Film / D.O.A.

Frank Bigelow: I'd like to report a murder.
Captain: Sit down. Where was this murder committed?
Frank Bigelow: San Francisco, last night.
Captain: Who was murdered?
Frank Bigelow: I was.

D.O.A., or Dead on Arrival, is a 1950 Film Noir drama about a man named Frank Bigelow (Edmond O'Brien), who must frantically try to find out who wants him dead through poisoning — and why. The plot speeds as Frank recounts his past events to the police to get help.

Due to a filing error the copyright to the film was not renewed on time, causing it to fall into the Public Domain, and as such it can be downloaded here, courtesy of the Internet Archive.

A very, very loose remake starring Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan was released in 1988. The 2006 film Crank has a similar plot.

If you're looking for the fighting game, see Dead or Alive.

This film provides examples of:

  • Ax-Crazy: Chester enjoys hurting people. He especially relishes the gutshot, since it kills people nice...and slow.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The hero dies, but he at least manages to expose the villains whose plot led to his death.
  • Chained Heat: In the remake only.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Frank's ability to finish a drink quickly is shown early in the film and it becomes important later. This ability turns out to be his undoing, when he quickly downs almost all of the poisoned drink before realizing he is drinking out of the wrong glass.
  • Dead Man Walking: The Ur-Example.
  • Disturbed Doves: In the empty warehouse when Frank pursues the sniper.
  • Driving a Desk: Happens a few times when Frank is in L.A. but not particularly egregious examples for the era.
  • Doomed Protagonist: There's no cure...
  • Endless Corridor: In the innovative opening sequence.
  • Film Noir: One of the Trope Codifiers.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Who was murdered? — I was.
  • Gayngster: Majak, possibly. The way he says "please, my boy", while smoothing over Chester's hair...
  • Giggling Villain: Chester.
  • Going by the Matchbook: Frank finds a matchbook from The Fisherman club that the assassin who tried to shoot him dropped, confirming that it was indeed the same man who poisoned him.
  • Have a Gay Old Time:
    Chester: I never liked that puss of yours from the minute I seen it.
  • He's Dead, Jim: Played straight as an an arrow in the final scene.
  • How We Got Here: The framing structure of the movie.
  • Karma Houdini: Majak and Marla Rakubian
  • Safety in Muggles: Subverted when Chester chases Frank into a drugstore. At first, it seems he won't make a scene, but it isn't long before he opens fire and scares all the patrons away. Later played straight when Majak reluctantly leaves Frank along because there are two policemen nearby.
  • Shown Their Work: In the credits—before the actors' names are listed—a title card informs us that the poison described is totally a real thing (most likely phosphorus), and that "luminous poison" is an actual medical term.
  • Slasher Smile: Chester.
  • Slipping a Mickey: How Frank is being poisoned.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: This film has a surprisingly lighthearted score (relatively). Certainly more so than any other film noir.
  • Standard Female Grab Area: Used by Bigelow to great effect while interrogating Phillips' secretary.
  • Title Drop: "Mark his file... as DOA."
  • White Collar Worker: Frank was an accountant.
  • Who Dunnit To Me: Pretty much the Trope Codifier.

Alternative Title(s): Dead On Arrival