Karen of Shadows and Satin and Kristina of Speakeasy are hosting a blogathon where the main objective is to talk about a particular film from 1947. Knowing that Black Narcissus would be a popular choice (it was), I decided to opt for something less conventional:
|(1947, dir. Carol Reed)|
The film opens with the planning and execution of a bank robbery. Both go off without a hitch…at first. While trying to escape, ex-con Johnny McQueen (a stunning James Mason) gets shot and is forced to hide throughout the vast unnamed Irish city (it’s assumed to be Belfast) from the police. What ensues is a noir of morality, a glimpse into the mind of a conflicted criminal.
Odd Man Out depicts a man floating between life and death, living in a real-life purgatory. Johnny finds sympathy from some of the people he encounters and scorn from others, sometimes both within the same people. But one thing is clear from the passersby that come across Johnny: they want nothing to do with an escaped criminal with blood on his hands (both figuratively and literally).
And as we watch Johnny get weaker and weaker from his wounds, the words of John Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale” come to mind:
Darkling I listen; and, for many a timeI have been half in love with easeful Death,Call'd him soft names in many a mused rhyme,To take into the air my quiet breath;Now more than ever seems it rich to die,To cease upon the midnight with no pain,While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroadIn such an ecstasy!Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain--To thy high requiem become a sod.
Along with Reed’s keen direction and Mason’s anguished performance, the main focus of Odd Man Out is Robert Krasker’s crisp cinematography. Much like what he would do with The Third Man just two years later, Krasker depicts a city ravaged from war but still thriving with life. He experiments with shadows and lights, showing a nightmare through a dreamlike vision.
Reed nowadays is primarily known for two films: The Third Man, which solidified his status in film, and Oliver!, which earned him his lone Oscar for Best Director. And yet Odd Man Out has somehow slipped past the eyes of most film admirers. After all, it did provide an influence for Yann Demange’s ’71, one of the best films in recent years. Fitting seeing as Odd Man Out is one of the best films of the 1940s.