D.O.A. (1950)

RUDOLPH MATE

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB.5

USA, 1950.  Harry Popkin Productions.  Story and Screenplay by , .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Interesting twist on an old formula has Edmond O’Brien show up at police headquarters and inform them of a murder: the victim, it turns out, is him! He was poisoned the night before, using his remaining hours to try and find his killer before letting the authorities know about it. The film flashes back to a week earlier when he comes to San Francisco for a week of kicks and to take care of some of his sideline business as a notary before marrying his fiancée. After notarizing a bill of sale, it turns out that a man involved in the transaction committed suicide under circumstances that look fishy. This is when O’Brien is slipped a “luminous toxin” in his drink while at a bar, and from there the panic goes out of control. It’s not always easy to follow—and rightfully so in how it captures the frantic emotional state of its character beautifully by being so dramatically complicated—but the film is a classic film noir with all the right trappings. Night clubs, police offices, shady hotels and the city of San Francisco itself contribute to a gorgeous atmosphere, particularly as a lot of the very impressive photography was done on location (and some of the shots were stolen without preparation, including many of the images of O’Brien running through the streets in live traffic).

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