D.O.A. Shows Even B-Flicks Can Be Fun

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

D.O.A. is one of the most underrated crime thrillers ever written.  This 1950 film, written by Russell Rouse and Clarence Greene is considered by some to be little more than a B-flick.  But in a weird way, it manages to keep its audience’s attention from beginning to end.  And in comparison to its 1988 re-make starring Dennis Quaid, is far better.  As with so many movies of that era, it didn’t rely on special effects, violence and sex.  It relied on good acting and storytelling.  And through that, it was a success.

The story behind D.O.A. is, as noted, simple.  CPA Frank Bigelow goes on a little vacation to San Francisco.  While there, he is poisoned one night by an unknown assailant while spending an evening at a bar.  As a result, he is left with very little time to live.  So he has to find out who poisoned him and why.  How and why this happens will keep viewers watching throughout the movie’s near ninety-minute run time.  The oddity of this movie is that in a strange way, one can’t help but make some slight comparisons to the likes of the 1998 Will Smith/Gene Hackman movie, Enemy of the State.  The story and action style are very similar.  Odds are, there likely is no link between the two, stylistically.  But it makes for an interesting discussion.  Both have that standard ordinary guy gets unwittingly wrapped up in a big conspiracy, with fast paced action results.  The only difference is the story.

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

D.O.A. sadly is not one of the most memorable crime thrillers ever written.  Sure it isn’t the top notch style movie that others have been over the years.  But audiences must remember that B-movies are classic in their own right, too.  Some of them are awful.  That’s a given.  But then some, like this movie, aren’t that bad, actually.  Any viewer who has any interest in the history of crime thrillers and dramas will easily find this movie a nice addition to their library.  And thanks to Mill Creek Entertainment’s brand new 100Greatest Mystery Classics side-by side double box set, it can be watched any time, along with loads of other classic B-flicks. 

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D.O.A. Re-Make Another Product Of Its Time

Courtesy: Touchstone Pictures/Mill Creek Entertainment

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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