D.O.A. (1949)

doa poster 1949 movie review
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Great story set-up

Gets a bit sidetracked during some of the film

Movie Info

Movie Name: D.O.A.

Studio:  Harry Popkin Productions

Genre(s): Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  December 23, 1949 (Premiere)/April 21, 1950 (US)

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

doa edmond obrien poisoned

We’re here to tell you that you’re screwed

Frank Bigelow (Edmond O’Brien) is a business man who finds his life turned upside down on a trip to San Francisco.  Waking up after a bender, Frank feels oddly sick…only to learn he’s been poisoned.  With no hope for a cure and time quickly running out, Frank must find his killers and uncover why he was targeted before the end arrives.  Frank has been murdered and he has to know who did it.

Directed by Rudolph Maté, D.O.A. is a noir crime thriller.  The movie was released to positive reviews and was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2004.

I remember D.O.A. primarily due to the remake in 1988.  The concept and idea of the film is a great story…a man investigating his own death.  While the movie takes time to get going, it leads to a thrilling ending that is expected but leaves you wishing it wasn’t true.

doa edmond obrien

I have a feeling that you don’t wish me to speak freely…

A *****spoiler alert***** doesn’t really apply to D.O.A., but it kind of does.  The film has the character being told that he’s going to die and nothing can save him, but as a viewer, you hold out hope.  As Frank Bigelow goes deeper and deeper into a rather convoluted murder/mystery, you keep hoping and thinking that the diagnosis might somehow be part of it.  Frank is truly doomed to die and the clock is ticking as he gets closer to answers.

The cast is decent which can’t always be said about the low budget films of this type.  Edmond O’Brien is brash and often abrupt.  He’s a guy running out of time and everything from questioning a grieving widow to forcing his way into confrontations, he is kind of a jerk (but he’s also in a no-win situation).  The movie also features an odd romance with Paula Gibson (played by Pamela Britton) who doesn’t know Frank is dying.  I particularly like Neville Brand as the insane killer who seems so excited to murder the already dying Frank.

Psycho Killer
Qu’est-ce que c’est
Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-far better
Run, run, run, run, run, run, run away

The movie is a classic noir.  Dark shadows and shady characters film the film.  The movie uses a lot of sets but it does incorporate some locations (like San Francisco) in which they did a guerrilla style shooting with no one realizing a movie was being shot.  The film also features the Bradbury Building in Los Angeles (where Blade Runner was also shot).

D.O.A. was a fun movie with a classic storyline which is why it has been emulated many times since its release.  It feels like this version has room for improvement, but the versions that come after it never seem to meet the level of this original outing.  D.O.A. was remade in 1969 as Color Me Dead, 1988 as D.O.A., 2017 as Dead on Arrival, and a modified version of the film was the bases for 2021’s Kate.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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