Odd Man Out
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Hailed for its sensitive treatment of a difficult subject, "Odd Man Out" is a tale of ordinary people trapped in the web of Northern Ireland's troubles. Irish rebel Johnny McQueen (James Mason), maimed and bleeding, weaves an escape route through Belfast's seedy underground while each of his comrades falls prey to bounty hunters and police in director Carol Reed's (The Third Man) classic film noir.
Film noir is a term usually associated with American films of the 1940s and 1950s, but this British classic from 1947 fits the definition in almost every respect. It's one of the milestone films of its era, highlighted by what is arguably the best performance in the illustrious career of James Mason, here playing the leader of an underground Irish rebel organization who is seriously wounded when a payroll heist goes sour. Left for dead by his accomplices on the streets of Belfast, he's forced to hide wherever he can find shelter and refuge, and as his gunshot wound gradually drains his life away, his lover (Kathleen Ryan) struggles to locate him before it's too late. Although the IRA and Belfast are never mentioned by name, this film was a daring and morally complex examination of Northern Ireland's "troubles," and its compelling tragedy hasn't lost any of its impact. A study of conscience in crisis and the bitter aftermath of terrorism, this was one of the first films to address IRA activities on intimately human terms. Political potency is there for those who seek it, but the film is equally invigorating as a riveting story of a tragic figure on the run from the law, forced to confront the wrath of his own beliefs in the last hours of his life. It was this brilliant, unforgettable film that established the directorial prowess of Carol Reed, whose next two films (The Fallen Idol and The Third Man) were equally extraordinary. --Jeff Shannon
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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’ , a highly stylised meditation on friendship and post-War morality. Many critics, however, feel that ‘Odd Man Out’ , 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’  and ‘Georgy Girl’  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’  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’  and ‘The Third Man’ . ‘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’  [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’  [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  [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’  [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  [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
However, if that man happens to be played by James Mason, and he and the rest of the cast are working under the direction of Carol Reed, a rather mundane story becomes a work of art.
Black and white is as important to this film as are any of its characters. The tension of nearly every move Johnny McQueen makes--the ducking into alleys and dark corners, hiding in stairwells and bomb shelters, hobbling down a cobblestone backstreet while it snows--is amplified by Carol's unique eye for value, depth and contrast. It's impossible to imagine how this film would have worked like it does had it been shot in color.
The story takes an unexpected (and sort of bizarre) turn during the last half hour and the ending is truly tragic, but James Mason and the rest of the cast are certainly up to task and everyone delivers a fine performance. Even so, the cinematography and direction are what make this a great film. Carol Reed followed this with "The Third Man" and it is indeed the better movie, but only because it is (in my opinion) the better story.
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