Thursday, November 20, 2008

Target #237: Odd Man Out (1947, Carol Reed)

TSPDT placing: #394
Directed by: Carol Reed
Written by: F.L. Green (novel & screenplay), R.C. Sherriff (screenplay)
Starring: James Mason, Robert Newton, Cyril Cusack, Kathleen Ryan, F.J. McCormick, William Hartnell, Fay Compton, W.G. Fay, Elwyn Brook-Jones, Maureen Delaney, Denis O'Dea

A few years ago, when I first watched The Third Man (1949) {needless to say, one of the top ten films ever made} I made the mistake, as I'm sure many amateur film buffs do, to assume that this was the only film of note produced by director Carol Reed; a one-of-a-kind fluke. From here, I subscribed to the all-too-common but completely erroneous idea that Orson Welles had directed parts of the film, which might explain why it turned out so damn good. That I hadn't ever heard Reed mentioned as a distinguished veteran of British cinema is disheartening and ludicrous, for, even after only three of his films, I see no reason why he should not be held aloft alongside the likes of Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger and David Lean. The Third Man had an Ealing-style whimsy that worked superbly well in the lopsided streets of post-War Vienna, but Reed's Odd Man Out (1947) is equally engrossing, a sombre and straight-faced exploration of political unrest in Northern Ireland. Though his film follows – and, to an extent, sympathises with – the activities of an IRA-like organisation, Reed largely avoids making any sort of political statement. The story opens with a brief title-card in which we are assured that "it is not concerned with the struggle between the law and an illegal organisation, but only with the conflict in the hearts of the people when they become unexpectedly involved." The involvement of a "terrorist" organisation in the story is not to show support for the IRA or similar causes, but to suggest how political differences have eroded society's morals to such an extent that perfectly decent people will not extend their hand to help a dying man. As Johnny McQueen (James Mason) stumbles through the bitter winter snowstorm, frozen and bleeding following a botched robbery attempt, he is passed from one person to another, each of whom either turns him back out into the cold, lest they become implicated in his crime, or they exploit him for their own selfish means.

What works so magnificently about Odd Man Out is how authentically Reed is able to establish mood. The story unfolds in a single day, the bulk of which is spent in the darkness of a cold winter's night, snowflakes falling delicately to the ground, lending the film an icy chill that, even though it's approaching summer down here, had me drawing the clothes tighter to my body. No small praise should go towards Australian-born cinematographer Robert Krasker, whose elegant photography captures both the cold despair of the winter snowstorm, and the persistent warmth in the eyes of McQueen's young love, Kathleen (Kathleen Sullivan). In American noir, you usually come face-to-face with grotesque characters who are frightening and ugly; in British films, and I'm not exactly sure why this is, there's a certain charm about the grotesque. F.J. McCormick plays a doddering bum who tries hopelessly to profit from his discovery of Mason's dying fugitive, and yet his character is oddly likable. Robert Newton, likewise, plays an eccentric, humorously-flamboyant artist whose one obsession is to paint the portrait of a doomed soul.

Currently my #1 film of 1947:
1) Odd Man Out (Carol Reed)
2) The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (Joseph L. Mankiewicz)
3) Monsieur Verdoux (Charles Chaplin)
4) Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur)
5) Dark Passage (Delmer Daves)
6) The Lady from Shanghai (Orson Welles)
7) They Won’t Believe Me (Irving Pichel)
8) The Fugitive (John Ford, Emilio Fernández)
9) Bush Christmas (Ralph Smart)
10) Song of the Thin Man (Edward Buzzell)


Books, said...

Andrew said,"Hi again DeeDee!
Did you ever get around to watching "Odd Man Out" yourself? If so, I'd like to hear what you thought of it."

Andrew, here goes my respond to your question on my blog...I have copied and pasted it here on your blog.

Oh! Yes, I watched "Odd Man Out" this evening.
Emotionally, I ‘am drained, after watching this film.

This film has everything...elements of a noir, beautiful cinematography, music that was strained,(????) a storyline and characters that were well-developed...and an ending that was...Well, I better not give away the ending just in case, others have not experienced what I just experienced this evening after watching Reed’s 1947 film Odd Man Out.
I most definitely plan to watch this film again and again and...

By the way, I did wear my Duffle coat while watching the wintry scene in this film. I'am Just Kidding, but of course!

Thanks, Andrew, for bring this film to my here I come...The Man Between.

Take care!
DeeDee ;-D

Monday, August 24, 2009 2:03:00 AM CDT

ackatsis said...

Hey DeeDee,
Fantastic! I knew you'd love it. Most people, on account of 'The Third Man,' tend to consider Reed something of a one-hit wonder, but 'Odd Man Out' proves that he was a master talent.

In fact, he's got a whole filmography of grand films. "The Man Between" is another good'un, and has another magnetic performance from James Mason.
Let me know when you watch that one!

Anonymous said...

Your top films of 1947 has a glaring omission. The Archers "Black Narcissus" should absolutely be there.