Film Music Review
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Film Music Review (Volumes 1-7)





Editor's Choice -
Best of the Month November 2007


D.O.A. (1950)

Music composed by Dimitri Tiomkin


31 Tracks (Playing Time = 57:14)

Track Titles:

1. Main Title [2:40]
2. Reporting a Murder [1:06]
3. Lover's Quartet [1:12]
4. Eddie's Bar [0:46]
5. Juke Box Theme [1:36]
6. Hotel Rhumba [4:23]
7. Phone Call [1:13]
8. Another Rhumba [1:27]
9. Fisherman's Jive [3:34]
10. Fisherman's Blues [2:54]
11. Paula's Love Note [0:29]
12. Strange Sickness [1:48]
13. Luminous Poison [1:24]
14. Escape to Nowhere [3:25]
15. Don't Come Paula [2:43]
16. It Was Suicide [0:44]
17. Allison Hotel [2:13]
18. Bill of Sale [0:52]
19. Tracking Reynolds [0:25]
20. Unknown Assailant [ 0:56]
21. Assassin Escapes [0:30]
22. Hotel Hoods [0:36]
23. Soft in the Belly [2:24]
24. The Gold Urn [0:48]
25. Taken For a Ride [3:48]
26. Last Farewell [4:08]
27. Stanley's Confession [1:22]
28. On the Trail [3:21]
29. Retribution [2:13]
30. D.O.A. [1:31]
31. Wolf Calls [0:41]

Producers: Ray Faiola and Craig Spaulding. Film production Notes: Mike Keaney. Audio Production and Music Notes: Ray Faiola. Design: Charles Johnson. Disk Restoration and Digital Transfer: Chris Lembesis.

Screen Archives Entertainment SAE-CRS-017

Rating: ****


This is a welcome release of a fast-paced highly suspenseful film classic from 1950, directed by Rudolph Mate. The score is by Dimitri Tiomkin, who had his most successful output during the 1950s. His most famous score during this decade is HIGH NOON and also its title song in 1952 which earned him two Oscars. Also during the 1950s were scores for THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY and OLD MAN AND THE SEA, for which he got two more Oscars, for a total of four Oscars.

Tiomkin's score for D.O.A. (or DEAD ON ARRIVAL) is his first substantial score of the 1950s. Though it isn't among his best known, it is still well crafted and features numerous memorable cues.

It opens with a pounding energetic Main Title, which includes hints of the love theme for Frank Bigelow (Edmund O'Brien) and his secretary, Paula Gibson (Pamela Britton). The love theme is heard on numerous later tracks as well, such as track 3 ("Lover's Quarrel") and especially on track 26 ("Last Farewell").

There are also several upbeat cues. One is the snappy dance number, "Hotel Rhumba" (track 6). In addition, two cues heard at the jive club: the extremely hectic jazz combo number "Fisherman's Jive" (track 9), and a slow song sung by an unidentified singer on "Fisherman's Blues" (track 9). It is not clear if Tiomkin composed these two jive club cues.The CD notes don't provide any clues. But in any case they are a nice change of mood from the more intensely dramatic cues. One of the cues has been split into two tracks (Nos. 7-8) as Ray Faiola humorously explains in his notes: "for the sake of avoiding musical schizophrenia and to provide a more enjoyable rhumba (in case you're listening to this while washing the dishes you can wiggle while you wipe!)."

An especially effective cue is "Escape to Nowhere" (track 14) when Frank Bigelow learns he has been given luminous poison and has only a short time to live. This cue constantly builds in intensity and may even be classified as a bit over the top in its opening section but then it does calm down and even features a quote from Johann Strauss' "Tales from the Vienna Woods" when Bigelow watches a young couple walk by and wonders why he can't live longer to be with Paula.

Another exciting cue is "Taken for a Ride" (track 25) which features Tiomkin's typical heavy percussive piano and also dissonant strings and brass motifs. It rises to an intense climax at the end of the cue and is quite a "ride" musically.

The last cue "Wolf Calls" is from a studio session with the slide flute representing the wolf calls and someone at the end (Tiomkin himself?) can be heard saying-- "Wow!"

The CD booklet is very well designed and appealing with many film stills from the film as well as a nice photo of Tiomkin. The film notes by Mike Keaney are inconclusive in trying to decide if D.O.A. is a film noir or not. He spends a lot of space discussing the various opinions pro and con but never arrives at any conclusion if D.O.A. is a film noir or a classic. I would say this film qualifies for both labels. The music notes by Ray Faiola mostly discuss the individual cues in the film without telling much about the music. That is not so necessary when the proof is in the listening.

As explained in the notes, there are "portions of the soundtrack with some underlying surface noise caused by disc deterioration." The sound is rough in spots but still satisfying. With so much emphasis spent on restoring films to their original appearance, the same should apply to the film score. There was no heavy filtering of the audio so the full original fidelity can be heard -- a wise decision.

If you are a Tiomkin fan you should especially enjoy this intense and thrilling soundtrack. But even if you have not heard much of his music, you can listen to one of the film music masters of the past exhibiting his skill on one the film noir classics of the 1950s.

This is a first class CD release from the producers: Craig Spaulding of Screen Arhives Entertainment and Ray Faiola's Chlesea Rialto Studios.

It fully deserves a Special Merit designation for its excellent preservation achievement.

Highest recommendation.


--Roger L. Hall, 19 November 2007

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