D.O.A. (1950) 4/5 (10)


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Rating: The Good – 83
Genre: Film-Noir
Duration: 107 mins
Director: Rudolph Maté
Stars: Edmond O’Brien, Pamela Britton, Luther Adler

Edmond O’Brien stars in this classic film-noir about a lawyer (Frank Bigelow) who discovers he has been fatally poisoned while on a weekend trip to San Francisco. Refusing to check himself into hospital and await the inevitable, he sets about identifying his poisoner and uncovers a wider plot involving a former client and some gangsters. D.O.A. is a masterfully constructed noir built perfectly around a thrilling concept. Shot in a hazy black and white and with some feint touches of innovation to give one the sense of disorientation and haste, Rudolph Maté plunges us into the desperate world of his central protagonist. Furthermore, his clever and very effective use of sound in the early stages of the film, particularly during the jazz club sequence, not only adds a great sense of fun to the movie, but nicely sets both the audience and Bigelow up for the strangeness of what’s to follow. O’Brien is as ever terrific in the role and he adds just enough wrinkles to his typically lively personality to give us an authentic sense of Bigelow’s predicament. Russell Rouse and Clarence Greene’s screenplay is tight and at all times clever and together with Maté’s direction, it runs us through hoops for the best part of an hour so that we are prevented from disengaging from a character who is doomed to fate from the first scene. There are many great examples of this genre and while many are better remembered than D.O.A, not many are better made. Moreover, D.O.A is a poster film for the techniques, sentiments, and style that defined that genre as a whole. Lastly, as this film has slipped into the public domain, you can find the link to the entire film above.

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