(1949) Directed by Rudolph Maté; Written by Russell Rouse
and Clarence Greene; Starring: Edmond O'Brien, Pamela Britton, Luther Adler, Beverly
Garland, Lynn Baggett and William Ching; Available on DVD, Kanopy and Amazon
“You knew who I was when I came in here today, but you
were surprised to see me alive, weren’t you? But I’m not alive, Mrs. Phillips.
Sure, I can stand here and talk to you, I can breathe, and I can move. But I’m
not alive, because I did take that poison, and nothing can save me.” – Frank
Bigelow (Edmond O'Brien)
D.O.A.* starts off with a dynamite premise, told
from the perspective of a man whose hours are numbered. In the opening scene, our
protagonist, Frank Bigelow (Edmond O'Brien), arrives at a police station to report
a murder – his own. The ensuing story, told in flashback, recounts his strange
tale about how he came to be fatally poisoned, and his thirst for vengeance. His
frenzied quest, as a man with nothing left to lose, takes him to Los Angeles
(where the famous Bradbury Building makes an appearance) to track down a
business associate, and back to San Francisco.
* Fun Fact: D.O.A. marks the film debut of Beverly
Garland, who appears as Miss Foster, Mr. Phillips’ secretary.
As he’s introduced to us, Frank is a bit of a heel, but
as the film progresses, he gradually becomes more sympathetic. He plans a solitary
vacation to San Francisco, which doesn’t sit well with his co-dependent girlfriend/secretary
Paula (Pamela Britton). Apparently never hearing the aphorism “absence makes
the heart grow fonder,” she calls him repeatedly, sends a bouquet to his hotel
room, and sensing that he’s in big trouble, travels to San Francisco to meet
him. As obnoxious as her behavior seems on the surface, it serves to ground Frank,
causing him to re-evaluate his relationship with her, and form a belated appreciation
for her efforts.
In the space of a few days, Frank experiences all five
stages of grief, as outlined by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book Death and
Dying (Source: HDSA.org)
: 1) Denial – After he begins to feel a stomachache, a trip to the doctor
confirms all isn’t well. Due to the poison he’s unwillingly ingested, he only
has days to live. His incredulous reaction is understandable, given the
circumstances (“This is a mistake. This could be a mistake.”); followed by 2) Anger
– Unwilling to accept the bad news, Frank storms out of the office (“You’re
crazy!”); 3) Bargaining – Frank visits another doctor, which only confirms the
first prognosis; 4) Depression –This is best illustrated by the scene when
Frank waits by a newsstand, watching happy couples pass by on the street. They’re
presumably investing in bright futures – a future he and Paula will never share;
and finally, 5) Acceptance – As indicated by the somber opening and closing scenes,
Frank is resigned to his fate.
The filmmakers are purposefully coy about the poison, referring
to the substance as “luminous toxin.” Judging by its glowing properties, we can
deduce it’s something radioactive, but that’s about it. The end credits assert
that luminous toxin is a real poison, but we’re left in the dark (pun intended)
about what it is, specifically. The acting, along with the music from Dimitri
Tiomkin, is turned up several notches, matching the frenetic pace of the film. This
tone works well for Neville Brand’s memorable performance as Chester, a sadistic
thug who takes pleasure in causing pain (He hits Frank in the stomach just to
increase his suffering). D.O.A. packs a lot of entertainment in a scant
83 minutes, with a labyrinthine plot, ambiguous motivations, a host of colorful
characters, and a fatalistic streak running throughout. If there’s one lesson
the film teaches us, whatever you do, don’t notarize any illicit radium shipments.
One word of caution: Since this film is public domain, poor
copies abound. The DVD I rented from Netflix looks like it was copied from VHS.
Alas, there’s a better version streaming on Amazon Prime.
Time has a nasty habit of getting away before you know it. Way
back in January, I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by the hardest working blogger on the web, Gill Jacob of Realweegie MidgetReviews.
Fast forward several months to September, and I was nominated for the LiebsterAward by the wise and powerful Rebecca Deniston of Taking Up Room.
But as ‘80s TV pitchmen hawking their
wares would say, “Wait, there’s more!” About a week ago, the dynamic duo of Michael
Denney and Andrew Stephen from Maniacs and Monsters nominated
me for the Sunshine Blogger Award.
I’m truly fortunate to have met such wonderful people through Twitter and the
movie blogging community.
Rules? Where we’re going, we don’t need rules.
Since this is a joint Versatile Blogger/Liebster/Sunshine
post, I’m throwing out the rules, and simply acknowledging a few bloggers you
ought to know. If you’re listed below, there’s no need to do anything – just give
yourself a pat on the back for a job well done! If I’ve left anyone out, I
sincerely apologize, and hope to get to you on the rebound.
Just to show that I haven’t gone completely off the rails I’ve
listed seven facts about myself (per Gill’s challenge), and answered 11 questions
apiece from Rebecca and the Maniacs and Monsters team.
…And a hearty “back at
‘ya” to: Realweegie Midget Reviews, Taking Up Room, and Maniacs and Monsters.
Seven Facts About Myself (Note: My apologies if some of
these are recycled from earlier posts)
I’ve lived in four states:
California (my birthplace), Washington State, Texas and Pennsylvania.
I've flown in a glider
(what a view!).
My wife and I met while
working at a mom & pop video store – We will be celebrating our 27th
wedding anniversary in February.
My most prized convention
trinket is a Hellraiser puzzle box signed by Clive Barker.
I have an M.A. in Counseling,
and two bachelor’s degrees, in English and Psychology.
I’m an incurable roller
coaster junkie. Many, many moons ago, I worked at Six Flags Magic Mountain
(No, I wasn’t a ride operator).
I love the ocean and all things nautical.
