Monday, April 2, 2012

Thoughts on "D.O.A."

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D.O.A. (1950) directed by Rudolph Maté.

This minor noir stars Edward O’Brien, as Frank Bigalow. He’s a businessman of some sort who does notaries. His confidential secretary Paula is also his lover. She wants to get married, but he just isn’t ready to take it to the next level. He decides to go to San Francisco for a week without her. She believes to sow his wild oats. But she tells him “You don’t have to ever feel guilty about anything you do there.” Bigalow takes her advice and oogles women and goes to a jazz club, but after hitting on a woman and arranging a date later, he just can’t betray Paula.

However, when his stomach hurts the next morning he goes to a doctor and finds out that he was poisoned the night before. He has luminous poisoning and he’s going to die in a day or two or a week. What is luminous poisoning? I don’t know, but a slide at the end of the film says, "luminous toxin is a descriptive term for an actual poison.”

Anyway Bigalow runs through a convoluted plot involving some stolen iridium. He becomes convinced he was poisoned by George Reynolds who he discovers is really Raymond Rakubian and then discovers the guy's been dead for months.

Along the way he meets Chester played by Neville Brand, who is a psychopathic killer that talks in the third person and Miss Foster, a secretary who knows more than it seems played by Beverly Garland. It is the first role on screen for both of these actors.

In the end Bigalow solves the murders, makes his peace with Paula and has just enough time to tell the police the whole story before he drops dead.



  1. And? :)

    You don't actually tell us your thoughts about this one, John. What did you think of it? (And you might want to warn your readers about spoilers, too.)

    I never saw this movie, but I watched the remake, years ago. It's a great idea for a motion picture, isn't it?

    But I really would like to know what you thought about the movie. Of course, Henry is probably keeping you busy, huh? I'll bet it's hard to spare a thought for anything else right now!

  2. The problem is I've run out of longer reviews, this was just one of a couple of off-hand reviews I have. But you're right, I really should do the movie more justice, re-watch it and give it a more extensive review. And thanks I'll add the spoiler warning.

  3. His "luminous poisoning" was a fatal dose of radiation, from the ingestion of a highly radioactive substance (probably radium chloride). It gained the name "luminous" poisoning because it was heavily observed in the female workers at clock and watch factories who used to paint the dials of the clock faces with luminous paint in 1925. [The workers in the factory sued in 1926 and the case was settled in 1928.]

    Another "symptom" of "luminous poisoning" was the proliferation of horrific mouth and jaw cancers amongst these workers - this was because the women workers would often hold the radium-laced paintbrushes in their teeth, irradiating their jaw.

    Because of the nature of radiation poisoning the symptoms are not immediately apparent, unlike most normal toxins. In effect it was the cumulative effect of the radioactive compound inside him that killed him, rather than the chemical or biological properties of the compound itself. As a physicist he would have realised that he would have ingested a fatal dose (the levels were first approximately calculated in 1933), and would now that there was no cure (at least available at the time). So he knew he was a walking dead man.

    I like the 1950's film. It's one of my favourites.

  4. One of my favorite noir films. The acting is a bit so-so, but the plot idea is a really good one.
    The night shots of LA in the early 50's are excellent - really atmospheric.

  5. Thanks for reading Ian. Since you like Films Noir, make sure and check out my other reviews.

  6. I looked up Iridium, the metal sold in the contract Mr. Bigalow motorized. It is a metal used because of it's high resistance to corrosion. The description led me to investigate further. I discovered a medical journal article. It described some horrific cases of people who died simply by coming into contact with the metal. One man inadvertantly bought something home contaminated with iridium. He became debilated within a day and died a painful death to massive organ and system failures. He was a grandfather living in an extended family of son,wife and chidrn who all eventually died simply because the metal remained in the home as the source had not been discovers or determined. Also visitors to the home either eventually died from iridium raditoxity or had severe health problems, without even coming into direct contact with the metal.

    In another case two boys picked a small piece of the shiny and interesting looking metal after playing with it for some time. They brought it home and their mother hid it in the back of kitchen cabinet. It's. here presence in the home proved disasterous as well.

  7. Anyway he was poisoned to cover up the illegal sale of the stolen Iridium by someone who extracted some radioactive material, which can be made into powder and was added to a drink switch at the Fisherman's jazz club

  8. Thanks for all this info Beverly and thanks for reading my review. I hope you read some of my other Film Noir reviews.

  9. Great blog! the comments were very helpful too.. D.O.A is beautiful movie. The "Noir" era in American film industry is so underrated.

  10. Thanks for reading. Please take a look at my other Film Noir reviews.