Movie Report: D.O.A. (1949? 1950?)

Book coverWhen I mentioned that I was watching this film to my beautiful wife, she associated the title with the 1988 Dennis Quaid film of the same name (which is now almost as old as the original was in 1988). But, no, I was watching the original, which is (does math) 74 years old now. But it doesn’t seem dated to old people who remember life before computers and cell phones. Of course, the Quaid film also comes from the before time, but shots probably included office environments with PCs, so it would look slightly less alien to kids.

Also, I have seen this film listed as 1949 and 1950 in various sources, so I am not sure whether the film was released in 1949 or 1950. I guess I could watch it again and convert the Roman numerals, gentle reader, for proper accuracy in this movie report, but I am far too lazy for that.

In it, Edmond O’Brien plays Bigelow, a California accountant who decides to have a holiday away from his town and his receptionist/flame Paula in San Francisco. He joins a group of convention attendees on a night out and is unknowingly given poison by a figure in a suspicious looking get-up. When he falls ill, the doctors tell him he has only a short time to live. So he investigates and learns that someone from San Francisco named Philipos has been trying to reach him–and said fellow has committed suicide. It looks to be tied into a bill of sale that Bigelow notarized for Philips, almost forgotten because it was a while back and a routine transaction for someone passing through Bigelow’s home town, and that leads Bigelow to encounter some organized crime types who might have stolen the sold good–iridium–and whose theft put Philips into a legal jam.

There’s a twist ending, but the twist is not that Bigelow survives. The film has a frame story which seems to have been popular at the time (Double Indemnity had a similar one) where the main character tells someone the story in flashback–in this case, Bigelow is telling it to homicide detectives.

So if you’re a fan of original noir films, this one will please you. If you’re a damn kid, you’ll probably be bored through it.

I mentioned the main actor, Edmond O’Brien. You know, he won an Academy Award (for his supporting role in The Barefoot Contessa) and was nominated for another (for Seven Days in May), and he appeared in films I’ve seen like The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence and a bunch of other notable films. But he’s not a common name now. He was that guy for a long time, but the world has moved onto its insipid streaming series instead.

Still, it has made me curious to watch the Quaid version. Which I think I will have to find on videocassette. Online sources indicate there are three other iterations of this film, although it counts the Jason Statham film Crank among them, so the connection to this film as the source looks to be more inspired by than remake.

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