST

    Haven't seen this DOA but I did see the remake

    by jim

    and thought it was quite good. Have been meaning to see the original but haven't taken the time.

  • July 9, 2008, 11 p.m. CST

    I Despise Nixon


    Ultimate RINO. The model for McCain. A huge, big-government liberal when it came to governance. Not that Bush has been much better when it's come to the size of government.<Br><br>Richard Stark, you're just trying to tweak my melon. Don't think I don't know it.

  • July 9, 2008, 11:02 p.m. CST

    Richard Stark: Alas, No Hoochies in my Biography


    Not even of the maternal variety. BTW, I agree with you Richard Stark: AICN should change it's layout to look like Microsoft Excel. That way, I'd never have to do any real work.

  • July 9, 2008, 11:08 p.m. CST

    Nah. Gotta Get Home, Do Dinner, Go Shopping


    Put the baby to bed. Schools out, so no cracking the whip on the homework on the older one. That's always nice. Then, before retiring for the evening, I can check AICN for another opportunity to be . . . First!<br><br>Eventually, someone will figure out that it's a manifestation of a latent obsessive-compulsive disorder. Not that that'll stop me.

  • July 9, 2008, 11:10 p.m. CST

    I Think Two Firefox Plug-ins Can Fix It


    One to pick/replace CSS options, to change colors, background, and then one to block ads. That could make AICN look very generic and business like. Need to do research--I know the plugins are out there, at least for Firefox.

  • July 10, 2008, 2:21 a.m. CST


    by Fortunesfool

    is a great little movie as well.

  • July 10, 2008, 3:19 a.m. CST


    by joee60

    One of the most underrated movies of ALL time

  • July 10, 2008, 9:11 a.m. CST

    crime magnet?

    by Raymond Shaw

  • July 10, 2008, 3:50 p.m. CST

    DOA is a corking movie...

    by palimpsest

    and FRENZY is splendid - Hitchcock's best post-PSYCHO movie by some distance. Still waiting to see what Quint makes of THE BLACK HOLE - it's a bit of a dog's breakfast of a movie (20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA meets STAR WARS meets 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY meets SILENT RUNNING meets SOYLENT GREEN) with a too-calculating eye on apeing then-current scifi trends. But some of the visuals still stand up, there's some decent character actors slumming it (Tony Perkins, Max Schell, Robert Forster, the absurdly glorious Yvette Mimeux and Ernest Borgnine), too many cutesy robots, a genuinely WTF ending and an absolutely gobsmacking John Barry score.

  • July 11, 2008, 3:55 a.m. CST

    The Stranger is really great.

    by Knuckleduster

    I still haven't seen all of Welles' films and are mainly used to the classics (Kane and Ambersons), so it was quite surprizing to see him do something so "mainstream". Quite enjoyed it.