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4.8 out of 5 stars
Odd Man Out [Blu-ray] [1947]
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on 19 June 2012
The story goes that by 1947 James Mason, then the biggest actor in Britain, was frustrated at what he perceived as the mediocre quality of British films, and that it was due to this that he was unable to break out of Britain and gain exposure in Hollywood. Then he saw the screenplay for Carol Reed's 'Odd Man Out', took the lead part of Johnny McQueen, played it to perfection (now widely considered his best-ever performance), and duly ensured Hollywood came calling.

The films quickly starts off with a simple story of an Northern Irish gang who carry out an armed robbery. The leader of the gang, McQueen is rusty after spending some months in prison, and when he falls from the escape car he finds himself lost in the streets of Belfast. It would be wrong to go into anymore detail of the story, but watching this film today, some 65 years after it was made, it really does seem that everything fell together just right here. Mason is flawless, but the supporting actors are perfectly cast, from his lover (Kathleen Ryan), to the eccentric painter Lukey (Robert Newton). Even William Hartnell, the original Doctor Who, has a solid role. If you look closely in the tram scene, you'll even see Steptoe himself, Wilfrid Brambell, in his first (non-speaking) appearance. The thing that really makes 'Odd Man Out' stand out as one of the best British films is the virtuoso direction by Carol Reed. Though he would become more known for The Third Man, released two years later, some of the imagery here is supreme. We get McQueen, late in the film, suffering and hallucinating as the paintings come off the wall and begin to circle the room, coming to rest in front of him. Similarly, we see McQueen staring into the bubbles in his drink, when the people in his life appear in these bubbles. This moment was noted in The Story of Film: An Odyssey as an obvious influence on a similar moment in Martin Scorsese's 1976 classic Taxi Driver. But it's the atmosphere that Reed generates throughout that really sets this apart from British films at the time, it's dark, claustrophobic, and edgy.

Considering the patchy nature of Blu-ray releases of films of this era, I didn't have particularly high expectations for this release from Network. Happily, I needn't have worried. In the restoration notes on the inside cover it states that the video transfer was taken from a 35mm dupe negative, after being compared to the original nitrate fine grain master held by the BFI, and discovering that the dupe negative had a better, sharper overall image, and suffered from less damage. It's obvious that considerable care has gone into the restoration here - there is very little damage visible, but it's very pleasing that this has resulted in one of the best Blu-ray transfers of any 40s film yet released. The only subtitles on the disc are English, and it is Region B-locked.

To complete this excellent package, we get two James Mason-related features, 'Home James', when Mason returns to Huddersfield to look at changes to the town, and a 1972 interview with Granda Television looking at his career. Finally, there's a 24-page booklet inside with essays on the film and its background, as well as some publicity from the time of its release. These booklets are getting more popular now it seems, and hopefully they will continue to accompany films such as this as they really contain some critical, insightful analysis of the film.
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on 18 June 2015
ODD MAN OUT [1947] [The Criterion Collection] [Blu-ray] [US Import] THIS IS IT! . . . The Most Exciting Motion Picture Ever Made!

Taking place largely over the course of one tense night, Carol Reed’s psychological noir, set in an unnamed Belfast, stars James Mason as a revolutionary ex-con leading a robbery that goes horribly wrong. Injured and hunted by the police, he seeks refuge throughout the city, while the woman he loves Kathleen Sullivan [Kathleen Ryan] searches for him among the shadows. Carol Reed and cinematographer Robert Krasker (who would collaborate again on ‘The Third Man’) create images of stunning depth for this fierce, spiritual depiction of a man’s ultimate confrontation with himself.

FILM FACT: The film's violent ending attracted advance criticism from the censors, and had to be toned down in the finished film. The film received the BAFTA Award for Best British Film in 1948. It was nominated for the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival in 1947, and nominated for a Best Film Editing Oscar in 1948. Filmmaker Roman Polanski has repeatedly cited ‘Odd Man Out’ as his favourite film. Roman Polanski feels that Odd Man Out is superior to ‘The Third Man,’ generally considered to be Carol Reed's masterpiece.

Cast: James Mason, Kathleen Sullivan, Robert Newton, Robert Beatty, Cyril Cusack, Roy Irving, Dan O'Herlihy, Kitty Kirwin, Maureen Delany, Dennis O'Dea, Fay Compton, Beryl Measor, Arthur Hambling, William Hartnell, F. J. McCormick, Elwin Brook-Jones, W. C. Fay, Joseph Tomelty, Wilfrid Brambell (uncredited), Dora Bryan (uncredited), Madam Kirkwood-Hackett (uncredited) and Pat McGrath (uncredited)

Director: Carol Reed

Producer: Carol Reed

Screenplay: R.C. Sherriff and F.L. Green (novel)

Composer: William Alwyn

Cinematography: Robert Krasker

Video Resolution: 1080p [Black-and-White]

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1

Audio: English: 1.0 LPCM Audio Mono

Subtitles: English SDH

Running Time: 116 minutes

Region: Region A/1

Number of discs: 1

Studio: The Criterion Collection

Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: Director Carol Reed is most often hailed as the creative force behind ‘The Third Man’ [1949], a highly stylised meditation on friendship and post-War morality. Many critics, however, feel that ‘Odd Man Out’ [1947], which was filmed two years prior to The Third Man, is Reed's real masterpiece. Though just as imaginatively photographed and edited as ‘The Third Man’ and ‘Odd Man Out’ is anchored by James Mason's breath-taking performance as a critically wounded I.R.A. agent who encounters both tenderness and betrayal while on the run from the authorities. Viewers who are only familiar with James Mason's later work in such films as ‘Lolita’ [1962] and ‘Georgy Girl’ [1966] will be startled by his forcefulness in this role. This is a character, and a film, that you won't soon forget.

