D.O.A is a mystery thriller with an intriguing concept. It stars Edmond O’Brien as Frank Bigelow, a man who takes a trip to San Francisco, is poisoned, and tries to find the killer before he dies. I love the idea behind this film. There was an episode of Person of Interest last season that used the same concept, and after talking about it I had this film recommended to me, but I haven’t managed to catch it until now.
At a mere 83 minutes this film deals with the material quickly, and I think the short run time helps heighten the tension because you know that Bigelow doesn’t have much time, both in the narrative sense and in the sense that the film is short. However, I didn’t feel the film really got going until about a third of the way in. The first half hour follows him as he takes his trip to San Francisco, gets distracted by a few of the local beauties and explores some of the hottest bars. But once he actually gets poisoned the film ratchets up the tension and it’s riveting from that moment on. O’Brien plays the part well, encapsulating the complex emotions of the character as he goes through rage, frustration, sadness and regret. As he seeks to uncover the mystery different characters (suspects) are introduced, and we’re left to wonder which of them was actually responsible.
All the while, Bigelow is having to deal with the wounded Paula (Pamela Britton) who loves him but feels he doesn’t reciprocate her feelings. It was a strong element in the film and I think it was handled with the right amount of balance; it didn’t become overbearing and the interactions between the two had a tragic underpinning. The rest of the cast did a good job of all appearing suspicious yet not being an obvious candidate for the crime.
I though the mystery itself was quite engaging and there were a few threads that needed to be untangled. O’Brien had a sort of jaded, Bogart-esque thing going on and I enjoyed his performance a great deal. I really like the concept, the film itself was suspenseful and there were a couple of moments that were really great hooks – “I’m here to report a murder.” “Who was killed?” “I was.” That is a damn good intro to a movie and I need to find other stories that use this same concept. This is one of those films that I think fly under the radar a little bit, so I’d definitely check it out if you get a chance.