D.O.A. Buena Vista Pictures, 1988. Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, Charlotte Rampling, Daniel Stern, Jane Kaczmarek, Christopher Neame, Brion James, Elizabeth Arlen. Directors: Annabel Jankel & Rocky Morton.

   Recently saw this 1988 remake of D.O.A. with Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, Daniel Stern, Charlotte Rampling and a few other fine actors whose names escape me. This movie has been almost universally panned — Maltin calls it “noisy and needless” and even TV Guide found it “pointless” — but I thought it worked much better than the original, and thus once again shall wait for Fashion to catch up with me.

   The plot, lifted from the 1948 film, has the protagonist indulge in a night of heavy drinking and discover the next day that he’s been poisoned; he has only another day or so to live and nothing can save him. That’s it. He gonna die and ain’t nothing for it. Faced with this, he spends his last day finding his killer — the Detective and Victim as One.

   It’s a great idea, but the 1948 film s a surprisingly pedestrian affair, with little momentum and a flat performance by Edmund O’Brien as a schlemiel who just looks toodam healthy to be dying. All through the movie, I just couldn’t believe him.

   On the other hand, the 1988 remake offers a fine turn by Dennis Quaid as a popular, sexy college lit professor who wrote some fine books a few years back, got a remarkable woman to marry him when he was younger, and might have been a good teacher once, but now he just tosses flip answers back to his admiring students, gives them A’s without reading their work, and his wife is leaving him because he just doesn’t act like he cares anymore.

   Thematically, this is really neat-o; the man has been dead for years and doesn’t realize it till someone poisons him. Add to this a couple of nifty sub-plots, snappy dialogue, some gratuitous sex and violence (always a golden page in my book) and you’ve got the beginnings of a very textured work.

   Directors Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel throw in a lot of artsy camera angles left over from the 6Os, pace the action for speed, and take time to evoke surprisingly believable performances from even the bit players. My only kvetch is the number of obvious homages to film noir and the length of time it takes me to italicize a sentence like that: Quaid’s character is named Cornell, the film starts and ends in Black & White, and there are two cops whose line of hard-boiled patter rolls so smooth and well-timed they sound like bit-players in a sitcom.

   This aside, it was a film I really liked.