The creative combination of James Mason, popular British star, and Carol Reed, the brilliant director of such films as ‘Night Train’ and ‘The Stars Look Down.’ Carol Reed chose to adapt F. L. Green's 1945 novel “Odd Man Out” for its quasi-religious undertones, the opportunity it provided for a number of strong character scenes and for the seriousness with which it dealt with its tragic story of the 'troubles' in Northern Ireland, although in the film, Belfast is not mentioned by name and the IRA referred to only as “The Organisation.”

Especially, as it is rewarding in its first two-thirds or so, when the galvanic talents of its director are most excitingly demonstrated on the screen. For in this part of the picture, the story and Carol Reed are concerned almost exclusively with a matter that gives his camera its most auspicious range. This is the desperate endeavour of a wounded man to escape the police in the night-shrouded alleys of an Irish city after committing a murder for a political cause.

James Mason is brilliantly cast as the almost mythic anti-hero Johnny McQueen, dominating every scene that he is in. James Mason is introduced in clever fashion by having us first hear his velvety voice, still distinctive with a mild Irish lilt, before we actually see his face. A star of James Mason's stature was required because although his is the central role, Johnny McQueen is on-screen for a comparatively small proportion of the film.

Also, in switching attention from the man-hunt to these cryptic characters, they have rudely relieved the protagonist of the illustrative role. As the fugitive, James Mason gives a terrifying picture of a wounded man, dishevelled, agonized and nauseated, straining valiantly and blindly to escape. But the oblique dramatic construction, as the picture draws toward the end, neglects the responsibility of dramatizing the movements of his mind and clarification of the moral or the sympathy is not achieved by him.

The narrative consists of a series of practically self-contained scenes, such as the darkly comic sequences when Dennis [Robert Beatty] is besieged by young kids or when he tries to escape the police by boarding an over-crowded tram. Others are almost Alfred Hitchcock style in their suspense, from the naturalistic, almost matter-of-fact robbery at the beginning, to the later scene in which Granny [Kitty Kirwan] and Kathleen [Kathleen Ryan] try to hide a gun and bandages while the police search their home.

‘Odd Man Out’ is shaped like a Greek tragedy, with events developing from a single early mistake. This fatalism finds symbolic echoes throughout, with Johnny breaking his shoelace at the opening and Shell breaking his at the end; the recurring references to time and the Albert clock; the steps where Johnny was shot and where he killed a man; the shots of the Harland and Wolff shipyards which open and close the film.

The film features a dizzying array of fine supporting performances, with Kathleen Ryan is beautiful as the girl, cool, statuesque and stoical, but it is difficult to fathom her thoughts. W.G. Fay, the great Abbey Theatre veteran, is deeply affecting as the priest standing out for the humanity, grace and humour he displays as Father Tom. The latter part of the film is dominated by Shell [F.J. McCormick], who tries to 'sell' Johnny to turn a profit; in an example of scene-stealing that one critic likened to "grand larceny." Allowance must be made for specious writing in the performance which Robert Newton gives as the wild-eyed and drunken painter. But Dennis O'Dea is sobering as a constable and Robert Beatty, Kitty Kerwin and many others are as richly and roundly Irish characters.

‘Odd Man Out’ [1947] is a feast for the eyes, with Robert Krasker's sumptuous high-contrast photography and Roger Furse and Ralph Binton's production design providing the vivid, realistic and yet clearly very controlled, 'poetic' feel that Carol Reed was striving for and which anticipates his subsequent films, ‘The Fallen Idol’ [1948] and ‘The Third Man’ [1949]. ‘Odd Man Out’ is still a most intriguing and stylistic brilliant film.

It seems, however, that Carol Reed was never completely satisfied with ‘Odd Man Out.’ Years after its release, while watching the picture with screenwriter Ben Hecht and Carol Reed decided that about 30 seconds of footage needed to be removed from the print. He offered a startled projectionist £100 [pounds sterling] to take a pair of scissors to the offending seconds, but the man wisely refused. Heaven only knows which 30 seconds were really bothering Carol Reed. The film seems to me personally, close to total perfection, and to everyone else who loves this classic film.

