Books and Movies Reviews

DOA: The Newer Version of the Movie Is One of Bright Colors, of Southern Sunshine, of Heat

It’s always hard to remake a movie that has achieved classic status,
as is the case with the 1950 movie DOA. But Annabel Jankel and Rocky
Morton’s 1988 remake of the film breathes new life into it. The basic
question that must be posed to the directors of any remake is: Why bother’
Why not make an entirely new movie’ The answer in the case of this film is
that the directors have created a new movie out of an established story and
have done so in large measure by using more modern camera techniques.
The 1950 version of DOA, directed by Rudolph Mate and starring Edmond
O’Brien and Pamela Britton, is a fairly classic of film noir. In part
because the film was shot in black and white, but mostly because of the
directorial decisions that Mate made, the film seems to take place in a
world in which there is little light. This is less true of the 1988
version, and the basic choices that the director has made about how to
light the actors and the scene very much determines the overall feel of the
movies.
Both movies tell the paradoxical story of a man who is DOA – dead on
arrival – even though he appears to be very much alive to us. He arrives at
the police station to report his own murder – and then explains to the
police how it came to be that he is both still alive to report it and why
the crime that he is reporting truly is murder. The movie is thus told as a
long flashback (which actually contains within it a number of other
flashbacks) that explain to us both how the murder was committed and the
reasons for it. The particulars of how the murder was committed and the
highly elaborate reasons for it vary from movie to movie, but the central
thrust of the film is the same: A man has been poisoned with a slow-acting
agent that gives him twenty-four hours to live (and to die). How does he
spend that time’ Seeking to understand why he has been killed.
The newer version of the movie is one of bri…

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