Odd Man Out (1947, Carol Reed)

Kathy (Kathleen Ryan of The Sound of Fury) likes Johnny (James Mason, before The Reckless Moment). He is just out of prison, planning a new heist with his boys. They’re worried that Johnny can’t handle it, but after Johnny is wounded fighting with a guard (whom he kills), his compatriots prove jumpy and incompetent, losing Johnny then hiding at the wrong woman’s house (she turns them into the cops). Now a bloody and delirious Johnny staggers about the city at night during a police manhunt, while Kathy and Robert Beatty (2001: A Space Odyssey) search for him.

Mike D’Angelo:

Current Letterboxd one-sheet proclaims this “the most exciting motion picture ever made!”, which is not just hyperbole but essentially the antithesis of how the film actually works. Mason was already Britain’s top star at the time, yet Odd Man Out incapacitates him almost immediately, leaving him mostly or entirely unconscious for the duration; he’s the passive fulcrum around which a bevy of reactive dramas pivot, collectively providing a portrait of an entire community.

That the movie never specifies the I.R.A., referring only to “the Organization,” in no way renders it any less politically charged, opening disclaimer notwithstanding — there’s a world of bitter truth in the cab driver’s parting admonition “If you get back to your friends, you’ll tell ’em I helped you. Me, Gin Jimmy. But if the police get you, you won’t mention my name, huh?”

Priests and cabbies and passers-by and concerned citizens get involved, and finally Johnny ends up part of a drunken artists’ circus. He’s taken to a pub by parakeet lover Shell (F.J. McCormick, who died a few months after the film’s release) whose crazed painter friend (second-billed Robert Newton, a David Lean regular) insists on painting the dying man. Kathy finds Mason in the end – but so do the police.

Shell (left) and the mad painter:

Features a bunch of Reed’s trademarked sharp wall shadows. Oscar-nominated (for editing) same year as The Bishop’s Wife, Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, Black Narcissus and Song of the South, a weird oscar year.

the Story of Film bubbles of influence, times five:

The contemporary Film Quarterly review was written by Force of Evil writer/director Abraham Polonsky. He’s not a huge fan, especially calling out the inspecific nature of Mason’s organization, as if the film could’ve been made if he’d been named a IRA leader.

The closer we examine Odd Man Out, its confusions of motive, its drift from facing out toward what conditions morality to the inner world which denies it, the more adequately we estimate our own reactions, the clearer it becomes that the film, although invested with all the trappings of realism, is nothing more than an enormous fantasy, a fantasy of the unconscious, a confession, a private dream. Odd Man Out is actually a stereotype of realism in the literary form of melodrama. Its content, as differentiated from its mechanical form, is essentially antirealistic, a consideration of a metaphysical and not a social struggle. In treating social events it is necessary to know their precise historical conditions in order to evalute the operation of moral choices. In a metaphysical inquiry we are mainly interested in defining the abstract terms for logical manipulation. Nowadays a whole literary school has arisen, antirealistic in nature, which is devoted to deciding whether organization-as-such is evil (not whether this organization is evil or not), and whether man’s inner agony is a condition of physical existence (not whether this social existence or that creates terror and anxiety in his spirit). Such questions are not considered useful from the point of view of reality.

He contrasts it with Monsieur Verdoux, “a free film, made with an artist’s freedom from censorship, freely invented, and always brought into relation to a living social condition.”

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