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Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose of Darkness #20: The Man in Charge (Opening Scene from D.O.A.)

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What a great opening twist! We follow the character walking rather authoritatively - and in time with the marching score - so our inference is that this is a man of authority who others will part the sea to let pass. And then...pow...what an exchange! Love this film for the noir feature of dwindling time; the race against the clock. We're in step with the character and feeling simpatico with that deadline, especially given the (seemingly) no clue to who, how, what, or why.

 

Yet another use (must be running a special this week) of leveraging the time needed for the pre-film credits to actually get a plot point accomplished. Little do we know (at this point, anyway) that that long endless hallway is so symbolic.

 

(And do you really have to descend that far into the bowels of the police station to report a murder? Most people would give up and turn back!)

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All of the daily doses this week seem to be taking us somewhere. Even though all of the main characters from the daily doses are around other people, they seem so alone and everything has a sense of impending doom. I suppose all of the daily doses this week show us some existential motifs in the fact that they portray doom, desolation and loneliness.

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Frank Bigelow's walk down the corridor seemed endless, and because he was framed in the middle of the shot for the entire walk, I immediately got the sense that he was trapped and heading down a rabbit hole.  I was also surprised at how tranquil the Homicide Room was -- it was better lit than the corridor, and the men at the desks seemed calm and pretty quiet.  But once the camera shifted to O'Brien's face and his jolting statement that he was the one who was murdered, it had more impact because he was in such a relatively low-key environment (which in and of itself was "off" -- this was a HOMICIDE department, and in many movies, they're shown as beehives of activity).  This was my favorite opening for all the Daily Dose films this week.

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The films we’ve seen this week have really emphasized movement and desperation, and D.O.A. is no different.  Like the others have said, there is a purposefulness to Edmund O’Brien stride through the police station.  Those thick walls surround him on either side, making it look like he’s walking through a mausoleum.  Then, we find out that he is a dead man walking.  The shot of him during the credits stresses his isolation.  There are no other people in the hallway, no one passes him, or makes eye contact with him.  Even when he talks to another person, they direct him to where he needs to go with just a few curt words.  We are curious when Edmund O’Brien says he wants to report a murder, but when he says that he is the victim, the film immediately grabs our attention. 

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I just want to state that this message board is confusing.  I have posted remarks for all daily doses and yet the number on the board reflects on 10 and after this, hopefully 11.  I have sometimes received e-mails and sometimes, not.  Mostly, I have not.  Hopefully, someone will see this and the message received by someone who can do something about this problem.


 


In the meantime, and most of all.....I am enjoying the FILM NOIR CLASS WITH DR. EDWARDS.  I LOVE HIS LECTURES AND HAVE TRIED TO SEND MESSAGE TO HIM.....WITH 20,000 ENROLLED STUDENTS THIS SUMMER, HE MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE SEEN IT....WITH THE PROBLEMS OF THIS messaging system, he probably just didn't get my message.


 


So I am stating it here.....I really am enjoying your lectures, Dr. Edwards.  The class is awesome and the Quizzes are more than fair, considering the vast amount of material to be covered and knowledge at your disposal,as the ranking expert.  I am actually thrilled to be a part of this class.  I love FILM NOIR AND HAVE FOR A LONG TIME before I even knew what film noir was.  If it took the industry 5 years to get the news from a French man that FILM NOIR WAS FILM NOIR, you can understand if it took be considerably longer to know what I was watching and enjoying and relishing, especially in movie series such as CHARLIE CHAN and the list is endless, almost, as you know.  Well, I discovered it, finally, and I love it and now kicking it up a notch to increased knowledge with this course...at times a bit more than I want to know....but that's ok.  I remember what I need to, to take the QUIZ and perhaps by the next time you offer this course, I will have grown enough to digest and assimilate enough to be able to chew all that I bite off.


Thanks for giving so many people this great opportunity and I am so glad to be among them.


 


Sincerely,


DIANE DYAN BIGGS


#NOIRSUMMER


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


-- Compare the opening of this film with the other three Daily Doses this week? Do you see parallels in the opening scenes of these films?


-- What are some of the noir themes and motifs that are being explored in this film's opening scene? This is also a good film through which to discuss Robert Porfirio's article on Existential motifs, since he references the film D.O.A. several times in his essay.


-- How does the style and substance of this film's opening reinforce a feeling of pessimism or hopelessness in the character of Frank Bigelow?


