This is a classic movie, iconic L.A. locations, a twisted noir plot, amazing San Francisco street footage, a crazy bebop Jazz sequence and Neville Brand. Where to begin? Well I had a friend in town visiting frome Rome, Italy that is, Trevi Fountain, Cinecitta. Anyway I wanted to show him around downtown L.A. and one of our stops was the amazing Bradbury building. Most people recognize it as the location in Blade Runner, where Harrison Ford fights Rutger Hauer but I think equally as important a use for this location was in D.O.A.
I recommended to my Italian friend that he watch D.O.A. and see how the building we just visited was used in that film. I wound up watching it again and I realized that Russel Rouse was one of the writers and Harry Popkin was the producer.
These guys were responsible for some of the hippest 50’s noir to hit the silver screen of your local drive in. I did not know they were part of the D.O.A. team. Popkin and Rouse worked on The Well, a searing indictment of racism, ahead of it’s time and The Thief. Rouse made Wicked Woman, a film I recently wrote about. So that got me re-interested in D.O.A. , Let me just vsay it right out front I am not a big fan of Edmund O’Brien, but his scene chewing style works pretty well at times in this film and he runs like no one in Cinema! His frenzied run for your life performance on the streets of San Francisco, crashing into innocent bystanders is a highlight of the film.
Other wonderful elements include an incredible sequence aboard a city bus, where the gangsters that want to kill O’Brien are following the bus he’s on and you can see them out the window of the bus at night as they stalk him. A beautiful nightmarish sequence. Actually the nighttime photography of downtown L.A. is particularly great, Neville Brand taking O’Brien for a ride especially.
There is a great wild man jazz sequence that has frenetic performances of Black Jazz musicians that is outstanding. I love musical sequences and this one is a doozy.
I think it would be educational to compare this sequence to some that Robert Siodmak did, like the crazy jazz jam session in Phantom Lady or the dance scene in Criss Cross. The D.O.A. scene is really great performances, great shots and great editing, Siodmak’s reveal a planned out sequence that works beautifully, it was created in the director’s mind while the D.O.A. scene was put together in the editing room.
Rudolph Mate’ the director of D.O.A. started as a camerman in Europe, shooting such masterpieces as Dreyer’s The Passion Of Joan Of Arc, this is the movie that Anna Karina watches in Godard’s Vivre Sa Vie. Mate’ also directed a film that was a location on another stop of my downtown tour, Union Station, a noir that takes place at perhaps the most iconic downtown L.A. location.
Rudy at the camera films Dietrich
Mate’ was director of photography on many, many classic Hollywood films, Pride Of The Yankees, Dante’s Inferno, Foriegn Correspondent, Stella Dallas, Sahara, Gilda and The Lady From Shanghai, to name just a few. He delivers a fast paced ( 83 minute) gem that never let’s up and has many especially well directed scenes, take for example the final confrontation, at The Bradbury Building. It is shot just like a classic shootout from a Western, incredible.
Whenever a director can put another subtext or layer of meaning onto a scene and it is harmonius with the action not obtrusive, it’s a wonderful thing. Watch it for yourself, a film class in 2 minutes. Then there’s Neville Brand, so over the top as Chester the thug or maybe goon is better, Sadistic, simple minded, evil but with a lot of personality.
Chester doesn’t like Bigelow. He’s soft in the belly!
I like Neville Brand, check him out in the underrated Eaten Alive by Tobe Hooper. And as Quentin Tarantino once told me, the second most decorated soldier of WWII after Audie Murphy. So check out D.O.A. then go down and visit the Bradbury building, you can park across the street at the Grand Central Market and have lunch.
P.S. Here it is on YouTube.