Odd Man Out (1947)
R2 - United Kingdom - Network
Review written by and copyright: Jari Kovalainen (2nd February 2007).
The Film

British director/producer Sir Carol Reed won the “Best Director” Oscar for “Oliver! (1968)”, was nominated twice (“The Fallen Idol (1948)” and “The Third Man (1949)”) and received a knighthood in 1952. That alone would be a quite impressive introduction for any movie director. In addition to that, the list of male actors that worked with him is remarkable, including many of the finest British actors - Alec Guinness, Oliver Reed, Trevor Howard, and David Niven, and many great ones from the US - Orson Welles, Charlton Heston, William Holden, Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Anthony Quinn (okay, born in Mexico), even Marlon Brando (Reed quit “Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)” during filming, though). One important addition to the list is the British actor James Mason, who played Johnny McQueen in “Odd Man Out (1947)” (later also in “The Man Between (1953)”) and has called it “his best performance of his career”.

The backdrop of the film is the political turmoil in Northern Ireland at the beginning of WW2. The city of Belfast has through the years suffered a great deal, mainly because of the long IRA/British conflict, but also because of the German bomber planes. Johnny is the IRA leader (although that´s not actually mentioned in the film, they only talk about “The Organisation”), escaped from prison (gun trading) and who has been hiding for 6 months in the house of his supporters. The hiding is now over, since he´s about to take his crew onto a risky mission, to rob a local linen mill - “The Organisation” needs money to keep the fight going. The raid goes wrong and in the process Johnny partly accidentally, partly in self-defense shoots a man, ending up wounded himself. He manages to hide in the dark and dusty air raid shelter, where he starts his emotional journey from guilt and remorse to love and hope. A massive manhunt by the British officials is soon under way and this has also a grave effect for the other members of the organization, some ending up dead. Johnny´s right hand man Dennis (Robert Beatty) is more cautious and is helping Johnny by risking his own skin. Soon the wounded and tired - almost half-delirious - Johnny wanders from place to place in a bleak and dark Belfast, meeting many sympathisers (willing to help Johnny to move on, but never to be truly involved) and some shady characters. To some, he´s merely a showpiece.

Tough, but realistic Inspector (Denis O'Dea) is on the heels of the fugitive, asking questions from Kathleen (Kathleen Ryan) - the woman who loves Johnny more than anything and Father Tom (W.G. Fay) - the understanding priest, who would like to help Johnny to find some sort of peace. Father Tom knows that there´s a very thin line between the “good” and the “bad” in conflict and people like Johnny are not necessarily villains in nature. In the back alleys Johnny also meets many different personalities, e.g. the drunken and slightly mad artist Lukey (Robert Newton) - who desperately wants to paint Johnny´s picture and Shell (F.J. McCormick) - the man who mainly wants to exploit the situation for his own good. As the film progresses, Johnny starts losing his idealism and toughness and through his blurred mind he sees his destination clearer than ever. It´s time to confront his true meaning and the love from Kathleen might be the only thing that´s left for him in the cold and hostile city.

“Odd Man Out” is visually a striking black-&-white film, shot by the cinematographer Robert Krasker (who received an Academy Award from “The Third Man (1949)”). The visual style resembles Film Noir with dark, deep shadows and contrasts and many small details can be seen throughout the film, both in the foreground and in the background. The cinematography and art direction really support each other and the city is like another character itself. James Mason is a respected actor (three times Oscar nominee and appeared in e.g. “North by Northwest (1959)”, “Lolita (1962)”, “The Blue Max (1966)”, “Cross of Iron (1977)”, “The Verdict (1982)” and he even made some Italian “polizia”-films in the 1970s), delivering a great performance, turning the confident and angered rebel into a vulnerable, emotional man. Johnny may have been ready “to die” for his cause before, but now he is also ready to face his previous sins and explore his moral values. The supporting actors are all very solid too; very capable British actors. It´s interesting that the film somewhat sympathises with the “The Organisation”, which in the year of 1947 might have raised a few eyebrows more than today. Director Reed still keeps the story well balanced, not taking any real sides, but rather trying to explore the complex characters like Johnny in the equally complex situation and time. The pacing of the film is a bit slow at times and there are scenes (e.g. involving Father Tom) that tend to lean a bit on the overly sentimental, but “Odd Man Out” is more like a moving drama than a nail-biting thriller. In the end, the real sympathy goes to the towns like Belfast and its ordinary people - struggling day by day, not really knowing which side to turn when they need help. They are caught in the middle of endless struggle of violence - delivered by both sides. Kathleen tries to conquer violence with love, but that might not be enough…