 

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As Frank walks down the hall, I’m struck with how well lit this opening is as compared to the other clips this week.  I can see the walls, columns and archways without issue, but the soft, low key lighting is present.  And it’s the bright light of the lamps and the symmetry of the walls, columns and archways that give the same sense of isolation that the darker openings of the other clips.  Much like the opening scene of Kiss Me Deadly, the main character is alone and searching for help. 

 

Also, unlike the other opening sequences I’ve seen this week, there is music.  Building, swelling, pounding music, which helps sent the tone.  I would have guessed police station/drama from the music alone.

 

As Frank turns left, the hallway is darker.  The lamp light isn’t as bright.  Instead of looking straight on, he is looking from side to side.  It gives the impression that he is not only isolated, but lost – another theme of expressionism and film noir.

 

It’s neat how the audience doesn’t see Frank’s face before hearing his voice.  For two minutes, underneath the credits, the audience has followed Frank down hallway after hallway, until he reached the homicide division.  And because of the sense of isolation and lost, the audience relates to Frank without ever seeing his face and fear for his well-being as he wanders into the homicide division (or at least, I did!).

 

And all the makes for a great reveal when we finally see his face.  Frank looks as lost and tired as we expected him to look.  When he says he was murdered, it is a wonderful twist that hooks the audience to stay in the story for the rest of the story.  Now we have to know how he’s not dead but murdered!

 

Two staples of noir come in right at the end of the clip:  voice over and flashback.  I can’t wait to see this movie!

 

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The opening scene of D.O.A and all of the other Daily Dose scenes we watched this week immerses the audience on a fatal journey of no return. Each main character is transported to the world of the unknown, of violence, alienation and hopelessness. Frank Bigelow walks alone on a very long dim lit corridor and the viewer walks behind him hoping his journey will end in a safe place. Instead, he enters a homicide room to report a murder, his own. What an opening!!! It seems meaningless to sympathize with Frank at this juncture because he is essentially a "dead man walking". No one can help him escape the inevitable fate he has been unfairly dealt .As Porfirio states, "it is a matter of blind chance". Frank suddenly embodies the noir non-heroic hero. His world no longer has any purpose or meaning outside of vengeance and finding his killer. he makes that existential choice instead of dying in "nothingness"

       This pessimistic story begins with the imminent death of the main character. He will reach the end of his line alone without hope for a second chance. Even the police give him a hard time.They minimize his dilemma.The story is even more fatalistic than other noir movies because our hero has not committed any crime nor is he guilty of any wrongdoing. That is tragedy!!

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Dubbed as "perhaps one of cinema's most innovative opening sequences" by a BBC reviewer, the opening scene from D.O.A. is a genuine masterpiece, both in its style and its content, directed by the expierenced noir cinematographer Rudolph Mate.

 

A man (Edmond O' Brien), obviously frustrated, walks into a police station searching for the homicide devision. It takes him a long walk in a long corridor to find it, symbolizing his agony and long search for some justice. He eventually comes to the homicide devision to report his own murder (something never seen before in a film, I guess), but the detectives are not at all surprised by his unusual report, in fact, they've been waiting for him.

 

Frank Bigelow (O' Brien) is one of the most tragic and sympathetic noir anti-heroes. Unlike other such characters, like Ole Anderson in The Killers and Jeff Bailey in Out of the Past, he has done nothing obviously wrong, yet his fate is sealed, as he's going to die in a few moments. Those who have seen the whole film know that this opening sequence is just the beginning of a long flash-back, narrated by the doomed anti-hero, who tries to explain to the police how and why he was fatally poisoned and what did he do to find his killers and their motives and ultimately seek revenge.

 

This opening sequence is surely innovative, but it also seems weird and absurd. A man walking into a police station to report his own murder? Why do such a thing? And why, when you know you have a few days to live, should you desperately try to find who killed you, instead of trying to make the most of your last few days? This is the greatest example of existentialist influence in film noir. The hero is not just in the imminent threat of death; he's destined to die, yet, he keeps himself connected to this absurd noir world till the very last moments.

 

It's pure paranoia in this sequence, a man inexplicably killed, who cares enough to report his upcoming death to the police. No clear motive for his or his killers' actions. Just enough to make it maybe the most promising opening sequence in the history of film.

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All four of the opening scenes we have reviewed this week start us off with a mostly darkened screen.  The darkness of night is the backdrop for D.O.A., Kiss Me Deadly and The Hitch-Hiker while Cage opens within the confines of a darkened prison van.  Fear and dread are consistent in all four clips as is "the disoriented individual facing a confused world".  Existentialism is well represented within these films, what remains is for us to follow the characters in their respective dilemmas, watch fate deal the hand and observe the repercussions and outcomes for each. 

