ODD MAN OUT

 
Directed by Carol Reed. UK. 1947.


Talking Pictures alias talkingpix.co.uk
 
 


 
 

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It is the winter of 1946-47, Johnny McQueen (James Mason) is a revered leader of the Irish Republican Army in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Recently escaped from prison, he plans to rob a mill to provide funds for the organization though his colleagues urge him not to be involved. Awarded Best British Film at the British Academy Awards and nominated for an Oscar for Best Editing, Odd Man Out, directed by Carol Reed (The Third Man), is the story of a botched robbery that leads to murder and the attempt of a seriously wounded man to elude capture. Pursued by "The Inspector" (Dennis O'Dea), Johnny is helped by Kathleen Sullivan (Kathleen Ryan), a young IRA woman who loves him and tries to smuggle him out of the city. He wanders helplessly in the dark streets and alleys of Belfast, buffeted by rain and snow, living in cellars with derelicts, constantly exposed to danger, looking more like a walking zombie than a revolutionary. The tone of the film is dark and Kafkaesque with its thin line between reality and nightmare. 

Johnny is one of Mason's best roles especially during the early part of the film but he is submerged in the second half by a string of exaggerated supporting characters that include a demented painter Lukey (Robert Newton) who wants to paint his death mask, a priest (W.G. Fay) who wants to save his soul, sisters Rosie and Maudie (Fay Compton and Beryl Measor) who give him shelter but force him out, and con man Shell (F.J. McCormick) who wants to use him to make money. Odd Man Out is not a political film or even a suspense thriller but a surreal allegory of the limits of man's compassion. When Lukey looks at Johnny and says, "I understand what I see in him. The truth about us all", we can see ourselves -- running for our life, scared and alone, awaiting the encroaching night.
 

Howard Schumann
 
 
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