Blu-ray Video Quality – The film’s original theatrical 1.37:1 aspect ratio is faithfully rendered in this stunning 1080p encoded transfer and there are no traces of dust and dirt from previous releases that are not here in this awesome beautiful black-and-white transfer that offers strong black levels, delicate whites, and outstanding sharpness. One or two small scratches occur early-on, but most of the film is gorgeous to view aided greatly by consistently applied contrast and outstanding shadow detail.

Blu-ray Audio Quality – The 1.0 LPCM Audio Mono sound mix is typical of its era with a strong mid-level but limited highs and lows and is again like the print top notch. Dialogue has been excellently recorded and is well balanced with William Alwyn’s beautiful haunting lovely score and numerous sound effects. In the quieter passages, there is some slight attenuated hiss present, and there’s some occasional low noise which can be heard as well.

Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:

NEW high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed 1.0 monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray.

Special Feature: Template For The Troubles: John Hill on ‘Odd Man Out’ [2015] [1080p] [16:9] [23:48] In this New interview, conducted for The Criterion Collection in 2014, with British cinema scholar John Hill, author of “Cinema and Northern Ireland: Film, Culture and Politics,” and delves into this classic Carol Reed film and its depiction of Northern Ireland. Here we find John Hill sitting in The Crown pub in Shoreditch in North London, and he tells us that he feels ‘Odd Man Out’ was a very important film of its time and was a big budget film for 1947 post war production, especially tackling a very serious subject, especially being also a high profile film. It was also a very important film in portraying Belfast and Northern Ireland at the time. It was also a very important film depicting the Irish troubles and the partitioning between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, especially in 1921. John Hill feels that the novel by F. L. Green was quite good, but the film by director Carol Reed was far superior in bringing out the troubles in Northern Ireland, but very ambivalent in what criminals were trying to do in stealing the money. In doing the film, it was regarded as a masterpiece and is still regarded as a milestone in filmic history, even though films in 1947 were very London centric and also very little location shooting. Carol Reed was not provided with cooperation with the Stormont Assembly, because they could not see the commercial incentive in supporting the production of the film, but Carol Reed took some aerial shots of Belfast and some of the street scenes, but the main bulk of the outside scenes were filmed in Shoreditch in North London, but the interior shots were done at Denham Studios, but the main shots outside of the pub were filmed at The Crown in Shoreditch, but the interior shots of the pub was an actual replica of The Crown pub done at Denham Studios, but you get to see John Hill inside the actual pub The Crown in Shoreditch in North London, and in full glorious colour and we are told dedicated fans of the film ‘Odd Man Out’ make pilgrimages to the real The Crown pub. We are also informed that the ending of the film is radically different to the novel, where Kathy and Johnny get killed with the gun and there were problems with the Hays Office in America, where Johnny is shown as a suicide, so to placate them, Kathy is shown shooting at the police and the police return the firing of their guns and killing the couple outright. The Unionist in Northern Ireland didn’t like the film, as it gave the impression that Northern Ireland was crime ridden. There was also criticism and bemused by lack of local Irish actors, where instead they had lots of British actors, because they had true Irish accents, the American public would not have understood what they were saying and would have had to have subtitles and would not have been a huge success in North America. So all in all, this is a very engaging special feature and John Hill is a very intelligent fascinating person informing us about ‘Odd Man Out’ and I have only given you’re the tip of the iceberg, whereas you will have to view this yourself to hear even more information on the Carol Reed film and well worth viewing this extra.

Special Feature: Postwar Poetry: Carol Reed and ‘Odd Man Out’ [2015] [1080p] [16:9] [15:44] Made for The Criterion Collection in 2014 by White Dolphine Films, and this new short documentary provides a look at the film ‘Odd Man Out’ through archival material and interviews with filmmakers, director Carol Reed’s collaborators, and critics. Here we get to see several contributors giving their personal views throughout this special feature. The contributors in this special feature are Tony Rayns [Writer & Film Historian]; John Borman [Film Director]; Charles Drazin [Film Historian]; Peter Evans [Film Historian] and Guy Hamilton [Film Director] and they go into great detail about Carol Reed in general, and especially where we find that he made a series of three films, where he cemented his reputation internationally, which his films had a sense of doom and lost love, which came mainly after World War II and all the contributions feel that the film ‘Odd Man Out’ is their all-time favourite. But most important is that the film was connected with the Rank Film Company, which again was very important, as it had Hollywood potential, plus also very important you had F. Del Guidice who was a very idealistic person about films himself and that also films were a great art, but even more important is that the Rank Film Company loved Carol Reed and encouraged him a lot and gave him great freedom. They all say that the gallery of the actors had equal billing and always good parts, although there is supposed to be some controversy about the actor Robert Newton, who they felt was rather vaguely camp and of surrealist quality style, but a lot of fans of the film like his style of acting. As with most of films, night shooting is a definite no go area, as it is usually very expensive, especially having to use generators, but because Rank films had great faith in Carol Reed, they allowed the night shooting to go ahead. This again is a really special and unique feature, as well as very informative and is well worth viewing, as again you get a lot more information that I have not mentioned on Carol Reed and the film ‘Odd Man Out.’