 

Just a personal observation.  Is Edmond O'Brien under a black cloud, rather noir cloud or what?  In The Hitch-Hiker he picks up a really wrong guy.  In D.O.A. he drinks the wrong drink.  In White Heat he's in the wrong place at the wrong time.  In The Killers he's in the wrong room (the Swede's room) and gets beaten.  So he was truly born to play Frank Bigelow in D.O.A. his swan song if you will.

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All of the daily doses this week involved travlels and movement into the unknown. It's been a while since I've see D.O. A but what made an impression on me was the theme music. It was a march, almost jaunty, which didn't turn ominous until Edmomd O'Brien entered the homicide department. And they weren't surprised to see him, like they were almost expecting him. O'Brien was marching to his doom and they all knew it and were powerless to change it. Very existential.

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The four constants that I see in the four Daily Doses of Darkness this week are the feelings of being trapped. All four protagonists are trapped in some fashion. Ralph Meeker is literally trapped in his supped up sports car (with bad shifting!); Edmond O'Brien (could we call him the king of noir?!!) and his traveling companion (should have stopped at the "****" show in that Mexican town!) are trapped in their car, a death trap; Eleanor Parker is trapped in the prison van, a literal cage, as we watch out that screened window on the approach to the prison; and last but not least, Edmond O'Brien (Bigelow) is trapped by the long, dark corridors of the Los Angeles police station. Not only does he walk down one very long, dark hallway but then has to walk down another to get to the homicide office. 

 

Of course darkness, either of the real dark night, or the dark confines of the prison van or the dark hallways, give the audience the sense that these anti-heroes are truly trapped, like animals, and their cages await.

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What all four daily doses have in common is this constant motion. There is no still photography or black screen as in most films' opening credits. Not only is there motion, but we, as the viewer, are part of the motion. We are in the vehicle along for the ride in each of the first three films. In D.O.A. we are "walking", essentially following Bigelow as he searches for the LAPD homicide division. Most camera POVs are in the objective 3rd person, but these clips are filmed differently in that we are part of the narrative. I came away with feeling more empathy for the characters in this style; perhaps this is the director's intent. I didn't get the sense of pessimism or hopelessness; just more empathy. Of the four clips, I've seen only The Hitch-hiker and D.O.A., so I already know how they both end.

 

As for the direction of photography, I've always loved hallways and the long shots (even in still photography) and films noir seem to encompass this shot more often than not. There are rarely curves; usually just straight lines. Chiaroscuro is also present in this opening. The journey through the station is very dark before arriving in a lighted office once we reach the destination. At this point, we are all about to be enlightened by Bigelow.

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I'm confused. If I want to reply to just one person's quote, all I can do is "Like It." I haven't figured out yet how to reply to that person I "like"!

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I'm confused. If I want to reply to just one person's quote, all I can do is "Like It." I haven't figured out yet how to reply to that person I "like"!

First hit the "Quote" button.  You can then write a comment below the quoted post.  Or you can highlight only part of the post that you want to focus on and delete the rest! 

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The opening scene of "D.O.A." isn't flashy or loud, but it is an attention grabber that makes you want to stick around for the rest of the film. A man walks into a police station with a purposeful stride. We only see him from the back, but we - and the camera - follow him as he walks through the station and then down a very, very long hallwall lined with doors. The camera doesn't cut away and it almost feels like he'll never get to his destination. He finally turns and opens a door labeled Homicide Division. He wants the man in charge. "I want to report a murder," he says. "Who was murdered?" he is asked. It's only then that we see his face - exhausted, worried with a sickly pallor.  "I was," he replies. It is is riveting.

 

Like the characters we've met throughout our other daily doses this week, Frank Bigelow is a desperate man and one on the move. He looks hopeless, yet somehow he is trying to hold it together. We see that in his determined stride; we see it as he tries to keep control by reporting his own "murder." Yet there's no doubt through the themes and motifs we are now accustomed to seeing, that the situation is bleak.

 

Frank is like other heroes of existential works who are faced with the "threat of imminent death," often through no fault of their own. It is blind chance, or as Albert Camus called it, the "benign indifference" of the world, that sends them to their fate. It is a bleak world. "D.O.A." goes beyond the use of night and shadows that are often used in noir to show us the darkness, by giving us the "black vision" of emotions like dread, anguish, isolation to help us feel the darkness. Even the movie's title - "D.O.A." - helps emphasize the hopelessness.

