D.O.A. (1988 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Annabel Jankel
Rocky Morton
Produced by Ian Sander
Laura Ziskin
Screenplay by Charles Edward Pogue
Story by Charles Edward Pogue
Russell Rouse
Clarence Greene
Music by Chaz Jankel
Cinematography Yuri Neyman
Edited by Raja Gosnell
Michael R. Miller
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • March 18, 1988 (1988-03-18)
Running time
96 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $29 million
Box office $12,706,478

D.O.A. is a 1988 American crime-thriller film and a remake of the 1950 film noir of the same name. While it shares the same premise, it has a different story and characters. The film was directed by Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton, and scripted by Charles Edward Pogue. The writers of the original film, Russell Rouse and Clarence Greene, share story credit with Pogue. It stars Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, and Charlotte Rampling. The movie was filmed in Austin, Texas and San Marcos, Texas.


A man staggers into the police station to report a murder. When the desk sergeant asks who was murdered, he answers: "I was."

That man is Professor Dexter Cornell (Dennis Quaid), who then sits down to video-tape his account.

Thirty-six hours previously, Cornell is on campus. He is a college professor, was once a promising writer, made his name and is secure in his tenure, but he has spent the last four years going though the motions and playing it safe. "Publish or perish" is the contrasting rule of university politics and Cornell helps his friend Hal Petersham (Daniel Stern) with his first book.

While he is in his office, a promising student, Nick Lang (Robert Knepper), jumps off a building right outside his office in an apparent suicide. This, coupled with the depressing Christmas season, unseasonably hot weather and the divorce papers given to him by his wife Gail (Jane Kaczmarek) leads Cornell to seek out the local bars for a night of drinking. There he meets admiring student Sydney Fuller (Meg Ryan) and they proceed to get drunk.

The next morning, Cornell, feeling his sickness is more than just a hangover, stops by the campus medical clinic for a checkup. After running some tests, they discover that he has been poisoned and has 36 hours to live. An incredulous Cornell staggers out to try to make sense of it all.

Aided by Fuller, whom he kidnaps by super-gluing himself to her arm, he attempts to recreate the events of the previous night hoping to discover who could have murdered him. The list of suspects includes his wife, who is also the victim of a murder, which the police make half-hearted efforts to pin on Cornell.

It is learned that Lang was not a suicide but was also murdered. Cornell also suspects Lang's mentor Mrs. Fitzwaring (Charlotte Rampling), Bernard (Christopher Neame) the Fitzwarings' chauffeur and Graham Corey (Jay Patterson), a jealous co-worker.

In the end, at the police station, Cornell has solved the crime. His friend Hal had read and was so impressed by Nick Lang's manuscript that he decided to kill Nick and steal the novel for himself. However, this involved killing anyone who knew that Nick was the original author, including Dexter. After a scuffle, Dexter shoots Hal who then falls out his office window. Dexter resigns himself to his fate.



Critical response[edit]

D.O.A. opened to mixed reviews and currently has a rating of 61% on Rotten Tomatoes. Film critic Roger Ebert called it a "witty and literate thriller".[1] Caryn James of The New York Times called it "one of the season's biggest disappointments".[2]

Box office[edit]

The movie debuted strongly, despite its mixed reviews, at No.3 at the US box office.[3]


  1. ^ Ebert, Roger (March 18, 1988). "D.O.A.". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2010-05-31. 
  2. ^ Caryn, James (March 18, 1988). "D.O.A.". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-31. 
  3. ^ "WEEKEND BOX OFFICE : New Blood Refreshes Top Five". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-07-14. 

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