Frank Bigelow: I want to report a murder.
Homicide Captain: Sit down. Where was this murder committed?
Frank Bigelow: San Francisco, last night.
Homicide Captain: Who was murdered?
Frank Bigelow: I was.
At the beginning of the film (as we read the titles) Frank Bigelow is walking down corridors in the police headquarters. He is going to report his own murder.
From that scene a flashback takes us to Frank’s short holiday in San Francisco. While he was at a jazz club he was poisoned with Iridium.
After a visit to the doctor he slowly becomes aware of his fatal situation: (Dr. MacDonald tells him: I don't think you fully understand, Bigelow. You've been murdered).
He has a short time to live and the movie becomes a desperate search for who has poisoned him and why – part of this search takes place in typically noir settings as in an abandoned factory.
After his quest Frank finds himself an innocent victim of a plot filled with other people’s ambitions. He was poisoned by mischance, as he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Therefore there is a fatalistic element in the movie, a certain determinism which is present in many noir films.
This fatalism finds its final expressions at the end of the movie when Frank dies at the police station: The policemen don’t find it easy to explain what has happened to him and just find an easy solution to the case…
Deputy: How shall I make out the report on him, Captain?
Captain: Better make it "dead on arrival."