Odd Man Out (1947)

Odd Man Out (1947), produced and directed by Carol Reed.


Close the door when I'm gone and forget me.

It's Johnny McQueen's last day. Might as well say it. The first time I saw this I knew the ending within the first five minutes. Such is the doom of his story. His girl is Kathleen and we are sadly comforted by her fierce, unyielding love. At the end, He: "Is it far?" She: "It's a long way, Johnny, but I'm coming with you. We're going away together."

This is not a political story, so Johnny's Organization is not called the IRA. It's not about a specific historical moment, so the city is not Belfast. It's about common cruelty and unexpected kindness, the needs of the soul and the weakness of the body, and leaving life behind. And guilt -- Johnny has murdered. And love -- which he doesn't realize until life is slipping away.

I'm glad I don't have to choose between this one and The Third Man (1949). Carol Reed was a blazing talent of the late 1940s. Still to review: The Fallen Idol (1948).

I watched it twice just before writing this review and I still don't know how he does it: an element of unexpected humor rises through the tragedy. It's not the dark ironic humor of many thrillers, but something I'm not even able to define:

For all the realism of buildings and lovely rubble, the texture of the woolens and looming shadows, it also has something of a stage-like presentation, possibly just because of the beauty of the composition and the glimpses of life we see in the backgrounds.

James Mason gives his all. Dying, hallucinating, he suddenly stands and delivers a dignified verse from 1 Corinthians. A long string of drool drips from his mouth...

People complain about Robert Newton's mad painter as being over the top, but I think that helps with the stage presentation. Both his ravings and the efforts of Father Tom, the scruffy good-hearted priest, suggest the primacy of the needs of the soul over the failures of the body.

Beautiful score. William Alwyn is rising to my top shelf for movie music these days. "Johnny's Theme" sounds American to me, although a music scholar in an extra describes it as Celtic. Big overlap, of course. As the tragedy proceeds it reveals a Biblical cadence, of Christ bearing the cross to Calvary.

Excuse me if I've gushed a bit about this one. I liked it much better than I remembered.

Criterion Blu-ray, a rather fine transfer.