As many of you know I am a big movie buff. After a solid afternoon’s writing on Sunday I settled down to watch two movies in the evening. D.O.A. (1950) and Helen of Troy (1956)
D.O.A. (Dead on Arrival) is a noirish movie about a guy with a shady business who goes on an unexplained break to a city in US and gets poisoned. Thinking it’s just a bad hangover he goes to the doctor who tells him it’s fatal and he has days to live. He then goes on a desperate hunt for his own killer before finally reporting a homicide at the Police Station. The officer asks him who was murdered and he says “Me.” This is actually the film’s opening scene and surprisingly the officer, far from being incredulous, actually hunts for the report of the guy’s murder which he already has.
It’s a very complicated and twisty plot with very tight dialogue. The production is cheap in places with the worst bit being an awful ‘Clangers-like’ whooping whistle sound every time he sees a good looking ‘dame’ near the beginning. It is easily salvaged by Edmond O’Brien’s acting and that guy can really run. There is a scene with him running down a pavement and onto a road between cars and apparently, it was done for real without extras. When he hits top speed he is really moving. I kept trying to see if it was speeded up but I don’t think so. Apparently, he studied magic under Houdini who was a neighbour so maybe he was a real athlete when younger. For a tubby guy, it’s the best bit of running I have ever seen. And he wasn’t young either.
Helen Of Troy was even more of a curates-egg but enjoyable nonetheless; probably because I love historical movies. I actually preferred it to the recent Troy although it did take the Trojan point of view more. Helen was played by a certain Rossana Podesta – Tripoli-born and a very beautiful woman. Brigitte Bardot was in there too in a minor role.
What amused me was just how unfit most of the actors were. Stanley Baker and Harry Andrews must have been the least fit-looking Achilles and Hector ever and neither looked like they could do a single press-up. The acting was better and it reflects how much historical epics in those days drew from Shakespearean traditions. It was not long after this that Marlon Brando took the role of Brutus in Julius Caesar and after this everything changed.
Correction: My dates in the above comment are wrong. The Marlon Brando film was actually 3 years earlier than the Robert Wise-directed Helen of Troy. So I guess that just reinforces how far ahead of his time Marlon was with his portrayal of Brutus.
I am on twitter now, as Lazlo_F