English, Spanish, English - Hearing Impaired, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish
Buena Vista/Buena Vista .
R4 . COLOR . 93 mins .
M15+ . PAL
The late ‘80s saw somewhat of a mini-renaissance as far as the old thriller genre was concerned, the least of which certainly wasn’t the reasonably engrossing D.O.A.. A product of the directorial team that brought us the wonderful Max Headroom, the treasure box of film noir tricks is opened up and spilled onscreen for all to see quite well, hindered only by the frightening ‘80s-ness of it all.
Starting in black and white, we’re privy to the setup involving an English professor, Dexter Cornell (Dennis Quaid), stumbling into a police station to report a murder – his own. It seems he’s been poisoned with a luminous green substance that looks suspiciously like it escaped from the Incredible Hulk, leaving him with only around 24 hours to live. We’re also given all manner of folk to choose from as far as “it was them!” predictions, as the film proper lumbers into life.
I'm stuck on you, yes I'm stuck like glue...
A floundering writer, we discover Cornell is estranged from his wife. He’s also pissed off the odd work colleague, not to mention a student whose manuscript he’s yet to read. Still, when said student does a rooftop swan dive to his death via pavement, at least we’re spared one possible suspect. But there are plenty of other folk who may have wanted to see a drop dead Dex, and through a process of elimination we’re witness to the prof’s desperate attempts to work out what happened before the exes come up in his eyes, through trysts with students (Meg Ryan managing to not be too irritating for a change), encounters with peculiar chauffeurs and more, all hampered somewhat by police interest as they suspect Dexter of having murdered his wife.
It’s hardly Hitchcock, but D.O.A. does offer some intrigue and engrossment along its trail to a rather predictable, supposedly twisty, ending. Quaid is convincing as the doomed anti-hero of the tale, while most in his orbit deliver decent enough performances so as to make the whole thing work as it was seemingly intended.
While it’s good that D.O.A. comes to us in its original cinematic ratio of 1.85:1, it’s bad – in fact unforgivable considering the prevalence of 16:9 displays today – that it comes without anamorphic enhancement.
Other than this, the news is pretty good when allowing for the film’s age and relative lack of classic status. While blacks are a tad milky, the print used is generally reasonably sharp and clear, delivering decent shadow detail and only really affected by regular visits from the black and white speckle brigade and the odd scratch here and there. Colour does have a certain ‘80s look to it, falling slightly on the side of under-saturation, but in all this transfer is decent enough… except for the lack of anamorphicness thing.
While a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is provided, it’s little cause for excitement. Only the odd bit here and there decides to brave its way to the rears, while the subwoofwoof is to all intents and purposes dormant for the entirety. While all is well synched, the balance between soundtrack, effects and dialogue is often rather off-kilter; when the volume’s loud enough to understand all the dialogue, a music cue will stab you somewhat violently smack bang in the middle of your eardrum. Ow!
This wouldn’t be so bad, however, if the music wasn’t so diabolical. More ‘80s than a cocktail of legwarmers and Wham!, the regular horrendous and hysterically histrionic outbreaks of caterwauling guitar cause nothing but guffaws, while the more traditional soundtrack cues are nothing if not decidedly derivative. At least Billy Idol’s fantastically fun Rebel Yell cuts the crap briefly (which may be an indication of just how bad the other stuff actually is), along with musical contributions from people such as The Waterboys and chart fly-by-nighters Timbuk 3 (who got it seriously wrong with their only hit The Future’s So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades)).
All the extras were last seen glub-glub-glubbing their way towards the bottom of a tar pit, hence their inability to make it to this disc.
If you’re hankering for a few ‘80s tinged thrills, then you could do a lot worse than D.O.A., it’s also a good opportunity to see Dennis ‘n’ Meg before they became an item. The video and audio are OK, although anybody with a 16:9 screen should do the right thing and boycott this for its lack of enhancement, an aberration for which those responsible should keep an eye out for shiny green goop in the bottoms of their coffee mugs…
Jack & Sarah "Proving that simplicity is no obstruction to brilliance, this is an ultimately sweet (but not sickeningly so) tale that gives all those bigger English films out there a more than respectable run for their money... "