Tuesday, 7 January 2014

DOA [film]

Drunk women will be the least of Frank's problems
 You may have heard of the remake of the 1950 film DOA, which was released in the late 1980s starring Harrison Ford. (Harrison Phwoard!) I don't know whether it's because of the remake, but I'd never felt especially inclined to watch the original. Well, that was a mistake! DOA has a simple premise: Frank Bigelow, a businessman, discovers he's been poisoned, and in the few days he has left alive, tries to find out who has murdered him, and why.



The film is really well done, and features many noir staples, such as nightclubs, hard men and a good handful of femmes fatales. One thing that struck me was the difference a few years make. DOA was made around half a decade after classics such as The Big Sleep, The Blue Dahlia and Double Indemnity, and it shows, just slightly. The jazz in the nightclub is more experimental, people seem harsher, and even the streets seem busier and more brightly lit. This is noir, but the Jazz Age is being left behind. If you've read James Ellroy's superb LA Quartet, you'll understand what I mean - DOA falls into the time between classic film noir, where everything has a reason and the violence of the films of the 1960s, where very little has a reason, just as Ellroy's novels do.

More trouble for Frank...
I did find the start of the film a little annoying. Bigelow's secretary/girlfriend Paula Gibson is quite annoying, as she throws a tantrum when he announces he's going away without her, but at the same time I felt Bigelow was a monumental berk for stringing her along. She needs a dose of self-respect, because she certainly isn't getting any from him. Then, when Bigelow discovers he's been poisoned and goes rampaging around trying to find out who did it, he's desperate, which makes him rude, but at no point does he say to anyone, "I'm sorry, I've been poisoned and have maybe a few days to live. This is urgent." Maybe this is a midcentury thing, maybe people didn't announce illness back then, but I felt he'd have got a lot more help and annoyed fewer people if he'd just been more open about his condition. He doesn't even tell Paula! Might've made for a shorter film, though...

Despite that, I enjoyed DOA far more than I expected to, and it's certainly a great film to settle down with on a rainy winter afternoon.

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