Special Feature: Home, James – James Mason Turns Again To Huddersfield [1972] [408i] [4:3] [53:44] This 1972 documentary, offers an intimate portrait of Huddersfield in England, featuring actor James Mason revisiting his hometown. He also visits key locations from his youth. With this special documentary, it is divided into 7 separate chapters and they are listed as Change of heart; Industry; The People; Upbringing; Old Ways; Sports and Connections. Not only do we get and intimate view of James mason’s hometown, but we also get contributions from The Huddersfield Choral Society; The Huddersfield Philharmonic; The Colne Valley Male Voice Choir and the Youth Brass Ensemble. A Yorkshire Television Colour Production, Home James follows James Mason as he returns to his childhood home of Huddersfield. During his journey, James Mason explains why Huddersfield holds such a special place in his heart. The film opens with a shot of railway tracks from the front of a moving train. This is followed by a long shot of the train passing through the countryside surrounding Huddersfield. The train enters a tunnel, and we see James mason seated in the carriage, James Mason talks about how he was born and brought up in Huddersfield, but during which time, he had little affection for it. His view has changed due to family ties, and now he has been won over by Huddersfield.

James Mason speaks about the cultural attitude of Huddersfield. People walk through the streets of Huddersfield, and a double-decker bus headed for Holmfirth is in the background. A man clocks in, and James Mason's voice over explains that things evolve slowly in Huddersfield which contributes to the character of the locals. By the river amongst the factories and mills, here James Mason speaks about his love of the factory chimneys and the other parts of the Huddersfield's industrial landscape. He says Huddersfield keeps behind the times, and mill machinery hasn't changed much for one hundred years. Included with this are scenes of mill machinery, cloth and wool making, and factory workers at various machines. This is followed by scenes of Huddersfield and the surrounding countryside.

James Mason stands by a field gate with the countryside behind him. He begins to talk about Huddersfield prior to the Industrial Revolution, during which time it was a farming community. Textile making was a cottage industry where entire families would contribute to the making of the cloth. Now Huddersfield has grown into the heart of the world's textile industry and James Mason's commentary explains that Huddersfield has a village feel. James Mason speaks to camera from the street in an area called Marsh where he was brought up. He points out where a friend of his lives as well as the house where Yorkshire Cricketer Wilfred Rose used to live. Next James Mason speaks from the garden of his childhood home, Croft House. He gives a history of his family while the film cuts to black-and-white stills of his family. The first part of the film ends as children get off the bus and walk along with their instruments. Here, James Mason speaks of the importance of music in Huddersfield.

The second half of the film opens with James Mason walking along the canal bank, past the factories and mills. He suggests that the right way to do things is the old way, and sees rationalisation of industry as the beginning of dehumanisation. The ICI Plant is run by a computer and employs just ten men. Another example of rationalisation is the assembly line like that in the David Brown factory where tractors are made at high speed. James Mason notes that the knowing Huddersfield man will view the acres of unsold ones with a wry smile.

The film then moves onto the subject of sport. Mason says that Huddersfield men are very competitive. There is a man playing golf. James Mason speaks to the camera from a rugby pitch as he gives a history of Rugby League. Archive footage is used during this scene. Locals watch a cricket match and men bowling on a green. Then, standing in a yard, James Mason talks to camera about club fighting. Men play snooker at the Huddersfield Club, and local eccentric, Franklin Broadbed, entertains a group of men with his shoulder stand. There is also footage of people chatting in the bar.

The film returns to the subject of Huddersfield's music groups. Mason lists the different music groups in Huddersfield. This scene includes footage of rehearsals by the Huddersfield Choral Society and the Huddersfield Philharmonic Orchestra. Now standing in the street, James Mason tells the viewer about letters he received while living in California. The letters were from the daughter of early film pioneer Bamforth. She sent him lantern slides as well as postcards. The Bamforth Postcard Publishers was still in existence. The camera zooms in on the building behind Mason, and next is an interior shot of James Mason at the publishers. The camera zooms out to reveal a selection of postcards like the ones sold in Blackpool. Mason then looks through a collection of postcards while playing in the background are songs which were popular during the First World War.

Next James Mason visits two of his old friends from the area, one of whom is Wilfred Makepeace Lunn who makes little bicycles. James Mason looks at his bicycles and chats with him in his house. His second friend is Peter Brook, a local painter whose paintings of Huddersfield landscapes James Mason had his paintings in his own collection while living in California. James Mason is in his studio, and Peter Brook can be seen at work. Then, the two men walk across the moors talking. But the most passionate aspect of life in Huddersfield in their music and it draws together all walks of life and they can muster 6 performing church choirs; 16 registered brass bands; 1 Chamber Music Society; 1 Madrigal Society; 3 Light Opera Societies; 3 Choral Societies; 1 Woman’s Choir; 3 Male Voice Choir; 1 Youth Orchestra and 2 Symphony Orchestras, and of course we are informed that they have more Concerts than Football games. And now we come to the end of this brilliant documentary in allowing us to see James Mason go back to his birthplace heritage and to have us allow us to enjoy this intimate James Mason’s journey through his personal insight into Huddersfield and is totally fascinating brilliant documentary and James Mason looked so natural in his presentation and is well worth a view and so pleased The Criterion Collection was able to have it included with this extra.

