Release Date: April 21st, 1950
Directed by: Rudolph Maté
Written by: Russell Rouse, Clarence Greene
Music by: Dimitri Tiomkin
Cast: Edmond O’Brien, Pamela Britton, Luther Adler, Beverly Garland (as Beverly Campbell), Neville Brand, Lynn Baggett, William Ching, Henry Hart, Laurette Luez
Harry Popkin Productions, Cardinal Pictures, United Artists, 84 Minutes
“Do you realize what you’re saying? Well, you’re telling me that I’m dead.” – Frank Bigelow
This film-noir came out at the tail end of the genre’s immense popularity. In fact, it came out just before Sunset Boulevard, which is the movie that many film historians and noir purists consider to be the final curtain call on the genre’s run. Obviously, there were many noir pictures after 1950 but it would never again reach the heights it did in the 1940s.
Despite the hundreds of noir films before it, D.O.A. still feels like a really fresh take on the style.
I can’t recall any other film (before this, anyway) dealing with a man in a race against time to expose his killer before the poison in his body finally puts the nail in his coffin. This story has been recreated many times since 1950 but it was unique for the time and really, it made this picture a fast paced nail biter.
The movie is quite short but that’s okay. It moves at a good speed, is exciting from beginning to end and doesn’t waste time on filler or window dressing. This is a true action film before action films really existed.
Edmund O’Brien carried this entire picture on his back and he did a damn fine job. He was believable as the already murdered man, trying to solve the mystery surrounding his fatal condition.
Some of the acting was a bit over the top but to be honest, it fit the tone of this high octane action noir. Add in the fact that this film also had a genuine grittiness to it, due to being shot on real city streets. Location shooting still wasn’t a regular practice for this sort of picture. The action shots capturing the motion of O’Brien running or the vehicles chasing him was downright impressive.
D.O.A. is a solid motion picture that presents an authentic film-noir visual style while mixing in a true sense of realism by taking this out of closed studio sets and putting it on the streets. It moves at breakneck speed and never lets up.