 

 

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I post earlier under this daily dose #20, because I finally get these things to show up, even tho thee are 12 and with this it will be 13.....but I have posted 20 or more posts....so where are they???

 

Also, I wanted to go on record as saying that I have tried to put a photograph of myself on my profile, etc. but it hasn't happened...can't get it to download, upload, or whatever load.  It just won't load!!!  lol

 

In the meantime, I earnestly and happily reiterate:  I LOVE THIS FILM NOIR CLASS AND DR. EDWARDS ROCKS!!!  THANKS FOR SUCH A GRAND LEARNING EXPERIENCE!!!!!  even if I am learning more than I signed on for.....lol

 

Sincerely,

 

DIANE DYAN BIGGS

 

#NOIRSUMMER

 

 

 

 

 

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The major thing that stuck out to me in this clip is that Frank Bigelow's walk is long, slow, and with purpose. There's no quick way to get where he's going, a thinly veiled metaphor for life. He's a man on a solo mission, but when we see his face after meeting the detective to report his own murder (which is itself a riveting moment), this man's mission isn't a happy or would lead him toward anything resembling happiness. He looks defeated, and he's alone in every sense of the word. It definitely plays into this week's Existential themes of loneliness and dread. Whatever happened to lead him to this point of him declaring his own murder has been tough, it's likely been violent, and it ends with us seeing a tired man who's beginning to grasp how he perceives life -- absurd and meaningless. 

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I'm confused. If I want to reply to just one person's quote, all I can do is "Like It." I haven't figured out yet how to reply to that person I "like"!

On the bottom right of the message you wish to reply to click on "Quote"

 

A new massage page opens where you write your text.

When done hit "post".

 

Hope this helps. Good luck..

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--Parallels in the opening scenes of the latest films:

 

I see parallels in all three re: the use of the pre-credits and credits to start the story and establish mood (all start on a road and involve moving vehicles, but this is a less important point). More significant is the perspective and camera movement, showing in this case the back of O’Brien’s head as he moves purposefully through a series of hallways and doorways. The perspective is reminiscent of the scene from the back of the car in The Hitchhiker, and the motion is reminiscent of the vehicle in Caged, in which we move continuously forward through space while concentrating on a singular point. It's as though the characters are hurtling through the world without the ability to interact meaningfully with it.

 

-- Some noir themes and motifs that are being explored in this opening scene:

 

The attempt to establish control and purpose in the midst of a situation beyond the the hero’s control is underscored in this scene. The mood is much more purposeful than most we’ve seen, and the intense music makes what’s unfolding seem important as well as foreboding; the rhythm matches O'Brien's footsteps and lends his character agency and a temporary sense of control as he marches into the police headquarters straight to the homicide division. In fact, as we are about to learn, he has none, and is instead at the mercy of events in a world apparently devoid of morality or justice. Once we find that he is in fact the victim of a murder, this temporary sense of control breaks down; Bigelow's body shifts uncomfortably, and he looks physically very different from the front than he has appeared from behind, clearly ill and unable to help himself in a universe of chaos. A closely related motif is the threat of imminent death; Bigelow's story is much more significant, poignant and tragic when we know, as he says, that he “doesn’t have much time.”

 

-- How the style and substance of this opening reinforces feelings of pessimism or hopelessness in Frank Bigelow:

 

I feel that the music, the camera’s perspective, and Bigelow’s march down the hallway offsets pessimism and hopelessness, only to see them disintegrate once he reveals his situation. However, both feelings are reinforced by the panning of the camera from the top of the giant building down to Bigelow's small silhouette in the street, suggesting he occupies a tiny place in the world of events that are ultimately much larger than he. His march down the hallway can be seen as a long journey in which the hero tries yet appears to fail to make any progress, as though what he needs to attain is perpetually out of reach; and when he reaches his destination at last, it is, of course, too late for him to save himself.

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All the scenes this week have motion in them. This reminds me of the Ministry of fear in the allusion (more subtly here) about how time is constantly working against people and that we only have so much. in the Ministry of Fear its a clock but here in these movies it is motion or movement.

 

I must say I agree with some people's remarks of how there seems to be more of a jovial feel to the walk in D.O.A. At least that was my opinion before seeing the man and hearing him explain his story.

 

This film felt closed in like the ride in caged with all the halls and being indoors definitely gave a cramped atmosphere.