Special Feature: Collaborative Composition: Scoring ‘Odd Man Out’ [2015] [1080p] [16:9] [20:38] In this New interview, conducted by The Criterion Collection in 2014 with music scholar Jeff Smith, author pf “The Sounds of Commerce” analysis about composer William Alwyn and his unusual score for ‘Odd Man Out.’ Here we get to see the American Jeff Smith being interviewed where he composes on his piano. He tells us that William Alwyn was part of a cohort British Film composers, which came of age in the 1930s and the 1940s and regarded as one of the best composers at the time and was extremely prolific in not only writing music for film, but also for the stage, television, radio and concert music and is best known for the films ‘The History of Mr. Polly,’ ‘The Winslow Boy,’ ‘Green For Danger,’ ‘The Fallen Idol’ and ‘Odd Man Out.’ Jeff Smith points out how William Alwyn is good at using his music to great integrated effects in the films, especially in ‘Odd Man Out.’ We then see Jeff Smith sitting at his piano and explains and plays the 3 principle film scores used in the film, which he also tells us that they a repeated though out the film. One interesting fact we get to hear about is that William Alwyn does a rough recording so that James Mason hears the music so he can interact with the music while being filmed, then when the film has be finished, William Alwyn went back to the recording studio to re-orchestrate the musical score, which Jeff Smith felt that this musical score was his crowning achievement. If you enjoy hearing about how film scores are produced for films, especially for ‘Odd Man Out,’ then this special feature by Jeff Smith is a must watch, as you learn a lot on what makes William Alwyn was such a brilliant prolific composer and is a definite must watch special.

Special Feature: Suspense, Episode 460 [1952] [1080p] [16:9] [29:22] This radio adaptation of the film ‘Odd Man Out,’ starring James Mason, Pamela Kellino, and Dan O’Herlihy and was originally broadcast on the 11th February, 1952. It was produced and directed by Elliot Lewis. With the Index section, you get listed 5 separate chapters, which are listed as Unbeatable team; Inescapable nightmare; Smooth performance; A desperate state and Saluting the leaders. While you listen to the radio broadcast, you just get a black-and-white image of James Mason from the film. As this was an CBS American radio broadcast, with such a serious drama, it is literally spoilt by all the crass American sponsored advert, which is broadcast at the start of the drama, in the middle of the dram and right at the end of the drama, that is why the BBC is the BEST broadcasting organisation in the world, because we don’t have crass adverts spoiling any drama being broadcast to the British public.

BONUS: “Death and The City,” is an intimate essay by critic Imogen Sara Smith and is a really nice in-depth look at ‘Odd Man Out’ and you get to read lots of specific information about the Carol Reed film that is not included in any of the special features on the Blu-ray disc. It also gives you and in-depth about the transfer of the film onto the Blu-ray format and also gives you lots of acknowledgements and is a well worth read.

Finally, ‘The Third Man’ is rightfully considered to be Carol Reed's masterpiece, but there are certain aspects of ‘Odd Man Out’ that are better. Carol Reed’s ‘Odd Man Out’ is still a magnificent film, gripping in all the best ways and filled with unexpected twists and turns before its final, inevitable tragedy. William Alwyn's score, for instance, may well be one of the very best ever done for this noir film. The Criterion Collection Blu-ray release offers top-notch picture and sound with a host of interesting and unique special features, which are far superior to previous Blu-ray releases. Very Highly Recommended!

Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
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VINE VOICEon 19 April 2015
Leading up to the day of the film was the war of independence in 1922.

An IRA revolutionary and ex-con Johnny McQueen (James Mason) is in evolved with a botched robbery in which he dispatches a person and received what may be a mortal wound. In this move we spend the night with Johnny and find out who his friends and not so much friends are as he is seeking a way out of the situation.

The ending not quite the book, due to insistence of U.S. censorship, still works.

One extra plus to the film before it gets started id that it is directed by the well know Carol Reed. Carol Reed was the second son of stage actor, dramatics teacher. Also the director of "The Third Man" (1949) and The Fallen Idol (1948).

A lot of the Carol Reed films have gotten the Criterion treatment and Blu-ray. This film is symbolic of a time and has a universal timeless message; that the film should out last different treatments and even us.

James Mason is a good draw. What I is more interesting is that he is supported by many of the popular actors of the time. Three years later Robert Newton was well known for playing Long John Silver in "Treasure Island" (1950).

