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Saturday, March 12, 2011

DOA- Film Noir Classic...Almost!

DOA is possibly the greatest mis-fire in the history of film noirs.
Frank Bigelow (Edmond O'Brien) is a slightly sleazy notary public who is dealing with a secretary wanting to take their casual relationship more seriously.  Bigelow is obviously just in it for the thrills but she wants more out of it-- and that scares him so he takes off for a few days to San Francisco.  While there he decides to whoop it up falling in with a fast and loose crowd and basically sowing his wild oats while he decides to do about his girl Friday.

Those oats catch up to him though, as Bigelow ingests some deadly poison, giving him just 24 hours to live to find his killer or he'll be found Dead on Arrival.

Film Noir is essentially translated to "dark film" in both the cinematography and the elements of the story.  Effective film noir seems nightmarish at times, often bordering on the bizarre in some scenes.

DOA misses the mark, not because of some of the very goofy dialogue or even the story that is so convoluted it would baffle Sherlock Holmes (though it has both), but because of a few seriously ridiculous choices the director makes-- one of which is the sound of a kazoo when Bigelow arrives at his hotel and see's a hot chick (although we're talking 40s hot chick so she looks more like a picture of your great aunt Sally).  It's so out of place that when you hear it you will without doubt ask anyone with you if you actually heard that-- and luckily the director uses it again a few seconds later so you can rest assured your marbles are all there.

DOA is in the public domain and therefore a TON of low price copies are available on DVD-- most of which look like they were filmed through a bucket of gumbo making it unwatchable.  The one I've linked to here is from the ROAN Collection of DVD prints-- and they strive to release only the best quality available--so if you want to watch it make sure you go with the Roan print.

Despite it's flaws, it remains one of my favorite film noirs including some great footage shot on the streets of San Francisco.