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D.O.A.
USA 1950
Directed by Rudolph Maté
Running time 83 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars


Polish-born Rudolph Maté, cinematographer for Carl Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc and Vampyr made his directorial debut with this archetypal B-grade thriller. It takes the plot of Robert Siodmak's 1931 Der Mann, Der Seinen Morder Sucht about a dying man's quest to find the cause of his own murder and transposes it to post-war San Fransisco.

Ernest Laszlo's expressionism-influenced photography enhances the nightmarish journey that 'everyman' victim, Frank Bigelow (Edmond O'Brien), undergoes in order to discover who has done the dastardly deed on him and why. As is so often the case with the crime thriller genre, the story is told in flashback and rattles through its twists and turns at a cracking and somewhat difficult-to-keep-up-with pace as Bigelow uncovers layer after layer of dirty tricks and double-deals from multiple scoundrels with foreign-sounding names before he croaks from "luminous poisoning", a concept that would have resonated with a post-war fear of a nuclear holocaust. The wordy script by Clarence Greene and Russell Rouse throws every dialogic cliché imaginable into the mix with particularly the exchanges between Bigelow and his girlfriend (Pamela Britton) reaching a level of florid excess that is quite marvellous.

For jazz fans there's wonderful scene in a waterfront dive with a "jive"-playing combo of uncredited but very hot black musicians and a hip white crowd which provides a kind of infernal gateway to Frank's descent into hell.

 

 

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