You will want to see the DVD extras; so if they are not downloadable it is worth obtaining a DVD. This even has the Radio adaption of "Odd Man Out" stars James Mason, Pamela Kellino, and Dan O'Herlihy. Feb 11, 1952
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 8 April 2014
Made as the first of an outstanding trio of films by director Carol Reed, this 1947 'political drama’, with an outstanding screenplay by F L Green and R C Sherriff, is a true cinematic masterpiece – brilliantly shot in black-and-white by Robert Krasker and containing a whole host of great character acting turns. Indeed, even though both Reed’s tale of English class repression in 1948’s The Fallen Idol and the mysterious Viennese shenanigans of 1949’s The Third Man also deliver cinematic gems, Odd Man Out’s tale of conflicted humanity in post-WW2, sectarian Northern Ireland is (arguably) the cream of the crop. And it is very much human morality, tortured souls and divided loyalties that are at the heart of Reed’s film, rather than any explicit political concerns – a point made clear by the film’s opening 'scrolling text’ and further emphasised by the anonymising of the precise location and the film’s 'illegal organisation’.

At the core of Reed’s film is an essentially straightforward (though gripping) narrative in which James Mason’s eponymous (and increasingly ambivalent) terrorist Johnny McQueen, having just skipped jail, finds himself a murder suspect 'on the run’ following a heist (for the benefit of the 'illegal organisation’) on a local mill. And, indeed, the first 30 minutes of Reed’s film plays like a standard (though superior) thriller. What follows, however, and what (for me) sets Reed’s film apart from standard thriller fare, is an evocative, atmospheric depiction of the local populace’s reaction (boys mimicking, police determination, priestly 'ambivalence’, elsewhere duplicity, division and exploitation) to Johnny’s predicament, conveyed via a series of brilliant character-based, set-pieces with a keen eye for cinematic detail. Thus, the fugitive’s wounded plight and 'girlfriend’ Kathleen’s (Kathleen Ryan) desperate search (almost) take second place behind the film’s wider human concerns (to the extent that during the film’s second hour Mason actually does relatively little 'acting’).

Cast-wise, Reed gets it just about perfect. As leads, Mason has never been better whilst Ryan becomes increasingly convincing. As Johnny’s 'accomplices’ Robert Beatty is nicely restrained as Dennis and each of Cyril Cusack, Dan O’Herlihy and Roy Irving are suitably animated as (respectively) Pat, Nolan and Murphy – thereafter great character turns and scenes excel. Maureen Delaney is excellent as the duplicitous Theresa, whose scene with (the 'holing up’) Pat, Nolan and Murphy builds tension brilliantly to a background of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, whilst each of Fay Compton’s Rosie and Beryl Measor’s Maudie are similarly impressive as 'first-aiders’ giving succour to Johnny. Best of the lot (for me), however, is F J McCormick’s hilariously anarchic (and film-stealing) turn as 'tramp’ Shell – excellent (with budgie) in the 'morality lesson’ and negotiation with W G Fay’s Father Tom. Also impressive is Robert Newton’s extravagant artist, Lukey, William Hartnell’s nervy (but brusque) barman, Fencie, and Denis O’Dea’s calm, unflinching Police Inspector (who has a particularly memorable scene with Father Tom on wider humanity, 'Would you say they’re all bad?’).

Visually the film is stunning, its night-time (and, latterly, snow-covered) focus lending it a noir feel, whilst Reed also includes some impressive visual effects as Johnny hallucinates (imagining himself in prison again and then via his spilt glass of beer). Similarly, William Alwyn’s by turns haunting and sweeping score nicely complements the film’s dramatic development.

It really is difficult to find fault with Reed’s film, which works just as well as thriller, romance or more serious commentary on the nature of guilt and redemption. It is certainly one of the best British films of its (or indeed any) era.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 August 2015
The Criterion issue on 2 discs -- DVD in my case -- is excellent, with a fine print of the movie on Disc One and some very interesting "special features" on the second disc. If you can, you might try to see it in relation to John Ford's "The Informer," also set in Ireland at a time (though a different one) of political trouble. Reed's 1947 movie owes a good bit stylistically and thematically to Ford's 1935 one. There are also debts to French and German movies of the 1930's that are addressed in the special features commentary. The basic similarity is that in both movies, the protagonist, not long out of jail, takes action that causes a death, and one could argue that, different as the circumstances are, in both cases the protagonist causes the death to meet some basic needs of his own and not for any ideological or political reason. The actions result in both men going on the run, so to speak, and trying to avoid capture, while at the same time being psychologically and maybe ethically disturbed by what they have done. Stylistic similarities are the representation of the city, especially in nocturnal images, with lots of shadows, deep back-and-white contrast, and a sense of the city as a kind of warren or maze, almost a trap, from which the protagonist tries to escape. Reed's film, to an even greater extent than Ford's, I think, makes the audience aware of its style -- every shot seems very deliberately framed, and engrossingly, I might add. However, to the credit of Reed and his actors, the awareness of style doesn't get in the way of the reader's engagements with the characters and their plights. Sometimes, it's desperation that draws us in; at others, it's an odd, almost absurd kind of humor. The ostensible issue that the plot engages us in, again like "The Informer," is a simple one -- can the protagonist get out of the city and away from his pursuers? But the plot, like that of any good film noir, is just the excuse on which to hang issues of psychological breakup and existential threat.

