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In "D.O.A." (1950), Frank Bigelow marches into a police station to report a murder—his own. While on vacation in San Francisco, the accountant and notary public kicked back with some associates in a club, and an unknown poisoner slips him a tainted drink. In his final moments, he recounts the trail of clues he followed to discover what and who has set him up to be D.O.A.—"dead on arrival."

With moments of stark atmosphere and cynicism, "D.O.A." is a classic often categorized as film noir (black film). The genre flourished in the Forties and Fifties, inspired by German Expressionist cinema, such as Fritz Lang's 1927 masterpiece, "Metropolis." In film noir, the director often relies on the placement of single key light placed at a low angle—a "low key light"—to produce the striking visual effect of a subject highlighted against deep shadow.  Story-wise, standard figures in film noir include the femme fatale—a mysterious, irresistible and dangerous woman—and the hardboiled private eye. "D.O.A." offers a spin on these typical characters with the beautiful Mrs. Philips and by casting Frank as the investigator of his own murder.

The Science

Jonathan Tward

Jonathan Tward Jonathan Tward of the University of Utah's Department of Radiation Oncology discusses iridium poisoning, radiation treatment and the classic murder mystery, "D.O.A."


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Department of Radiation Oncology - University of Utah

Jonathan Tward

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