Video

The film is presented in 4:3, which is the OAR. The print looks really good with bold black levels and it´s very clean - no major print damage or film artefacts. A good amount of sharpness is visible and the grain is in a pleasant level. The transfer has some minor wear and “shimmering” in selected scenes (probably due to the old source materials), but I could claim that the transfer is not that far away from the best of them (from e.g. Warner). “Dual layer” disc is coded “R2”, and the film runs 111:05 minutes (PAL). There are 12 chapters.

Audio

The sole audio track is the English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and there are no subtitles. There is some mild hiss and a few crackles, but generally the track is quite clean and also “aggressive” for the film of this age. Even though the actors don´t speak with a “full on” Irish accent, the subtitles would´ve been nice at least for the foreign viewers and hard for hearing. Take note, “Network”.

Extras

-“James Mason interview (1972)” -featurette runs 12:46 minutes and is a bit of a confusing compilation from the vintage interview-session with the actor (presented as unedited rushes). Mason gets to say his opinions about the British film industry after WW2, the actors and briefly also his experience of Hollywood (he lived 16 years in California). Some interesting answers (like the one about “Odd Man Out”) are missing and every now and then the cameraman interrupts Mason in the middle of his sentence (probably changing film or similar). We also hear Mason´s thoughts of directing (he directed a couple of TV-productions and stage plays). This seems to be shot for the “All Our Yesterdays” series.

-“Home James: James Mason - Turns Again To Huddersfield (1972)” -documentary runs 51:35 minutes and is produced by “Yorkshire Television”. In this 2-part documentary the presenter and narrator Mason returns to “Huddersfield”, the industrial town where he was born and raised. Even though this has very little to do with Mason as “an actor”, the documentary is actually quite interesting and gives a rather inside look at the daily life of the city and the early 1970s of England generally. Plenty of footage from the mills and factories are included (the city was famous at the time for its wool and textile production) and it takes a peek into the hobbies and activities of the average people (football is hardly mentioned for some reason, but there is a lot of singing). The documentary also introduces the wealthier side of the town, mainly factory owners in their Rolls-Royces (in that time they actually mingled with their stuff every now and then). All in all, a quite charming documentary, dear. I´ll have a cup of tea now.

-Photo gallery runs 11:05 minutes and includes 165 images. They´re mainly stills from the film and publicity material (several actors), but the more obscure Japanese posters and original press book are also included. A few “behind the scenes” photos are also included.

-On the DVD-ROM part of the disc, a 378-page Post-Production Shooting Script is included as a .pdf-file. This should be pretty interesting for all the future screenwriters. It can be viewed on both PC and Mac.

-There´s also a 24-page Commemorative booklet, including an essay by Steve Rogers and the original theatrical press book. Unfortunately that wasn´t included in my review-copy.

Overall

If you´re into “classics” and usually buy every box set from Warner and Criterion, then the “Odd Man Out” SE from “Network” is just what you need. An excellent transfer (clearly the best one so far) to an equally excellent film is something that you don´t see every day from the smaller companies, so fans should be happy. The extras are very “vintage”, when at least I would´ve welcomed a new featurette from the film, but they´re still quite enjoyable and worth a look.

For more info, please visit the homepage of Network DVD.

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.