It's odd, however, that the political dimension of the story is played down. Johnny McQueen (James Mason) is the head of what in the movie is referred to merely as "The Organization," and nothing in the movie makes it certain that the organization isn't a criminal enterprise as opposed to a political one. It has usually been taken to refer to the IRA, but there's nothing in the movie about Irish politics and history to warrant that identification. I wondered if the "depoliticizing" of the story was a sop to the British censors -- but there's no way that the organization, whatever it is, is glorified or its violence endorsed. In fact, Johnny, we learn right from the start, has begun while in prison to have doubts about violence -- it's ironic that he's strapping on his gun around the time that he reveals this to his girl, Kathleen (Kathleen Ryan). But he doesn't come across as a tough guy -- he's reflective and even sentimental, and that's partly his undoing, and Kathleen's attraction to him has none of the dangerous allure of the bad boy for the tough girl. Be all that as it may, the absence of politics throws all the interest on the existential aspects of the story and serves to suggest that Johnny's situation has a kind of universal human interest. His conscience is focused on his having killed, with no attention given to the context of or possible reasons for the killing or the robbery that was the occasion of the killing. The effect is to make Johnny's consciousness seem almost inhumanly "pure" -- or, if you're historically minded, implausibly limited. For myself, that's where I have to suspend my disbelief where this movie is concerned. Once you start thinking about the complex history that lies behind an event like the robbery in the context ( a divided Ireland, c. 1940), the film can lose its purchase on you and seem oversimple. If you head down that road, all you're left with is style. But partly as a response to style, I DON'T head down that road, and then my interest in what the style is there to express reawakens.

The oddest feature of the movie is the part where Johnny finds himself in the studio of the artist Lukie (Robert Newton), who wants to paint him. Lukie is such an extravagant character, and Newton (remember his Long John Silver?) is himself an extravagant actor, that he almost seems to belong to a different kind of movie. Still, the idea of the artist as the medium required for penetrating the soul of man in extremis has thematic plausibility here, and it's in that scene that Mason delivers HIS most histrionic moment -- a surprise in a movie in which the protagonist, up to that point, hasn't had much to say at all. And that's another odd feature of the film -- Johnny, once he is wounded, is remarkably passive. It's not clear that he cares about being saved, though he doesn't want to be found by the police. Rather, he just seems not to want to be a burden to anybody. Is he paralyzed by guilt? He is weak through loss of blood? Both, perhaps? Kathleen wants to save him and is scouring Belfast looking for him, but it's not clear that he wants any more than Kathleen's presence -- and at the end of the day (literally -- the movie is about the events of a single day and ends at midnight), it's not clear that Kathleen wants any more than just to be in Johnny's presence. The ineffectiveness of Father Tom (W. G. Fay) gives the ending a very different character from the ending of "The Informer," where Gyppo (Victor McGlaglen) ends up in a church asking for forgiveness. And yet Frankie's mother's absolution of Gyppo ("Sure, you didn't know what you were doin' ") perhaps applies to Johnny too.

Anyway -- if you've read this far! -- good performances all round, not only from Mason but from a stable pf good Irish actors including the young Cyril Cusack, Dan O' Herlihy, and W. G. Fay himself. This was Fay's last movie, for he died in 1947, having been involved forty years earlier with Yeats, Synge, and Lady Gregory in the establishment of the Irish National Theater (later, the Abbey). Take a look too at the proprietor of the bar. I thought I recognized him from long ago. I wondered, was it Peter Cushing? But no. He's William Hartnett, who went on to become the original Doctor Who.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 29 November 2012
Johnny McQueen is an IRA leader who breaks out of prison and for 6 months hides out at the house of adoring Kathleen. Here he plots a robbery of a Belfast mill to fund his underground organisation, the robbery doesn't go to plan and Johnny kills a man in a struggle outside the mill, he himself is shot and fails to make the getaway with his accomplices...

If ever there was a film that defines the statement of film on canvass then this is it, it's a gorgeous piece of work relying on striking imagery and dialogue driven smartness to realise the demise of Johnny McQueen. We watch (and listen intensely) as Johnny lurches through the back streets of Belfast knowing he is dying, he has most of the city looking for him, be it the law, or friends, or those that want to cash in on him, his destiny is not so much carved in stone, but more like written in blood in the snow.

The amazing feeling I got with this film is that I felt like I was dying as well, and I think that is one of the film's great strengths, director Carol Reed and cinematographer Robert Krasker put you into the mindset of McQueen, the doom hangs heavy, the distortion and hallucinogenic free fall for the last reel hangs heavy on the viewer, it's a stifling masterclass. Some of the shots are beautiful, especially once the snow starts to fall to accentuate the Victorian backdrops, but consistently we also get moist and misty cobbled streets lit by gas lamps, providing moody shadows of humans and buildings alike. While Krasker offers up his photographic atmospherics, Reed excels with scenes such as portraits forming together in front of McQueen, or faces appearing in spilled beer bubbles; images wrung out of McQueen's feverish mind.

