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Length:1 Hour 24 Minutes
Cast:Edmond O'Brien, Pamela Britton
Credits:Directed by Randolph Mate

High-concept long before there was such a phrase, this classic noir takes a really big premise and runs like hell with it. Directed by acclaimed cinematographer Rudolph Maté (who shot The Passion of Joan of Arc and Vampyr for the legendary Carl Dreyer), D.O.A. stars Edmund O'Brien as an average-Joe businessman who, upon discovering he has been poisoned and has only a few days left to live, uses the time to investigate his own murder. Well crafted and Hitchcockian in its plot, D.O.A. is utterly gripping from beginning to end. The staging is a bit clunkier than Hitchcock would have managed, but this occasional awkwardness is redeemed by the film's subtle tongue-in-cheek tone. And O'Brien hits all the right notes of disbelief and despair before becoming nicely hard-boiled, bullying his way through his investigation in the manner of a man who truly has nothing left to lose. Some nice San Francisco and Los Angeles locations give the film plenty of atmosphere, as D.O.A. ultimately develops into a classic Chandler-esque L.A. noir. It has been remade since (badly), and probably will be again, but the original will be forever hard to top. Gregory Baird

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