 

It really seems to me that the themes of despair pop up in this along with the tension and drama of keeping things hidden. Such as faces due to angles or lighting.

 

As for the movie opening feeling hopeless I didn't get that until I saw the main characters face and hear what he had to say. I think that this movie is extremely intriguing and I think my fiancé solved why he wanted to report his own murder but I'm definitely excited to see this!

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What all four daily doses have in common is this constant motion. There is no still photography or black screen as in most films' opening credits. Not only is there motion, but we, as the viewer, are part of the motion. We are in the vehicle along for the ride in each of the first three films. In D.O.A. we are "walking", essentially following Bigelow as he searches for the LAPD homicide division. Most camera POVs are in the objective 3rd person, but these clips are filmed differently in that we are part of the narrative. I came away with feeling more empathy for the characters in this style; perhaps this is the director's intent. I didn't get the sense of pessimism or hopelessness; just more empathy. Of the four clips, I've seen only The Hitch-hiker and D.O.A., so I already know how they both end.

 

As for the direction of photography, I've always loved hallways and the long shots (even in still photography) and films noir seem to encompass this shot more often than not. There are rarely curves; usually just straight lines. Chiaroscuro is also present in this opening. The journey through the station is very dark before arriving in a lighted office once we reach the destination. At this point, we are all about to be enlightened by Bigelow.

 

And it's not just constant motion that this weeks DDD have in common, but also the immediate plunge down a vortex from which there's no safe escape.   We're catapulted into the action --- and it's companion --- a sense of dread and worse, of hopelessness --- in a linear way...down dark highways and corridors, in very confined spaces.  We, the audience, are less spectators and more active participants in the action.   We're also victims, like the characters we're watching on the screen, caught, rightly or wrongly, in a snare we neither control nor comprehend.   

 

The walls are collapsing on us, the shadows closing in.  

 

Which begs the question: If America was paranoid in the Forties and was hysterically so by time the Fifties rolled around, exactly what are we now?   Porfirio, in his article No Way Out, cites William Barrett's suggestion that Existentialism is foreign to the generally confident and optimistic outlook of American society.   That was decades ago.  

 

Would Barrett make that same claim about American optimism today?    

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In today's clip of the opening of "D.O.A.", we're not in a car, but as we follow behind Frank Bigelow, we might just as well be in Mike Hammer's convertible or in the police wagon of "Caged." We're driven relentlessly forward into the frame. We can almost feel the lines of perspective drawing us in.

 

We don't see Bigelow's face for the long time, and this increases our curiosity about this man. Who is he? We also (without the camera tricks of "The Lady in the Lake") find ourselves in almost a first person p.o.v. This, combined with making the character a cypher, causes us to identify with him, and, along with the relentless drive forward, pulls us further in.

 

When we at last get it to see Bigelow's face, it's at the moment he announces that he has been murdered. As with the other clips this week, we are starting out at a dramatic high point in the story, though maybe no other film begins with such a remarkable revelation.

 

We're certainly aware of other noir protagonists who are heading toward a fatal end, but here we have one who starts there.

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I'm confused. If I want to reply to just one person's quote, all I can do is "Like It." I haven't figured out yet how to reply to that person I "like"!

Where it says Quote on the bottom right of that person's entry you hit that and write your response.  Then hit post on bottom left.

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This film noir personifies existential despair.  A doomed man walking a long, somewhat dimly lit hallway.  Although there may be people in the building, we do not see anyone.  Like the open roads in the previous clips, this long walk down an empty hallway exemplifies the helplessness of this man's situation.  He is alone literally and figuratively.  

The music sets the tone with the forcefulness and crashing cymbals.  The hallways are lit so that the shadows create diagonal lines across the floor. 

Time is of the essence.  We do not see a clock in this scene but we are told that there is very little time left.  The shadow of the fan creates and X.  No-one seems shocked or concerned. 

The movie is now to be told as a flashback - narration ensues.

Similar to Stranger on the Third Floor, Frank is not a detective but is desperate to find out who the murderer is.  Frank has a mission in life to clear himself of his own murder.  

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You want to get my attention? Show a solitary figure walking down a dark hallway at the police station to the Homicide Division. Even the word "homicide" on the door at Room 44 is unnerving. If that weren't enough, the man who made the long walk is rumpled and says he was murdered the night before in San Francisco. I'm along for the ride on this one. With an opening like that, how could I not be?

 

Hold on to your fedora, it's quite a ride!

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