James Mason as Mcqueen is brilliant, and yet he doesn't get long periods of dialogue here, the script doesn't call for it, yet the performance is simply wonderful, with just one look of desperation Mason acts out of the top draw. There are a number of great characters in the film, like borderline insane artist Lukey (a bountiful turn from Robert Newton), or bum for a pound Shell (F.J. McCormick), no character is merely a walk on part, they all add weight to this clinically structured piece of work. The score by William Alwyn is right on the money and integral to realising the film's thematic heart, and the ending is noir nirvana, it took me 5 minutes to digest it fully during the close credits. A haunting and poetic piece of work, that rare old beast that is bleakly beautiful. 9/10
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 25 October 2013
First a few words about this particular DVD package. Very good indeed. Nicely digitally remastered and a good clean print. The other two real bonuses are the excellent booklet which accompanies the DVD 'Soldier in the Snow' on the making of the movie, which runs to 23 pages of text and film memorabilia, Very well written. The real treasure is a .pdf of the original 1947 film script, complete with all directions. A very nice package. Well done Network.

Now the film...set in Belfast and recounting the events in the life of Johnny McQueen a wounded IRA man, it is an evocative beautifully photographed film with Mason giving an outstanding performance. Although the IRA is never mentioned directly in the film (references instead to 'the organisation)'it is set in Belfast and it has a particular resonance for anyone like me from Northern Ireland as many of the backdrops of the film, particularly the clock tower and the bar scene (the famous Crown Bar pretty much the same as in the film and still open) all recreated on set.

The Irish accents get a bit jumbled along the way but still provide an authentic feel. The film manages in the main to avoid the character stereotypes which tend to ruin most Irish drama. The members of the 'organisation' are not all dedicated to the cause arguing, enjoying a drink and betraying their own human frailties. Likewise the police inspector is described by a McQueen sympathiser as not so bad. The film can be watched on many levels, as a tense drama, a love story, a narrative on human frailty and on the meaning of freedom. Johnny McQueen having broken free from gaol has spent a considerable time in hiding in a house, unable to move around freely and for most of the film running wounded from the police. Another character Shell, in a wonderful scene with the parish priest draws the comparison with Johnny as a caged bird with a broken wing.

I've given the film 4 stars as I felt it lost its way with the introduction of the character Lukey the down and out painter played in his usual OTT way by Robert Newton (of Long John Silver and Great Expectations fame) and the time could have been better spent exploring further the doomed relationship between Kathleen and Johnny giving the final reel even more poignance.
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on 4 November 2016
Only parts of this excellent film were actually shot in Belfast – but it all looked pretty authentic to me.
Johnny McQueen (James Mason) is the head of a post-war terrorist organisation, having granted himself a little unofficial parole following the imposition of a 17 year jail sentence for gun-running. He and his gang decide to carry out an armed robbery at a mill which goes badly wrong when McQueen is shot and he murders an employee who tries to stop him. Separated from his gang, McQueen wanders off and what happens thereafter shows a miss-match of the people whom he encounters – drunks, eccentric Englishwomen who want to help, hinder or, in the case of Lukey (Robert Newton, in top, roaring form) a half-barmy painter who wishes to immortalise McQueen’s death throes in oils. But there are others: the priest, keen on saving McQueen’s soul, McQueen’s girl-friend (a wonderfully understated role by Kathleen Ryan) and the police inspector (the always excellent Dennis O’Dea) who displays compassion as well as a steely resolve to feel McQueen’s collar.
Excellent acting, all-round – no-one who appears on screen, no matter how small their role, falters.
The script by F.L. Green and R.C. Sheriff is highly credible, Robert Crasker’s photography grittily captures a wet and snowy Belfast, the antics of the street urchins are, I assure you, very believable and Robert Beatty’s fight on the tram is one of the most realistic screen fights I’ve ever seen.
If Carol Reed didn’t pat himself on the back for this one, he should have done – an outstanding post-war British film.
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on 26 November 2013
Very gripping, dramatic and ultimately sad film depicting troubled times in Eire's history. Very underplayed and the more effective for that!
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on 11 September 2012
Have to say I discovered Carol Reed's ODD MAN OUT by accident on cable television. Could not wait to get a decent print on DVD, so I quickly ordered a Korean import that looks pretty good for this old film. I have had that for a few years. My original DVD review (found on Amazon US site) I stated I would love to see this film on blu ray. My wish came true thanks to this Region B blu ray. I knew immediately I needed to purchase a region free blu ray player. Once I got one, this title was my first purchase. This blu ray of ODD MAN OUT has been cleaned up really well. This is the best I have seen this movie look. The detail in the black and white picture is astounding! This blu ray blows away any other DVD version of this classic. The special features aren't the best, but I got this for this wonderful movie. Wish more studios here in the states would release more classics like this on blu ray. I am so glad to have bought this region free blu ray player so I can purchase more titles from The Masters of Cinema series from Eureka also (speaking of classics). Now they are what we in the states compare to Criterion. They have released some really great classics on blu ray and they look amazing. Tempted to get ISLAND OF LOST SOULS but my Criterion blu ray doesn't look that good, so I am not sure of the print Eureka used.
But I do know, if you are thinking of getting ODD MAN OUT on blu ray, do it! This is a classic I will cherish for years to come.
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