D.O.A. (1950)
Image Entertainment
Cast: Edmond O’Brien, Pamela Britton, Luther Adler

Image Entertainment has resurrected one of the landmark entries of the film noir genre, Rudolph Mate’s ingenious 1950 thriller ’D.O.A., ’ with a respectful, movie-only DVD presentation.

Veteran character actor Edmond O’Brien plays Frank Bigelow, an accountant who, during a trip to San Francisco, unknowingly imbibes a slow-acting poison. Having less than 48 hours to live, Bigelow embarks on an odyssey through a surreal terrain populated with psychopathic henchmen and treacherous women. Like a tripped-out Alice, Bigelow delves deeper and deeper into this wonderland of deceit and mayhem, as well as into his own resolve, in a frantic attempt to oust his murderer from the shadows.

The source material here is in excellent shape, even with the occasional speckle and a couple of scratches, and the video transfer respects that quality. (Only at one point does a dramatic qualitative image shift occur, as if one cut was lifted from a 16mm print.) The image consistently exhibits good grayscale and, for the most part, solid, deep blacks.

The disc offers the original soundtrack in Dolby Digital mono. The sound is very clean, relatively free of pops or glitches. What really amazed me about this particular soundtrack is that there is zero distortion. Even during loud passages, such as a scene at a jazz club with the levels pumped up to underline the jarring close-ups and jagged editing, the audio did not peak once. Considering already-compressed mono tracks undergo additional compression with the Dolby Digital encoding process, the audio fidelity of this DVD is all the more remarkable.

No extras are provided with this disc. Whether or not any supplemental materials exist, the DVD is still a fine effort in preserving a film with one of the cleverest conceits ever concocted for the cinema. With an excellent performance by O’Brien and provocative use of San Francisco and Los Angeles locales, ’D.O.A’ may not wow with fancy camera moves or director flourishes, yet reminds us in its own way of the vulnerability of life and the capriciousness of fate.