by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent
Ever wonder how much the world has changed since the half century mark? Take the case of the Edmond O’Brien noir D.O.A, released in 1950, then jump to the Dennis Quaid-Meg Ryan remake in 1988. Now step into the 2017 reboot, DEAD ON ARRIVAL. Written and directed by Stephen C. Sepher, this is one of the independent films that debuted at this year’s Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIIFF). DEAD ON ARRIVAL stars “Days of Our Lives” Emmy Nominee Billy Flynn, with D.B. Sweeney.
Sweeney is a recognizable name to veteran moviegoers as is Chris Mulkey, whose face you’ll recognize from 1982’s FIRST BLOOD with Stallone through three decades in movies to 2014’s indie Oscar smash-hit WHIPLASH as Uncle Frank. Sepher, for the record, also an actor, wrote the De Niro crime film HEIST (2015) from his original story, and it’s interesting that D.B. Sweeney also has a role in that picture.
But back to watching the world change.
In the 1950’s storyline, Frank Bigelow (O’Brien) is an insurance man who has notarized a harmless piece of paper that ultimately leads to his slow-poisoning after a rare-earth metal deal goes bad. The gem plot twist here dates back to Hamlet being poisoned and finding his killer. But in a movie timeframe, Bigelow only has 24 hours to solve his own murder. There are many false flags on the way to the real killer. But “Luminous Poison,” which glows in the dark as a novelty murder weapon, with a 24-hour time-lock is the DNA from this to the Dennis Quaid DOA and Sepher’s 2017 redo.
The late film critic Roger Ebert name-checked the original D.O.A. in his review of the Quaid-Ryan remake, noting it was a sexy retool. Yuppie novelist Dexter Cornell (Quaid) is a hot writer with ambition who wrongly faces off against an exotic heavy in the form of the mysterious Charlotte Rampling who he suspects is his killer. Meg Ryan is a student he cheats on his wife (Jane Kaczmerak) with, and later thinks she has poisoned him. Unraveling who the real killer is will be a shock.
While the 2017 version doesn’t have a female lead like then-American Sweetheart Meg Ryan, this movie shows us a variety of today’s fallen lovelies. Two in the form of Bonnie, played by Scottie Thompson, with Christa B. Allen equally troublesome, taking us down the dark side of modern femininity.
There is no Paula, the faithful secretary to Edmond O’Brien, so gone is the moralizing 1950’s message of monogamy as good for society. But there’s something intriguing about where Sepher’s worldview takes us.
Sam Collins, meaning Billy Flynn as the Bigelow character updated to 2017, is now a Big Pharma sales rep. He gets invited to a wild party held by an ethically challenged prescribing physician, who unleashes all kind of female and pharmaceutical hell for a single night that may ultimately cost Collins his life.
You’ve got topics embedded in this modern colorful noir from the dangers of vaccines to the lethality of prescription drugs and the opioid crisis in America. DEAD ON ARRIVAL now is an upscale, non-moralistic fairytale of what happens when the stylish world of affluent professionals head-ons with the underworld of gambling debts and street justice. Just as the women in this are no giggly Meg Ryan types, the men are not the Dennis Quaid hero types either.
Sepher’s version of the Edmond O’Brien post-World War II cautionary tale is now almost reportage about the America that resulted from the polite society myths cultivated during the era of the nuclear family 50’s. No one really thinks marriage works anymore, or knows whom to trust even among their friends, family, and co-workers.
DEAD ON ARRIVAL shows us similar corrupt cops and mafia kingpins in contrast to the social climbers in an upscale backdrop of affluent New Orleans in 2017, but ultimately — and this is what makes this version fun — it’s the heavy, the bad guy, played by Stephen Sepher (sometimes credited as Stephen Cyrus Sepher) who comes clean with the true justice and explains to Sam Collins why he has been targeted in this reboot. And yet? We soon find out there’s more to the story, not with the nice neat edges of Edmond O’Brien’s plot or the Me Generation focus of the Quaid-Ryan plot, but in a a messy, screwed-up ambiguous way the world is now. Find out more about this new film at Facebook or on their website, or RIIFF’s official site.
And remember, never drink anything from an open container at a party, BYOB, bring your own bottle. DEAD ON ARRIVAL is from Kingfisher Media and offered by Vision Films.
Official Description from Kingfisher Media
DEAD ON ARRIVAL
Emmy nominated Billy Flynn stars in an ensemble cast as Sam Collins, a pharmaceutical sales rep who visits a small town in Louisiana to close the business deal of a lifetime. He finds himself in a dark world of sex, corruption and murder as he is poisoned with no antidote to save his life. Desperate for answers, with less than 24 hours to live, Sam turns to a local girl Jesse. Their path leads to a voodoo priestess who only confirms Sam’s doomed fate. On the run, caught in a deadly vertigo with no one to trust, Sam and Jesse find themselves running from police detectives, the Mob and a dirty sheriff who wants him dead. [Inspired by the 1950 classic noir thriller D.O.A.]
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