Odd Man Out Screen 11 articles

Odd Man Out

1947

Odd Man Out Poster
  • Turgid dialogue, like bad Graham Greene, keeps bogging down the film, making one wish for more well-mapped bits like Johnny’s refuge-in-plain-sight at a pub. Nighttime is rarely so enveloping and palpable as here, yet Reed’s picture feels like a collection of cloistered, sometimes mismatched scenes. Still, Mason does pain (of all sorts) so very well, his distinctive frame ever on the edge of half-spread-wings misshapenness.

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    The Nation: James Agee
    July 19, 1947 | Agee on Film (pp. 263-264)

    The story seems merely to ramify too much, and at its unluckiest to go arty... Yet detail by detail most of Odd Man Out is made with great skill... It the world should end tomorrow, as this film rather substantially suggests that it must, and may as well, this film would furnish one of the more appropriate epitaphs: a sad, magnificent summing up of a night city. Movies have always been particularly good at appreciating cities at night: but of a night city this is the best image I have seen.

  • "I know no other film which conveys such utter despair," wrote documentary editor and novelist Dai Vaughan in his excellent BFI monograph on ODD MAN, and it's true that there are few films--with or without allegorical baggage--to treat their protagonists... with so casual a fatalism. This odd and portentous hybrid will never go down as easy as the Greenes, but that's all the more reason to pay attention and give it, and Reed, their due.

  • Odd Man Out’s greatness arguably lies precisely in its lack of conventional suspense and excitement. It’s a film that casts James Mason—Britain’s biggest movie star at the time—in the lead role, then perversely chooses to incapacitate his character right off the bat, leaving him mostly or entirely unconscious for the duration. He’s the passive fulcrum around which a bevy of reactive dramas pivot... Occasional hints of danger are overshadowed by complex negotiation.

  • This may be Reed's most pretentious film, but it also happens to be one of his very best, beautifully capturing the poetry of a city at night (with black-and-white cinematography by Robert Krasker that's within hailing distance of Gregg Toland and Stanley Cortez's work with Orson Welles). It also has a splendid cast (including Robert Newton, Kathleen Ryan, F.J. McCormick, Cyril Cusack, and Dan O'Herlihy) that wrings the utmost out of the quasi-allegorical material.

  • The picture is always an exceptionally tight, involving one for thriller fans and such, but does it indeed mark Carol Reed's shift from journeyman to master, and was he ever really a master in the first place, handful of great films he was involved in notwithstanding?

  • Reed's most famous collaborator was, of course, Orson Welles, co-star of The Third Man and its generally regarded (rightly or wrongly) artistic stimulus. But Welles's influence can also be felt in the formal foreplay of Odd Man Out; likewise rooted in the feel of poetic realism and the look of German Expressionism, the film and the shape of its plot can just as often appear to predict the nested narrative of The Third Man.

  • Reed adapted his filmmaking style to his material—a habit that has made him problematic for auteurist film critics—and here the style undergoes a metamorphosis over the course of the movie. An aerial shot traveling over Belfast opens the film in a documentary key, and the early daylight scenes have a brisk expository style that fits into the postwar trend of neorealist thrillers. As [Johnny] grows weaker and as nightfall deepens, the film becomes increasingly stylized and phantasmagoric...

  • Though he is a murderer, Mason’s beatific, radiant performance gives his character a saintly aura, as if taking on the sins of the post-war world. Though it has overshadowed the lower-budgeted Brit-noirs of this period (which are in need of reclamation), Odd Man Out is more than worthy of its reputation.

  • Enduring his Calvary with polished anguish, Mason is the still center of the Dickensian whirlpool until a Corinthians verse triggers one final spasm of revelation, filmed from a low angle to catch the saliva dangling from his bottom lip. Wajda’s war trilogy absorbs it whole, the concluding Via Dolorosa is from Pépé le Moko and goes into On the Waterfront.

  • It's true that there are few films—with or without allegorical baggage—to treat their protagonists (in this case, James Mason, though often subsumed by the rest of Reed's superb ensemble) with so casual a fatalism. This odd and portentous hybrid will never go down as easy as the Greenes, but that's all the more reason to pay attention and give it, and Reed, their due.

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