Touchstone Pictures’ take on the 1950 crime thriller D.O.A. is a near total re-imagining of the original, right down to the movie’s end. While there are some hints of the original such as the protagonist being poisoned after a night at a bar and going to the hospital, those similarities are fleeting at best, as even they have been altered, too. Whereas the original 1950 rendition starring Edmond O’Brien focused on accountant Frank Bigelow, the 1988 remake focused on star Dennis Quaid, who played college English professor Dexter Cornell. Almost the entire story has been changed in the near forty years between the two versions.
Touchstone’s take on D.O.A. is a product of its time, much like the 1950 original. Stories written in the era of D.O.A. were stories in every sense of the word. The 1988 remake is also like movies of its era. While it does have a story, its story is nothing like the original. Like so many other crime/action/dramas of its time, it relies more on overt violence and sexuality to attract audiences than story. That’s not to say that there isn’t a story. But apparently, those behind the script for the story seemed to think that audiences wouldn’t watch the story without the amount of sex and violence that is existent there. There is even a moment when one of the story’s main characters is shot in the head while driving a car in one of the movie’s many amped up action scenes. Audiences see the woman shot in the head, and are even given more than one opportunity to see the rather large bullet hole left in her head from the gunshot as she drives off a road, gunman on the car’s hood the whole time. Are the people behind this rendition of D.O.A. to blame for the level of violence in the movie? Yes. But again, this is just one more story that is a product of its time. And movie makers from that era (and ever since) have seemed to think that using such methods is what sells tickets.
While the 1988 re-make of D.O.A. is a product of its time, what it really does is serve as a reminder of the larger picture of movie making, and how it has changed since the release of the original work. The story behind the remake is a gripping one. But it doesn’t necessarily need the amount of violence and sexuality that was added in. In that same vein, perhaps the ultimate function of this remake will be to be one more reminder of movies made during Hollywood’s golden era. It will remind movie makers and audiences alike of what made movies great. The stories made them great, not the special effects and everything else. Keeping all of this in mind, touchstone Pictures 1988 remake of D.O.A. isn’t D.O.A. itself. But it will sadly never have the “life” of the 1950 original.
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