D.O.A. (1949)

October 3rd, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Rudolph Mate. | Cast: Edmond O’Brian, Pamela Britton, Luther Adler, Beverly Garland | US Drama 83’

With a title like that I think I’m safe in discussing this film’s plot without issuing a spoiler alert since most viewers are already well appraised of the plot in advance. A man, Frank Bigelow, has told he’s been poisoned and has only a few days to live, so he tries to find out who killed him and why. 

At the outset of Kind Hearts and Coronets Denis Price laconically observes “when a man is to be hanged in the morning it concentrates his mind wonderfully”. Edmond O’Brien undergoes a similar transformation since the knowledge he only has hours to live has completely removed the fear of death which enables him to ride roughshod through a collection of ghouls; a situation bookended by the opening when he strides into a police station to report a murder and when the sergeant asks who, replies “I was!” and in a later flashback a scientist informs him “You’ve been murdered!” (only in a noir would you you hear a line like that!).

What makes the cinema such a rich experience is that it exists in a permanent present, so even though O’Brien dies at the end he remains marvellously alive each time the film is repeated. @RichardChatten 


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