I don’t think I could ever live in a landlocked state.
My answers to Rebecca’s questions:
you were a plant, what kind would you be and why?
My knee-jerk reaction would be some
sort of carnivorous plant, like Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors. I’m
not necessarily enamored by the diet, but world domination is a nice perk.
a talent you wish you had?
I wish I had some graphic arts
training, so my blog was more aesthetically pleasing.
you rather have coffee or tea?
Coffee is the fuel that got me
through grad school a decade ago, and it keeps me blogging.
can own costumes and props from one film. Any era, any genre. Which film
would you pick?
I’d go with Robby the Robot from Forbidden
Planet (1956), although I understand he was recently purchased by a private
collector for a princely sum.
you could have anyone follow your blog or your social media accounts, who
would it be?
Toro. I think he’d be…mildly interested.
you think vampires should sparkle?
Nope. Never, unless
it’s for comic effect.
your favorite film critic or historian?
Roger Ebert – His love of movies
was contagious. He had such a lively writing style and an encyclopedic
knowledge of film, yet somehow never sounded pedantic or pretentious. His
writing continues to provide inspiration for me to do what I do.
are your top three must-play songs for a road trip?
Oh, it’s too hard to narrow down to
three songs, but three artists I often feature on road trips are: David Bowie,
Creedence Clearwater Revival, and T-Rex.
film or films should not be remade under any circumstances?
Any of Hayao Miyazaki’s movies.
They’re absolutely perfect as they are.
you ever think you’d like to work in films instead of just writing about
At one time, I wanted to be a
screenwriter, but that ship has sailed. I’d still love to appear in films in
small but memorable roles. Hey if Sydney Greenstreet could do it, why can’t I?
your favorite thing about blogging?
Without question, my favorite thing
is hearing readers comment that they learned about a movie they never knew
about through my blog, and were prompted to watch it, based on my
recommendation. It’s times like that that remind me why I blog about movies.
And last but certainly not least, here are my responses to 11
more questions from Maniacs and Monsters:
you consider yourself a fan of horror, averse to horror, or a patron of
any genre including horror if it is entertaining?
I’m a lifelong fan of horror in its
many forms, although slashers are generally not my thing.
is the first horror film you remember watching and what was your reaction?
The first I recall was Frankenstein
(1931), watching it through my fingers (when the monster appeared) on my
parents’ small RCA TV in their bedroom. Shameless plug: For more musings about
the stuff that kept me awake at night, see my piece, “Scared Sh*tless in the ‘70s.”
is your opinion of real-world paranormal activities such as ghosts, spiritualism,
UFOs, cryptozoology, or extrasensory perception?
To quote Winston Zeddmore, “If
there’s a steady paycheck, I’ll believe anything you say.” But seriously, I
consider myself an empiricist – if it can’t be recorded or measured in some
way, it’s not a real phenomenon. However, I remain open to the possibility of
any of these things. As the late great Arthur C. Clarke was fond of saying, “I
don’t believe in ghosts, but I’m afraid of them.”
you ever had what you believe to be a paranormal experience or at least an
experience you could not explain?
Not exactly, but I’ve visited
places that had a strange “aura” about them, for lack of a better term. Nothing’s
convinced me there were supernatural forces at work…yet.
you were cast in a horror movie, which of the following roles would you
want and why:
for the slaughter
genius/mad scientist/cult leader
caretaker/gas station attendant/neighbor/sea captain
of the faceless zombie/demon/alien horde
stranger that warned those reckless kids
I’d probably be the “wise
stranger,” although no one ever believes him//her. Just look at Crazy Ralph
from the first two Friday the 13th movies, and see what
happened to him. Hmm… On second thought, is it too late to opt for the “last
films, much like comedies, have been historically ignored by the Oscars.
What horror film or horror performance do you feel deserved, but did not
receive, recognition by the Academy?
I don’t hold a lot of stock in the
Academy Awards – It seems the rule rather than exception that something I’d care
to see wins. A couple of glaring omissions that spring to mind: Let the
Right One In (2008) at least deserved a nomination for Best Foreign
Language Film; Zelda Rubinstein should have received a Best Supporting Actress
nod for Poltergeist (1982)
subgenre of horror is most appealing to you (noting that these subgenres
Psychological Horror (e.g., The Haunting)
is my “go to” sub-genre. I love films that respect the intelligence of the
audience, allowing us the freedom to fill in the blanks. On the other hand,
there are times when only a good gothic horror from Hammer or Amicus will do.
you observe Halloween, describe a favorite costume (scary or otherwise)
that you have worn.
Nothing beats my old Megathor mask
kit (see video below). I got a lot of mileage out of that mask over the years, adding
LEDs to the eyes. To complete my costume, I wore a sweatshirt with a homemade
glittery insignia and a bath towel cape. I miss my Megathor mask.
is your greatest fear/phobia?
Crowds and social gatherings freak
me out. I’m not a very social creature by design.
die only to awaken as a ghost, vampire, or zombie. What do you do?
After the initial shock has worn
off, I accept my new reality. Sure, there’s the existential dread that goes
along with being an ex-human, but I’ll try to make the best of things (Hey, this
is me at my most optimistic).
falls across the land. The alien invasion has begun. Civilization is
collapsing. The dead are returning from the grave. Cthulhu is
rising from his eternal slumber. The Horsemen of the Apocalypse are
on the ride. It’s the end of the world. You are among a small group
boarding an experimental starship to escape to another galaxy. You are
allowed to bring any three items of your choosing. What do you bring (and
no fair bringing something ‘useful’)?
Does my Blu-ray/DVD collection
count as one thing? If not, I’d have to flip a coin or choose a random number. I’d
probably bring my camera (so I can document my journey) and new TV (I just bought
it this year – I’m not parting with it).