Movie Critique - D. O. A.

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: A convoluted murder mystery plot that keeps building excitement, tension and nervousness in the viewers and gradually increasing the pace making their heartbeats rise. Effectively made classic noir worth a watch anytime.

D. O.A. is a 1950 American film noir with Edmond O'Brien, Pamela Britton, Luther Adlee, Lawrence "Larry" Dobkin, Virginia Lee and William Ching among others. Directed by Rudolph Mate, Produced by Leo C. Popkin, Screenplay was written by Russell Rouse and Clarence Greene.

Frank Bigelow (portrayed by Edmond O'Brien), an accountant and notary public comes to San Francisco on a week long vacation much to the disappointment of his secretary and girlfriend Paula Gibson (portrayed by Pamela Britton). However in an unexpected turn of events, he sets on the search of a killer, find a motive, before everything comes to an end for him.

I first heard the radio version of this film on old time radio podcasts a couple years ago. Radio adaptation was originally aired on June 21 1951 by Screen Director's Playhouse. Edmond O'Brien reprised his role. The radio version that I heard left me in tears in the end, and had been waiting to watch the film version. Here is my review of the same.

Edmond O'Brien made a lot of name on radio as America's fabulous freelance insurance investigator Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar from 1950 thru 1952. This film was released in theaters a month before his Johnny Dollar show hit the radios. He had a long and successful career on radio, TV and film with one Academy Award win for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Oscar Muldoon in the 1954 American drama film The Barefoot Contessa.

He made a tough investigator in the film even though he wasn’t the investigator per se. As each second passes in the plot you can see the desperation, frustration and determination to find the truth before time runs out for O'Brien's Bigelow. You don’t see O'Brien but Bigelow in there. 

Both Edmond O'Brien and Larry Dobkin were pretty much famous on radio and went on to make a mark for themselves on TV and film as well. Larry Dobkin was also in the radio and film version of D.O.A. although his roles were different. On radio he was a police office, while in the movie he is one of the doctors, Dr. Schaefer with a very short role (the bald head guy in the picture below).

Pamela Britton as Paula Gibson is a pretty blonde thing with gumption and a heart so soft that butter could melt. Neville Brand as Chester made the most impression on me in the antagonists that Bigelow meets at every corner. His psychopathic nature makes him scarier than actually someone doing the killings or all the evils. 

The open credits roll on the back of O'Brien's character Frank Bigelow as he is walking through a building in search of someone or something. The title of the film appears in the end credits as well.

The entire film is one big flashback taking readers from one suspense move to another as Bigelow walks us through a twisted tale of murder and deceit. That is why perhaps the film is considered a classic in film noir. The story calls for the elements of desperation, the race against time, and the need to tell your loved one that you cared - multitude of emotions going through one character keeping the viewer on edge. Although there is not one femme fatale but three along with a plethora of suspects and bad guys.

In the end it left me with tears just as the radio show had. Too much to think that a simple bill of sale could leave the hero and heroine robbed of their chances of happiness; and cause a string of murders, loss of love and life. Makes you wonder every time you sign something in future. 

The impact of the film begins from the very first scene and stays with the viewers even past the credits. It is a rare thing for film makers to have such an impactful film made. Gives a totally different meaning for walking dead. 

A convoluted murder mystery plot that keeps building excitement, tension and nervousness in the viewers and gradually increasing the pace making their heartbeats rise. Effectively made classic noir worth a watch anytime.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. Edmond O'Brien's Oscar winning movie the 1954 The Barefoot Contessa title reminded me of my favorite cooking show Barefoot Contessa by chef Ina Garten. I am partial to Ina's show because she is from Connecticut where I currently live. I wonder if Ina chose the name for her show based on the film title. 

b. This is film debut for Beverly Garland (portrayed the role of Miss Foster), Lauretta Luez (portrayed the role of Marla Rakubian) and Frank Gestle (portrayed the role of Dr. MacDonald).

c. Look for an uncredited role as Jeanie by Virginia Lee in the film. 

d. The end credits acknowledges that the medical aspects in the film are based on scientific facts.

e. The film was remade a few times - in 1969 as Color Me Dead in Australia; in 1988 as D.O.A. with Dennis Quaid in the lead role.

f. When Frank Bigelow registers at the Allison Hotel in Los Angeles, note that a few other names in the register are actual names of some of the crew on the film - writer Russell Rouse; director of photography Ernest Laszlo; and assistant director Marty Moss.


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