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Odd Man Out: The Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review

Odd Man Out (1947) movie poster Odd Man Out

US Theatrical Release: April 23, 1947 (UK Release: January 30, 1947) / Running Time: 116 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Director: Carol Reed / Writers: F.L. Green (novel & screenplay), R.C. Sherriff (screenplay)

Cast: James Mason (Johnny McQueen), Robert Newton (Lukey), Cyril Cusack (Pat), F.J. McCormick (Shell), William Hartnell (Fencie), Fay Compton (Rosie), Denis O'Dea (Inspector), W.G. Fay (Father Tom), Maureen Delaney (Theresa O'Brien), Elwyn Brook-Jones (Tober), Robert Beatty (Dennis), Dan O'Herlihy (Nolan), Kitty Kirwan (Grannie), Beryl Measor (Maudie), Roy Irving (Murphy), Joseph Tomelty ("Gin" Jimmy), Arthur Hambling (Tom), Ann Clery (Maureen), Maura Milligan, Maureen Cusack, Eddie Byrne (Policeman), Kathleen Ryan (Kathleen Sullivan)

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Carol Reed won the Best Director Oscar for Oliver! (1968) at age 62, but he made his name much earlier than that
and for something far from the Dickens musical adapted from the stage. Lifelong Londoner Reed specialized in film noir. He made arguably the greatest work in that genre in The Third Man (1949), a masterful mystery set in Vienna and starring America's Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles and Italy's Alida Valli in the femme fatale role. Two years earlier, Reed directed Odd Man Out, which recently became the director's fourth film to enter The Criterion Collection and second to do so on Blu-ray, following Third Man (which has been out of print and fetching high secondhand market prices for a few years).

Odd Man Out opens with a disclaimer about its subject of unrest in Northern Ireland, leading you to expect a kind of political thriller. But that's not what you get. Instead, as the scroll indicates, the film's interests lie in the hearts of the people affected by such turmoil.

After falling out of a car, the wounded Johnny McQueen (James Mason) becomes the odd man out in an air raid shelter. Johnny's girl Kathleen Sullivan (Kathleen Ryan) is unshaken by an inspector's snooping and questioning.

The titular man is Johnny McQueen (James Mason), whom an expository exchange indicates was sentenced to 17 years in prison for smuggling guns and ammunition. After just eight months, Johnny escaped and has been at large for the past six months, laying low in an unsuspecting house. Chief of the "organization" (which though never stated, you can safely assume is the IRA), Johnny is about to pull off his first job since breaking out, though his young love Kathleen Sullivan (Kathleen Ryan) is among those questioning the wisdom of the plan.

Nonetheless, Johnny and his sharp-dressed cronies rob a mill at gunpoint. During their getaway, Johnny gets in a little scuffle with a guard. He gets shot in the shoulder, while the guard is killed. Shortly after this commotion, Johnny falls out of the gang's speeding car. By the time they get back, Johnny is gone, off hiding in an air raid shelter.

Seriously wounded and haunted by his prison time, Johnny is discovered, first by a girl on roller skates and then by two secretive lovers.
But none of the three turn him in, nor does anyone else the fugitive encounters. The Northern Irish citizens don't want to get involved with a whole fuss. The worst they'll do is ask Johnny to seek refuge somewhere else.

Reed and screenwriters F.L. Green and R.C. Sherriff mirror the actions of their characters in that they too want to avoid partiality and politics. Instead of putting us inside this world of principled criminals, the movie steps back to focus on the reactions of nobodies who are privy to Johnny's whereabouts, including a broke man (F.J. McCormick) looking to claim a reward on Johnny and speaking in bird terms; his fellow squatter, an artist (prominently billed Robert Newton, soon to be David Lean's Bill Sykes and Walt Disney's Long John Silver) who becomes determined to paint him; two domestic women who tend to his wound; and a respected priest (W.G. Fay) who shares some advice with the distraught Kathleen.

The penniless Shell (F.J. McCormick) plans to turn Johnny over to his friends for a reward. The dying Johnny sees people in bubbles, one of a few instances where Carol Reed applies some visual flair to "Odd Man Out."

Though Mason has top billing and arguably the lead role, the actor does not get a lot to say or do. He's off-camera and out of view for much of the film. When we do see him, he's usually quiet, pained, and introspective.

It is only when we realize that the film isn't much about Johnny McQueen or Irish nationalism, but everyday citizens' reactions to violence and authority that the movie's value becomes obvious. Odd Man Out does not closely follow the film noir playbook, rarely even attempting to generate suspense or tension despite a tagline calling it "The Most Exciting Motion Picture Ever Made!" It requires patience and an open mind, two things it will test with its reluctance to announce a direction or conform to convention. It's a film whose best moments come long after you are first tempted to write it off entirely.

Criterion assigns Odd Man Out spine number 754 in separate single-disc Blu-ray and two-disc DVD editions.

Odd Man Out: The Criterion Collection Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.37:1 Original Aspect Ratio
1.0 LPCM Mono (English)
Subtitles: English
Extras Not Subtitled; Not Closed Captioned
Suggested Retail Price: $39.95
Release Date: April 14, 2015
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Clear Keepcase
Also available as 2-disc DVD ($29.95 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video
Previously released as Image Entertainment DVD (January 12, 1999)

VIDEO and AUDIO

Most people approaching 70 can only hope to look as terrific as Odd Man Out does on Blu-ray. Not that the first-rate restoration should surprise anyone familiar with Criterion. The 1.37:1 presentation boasts a very clean element, which is marred by only the most minimal and minor of imperfections. Sharpness and detail also satisfy on the picture that is somehow free of any significant wear and tear. The lossless 1.0 LPCM soundtrack does a good job of hiding the film's age as well, with dialogue remaining easily heard and understood.

Scholar John Hill discusses Odd Man Out" as a "Template for the Troubles" from -- where else? -- a pub. Film historian Charles Drazin is among those lending an academic feel to "Postwar Poetry: Carol Reed and 'Odd Man Out.'

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

While another studio might dig up the trailer and call it a day, that's not the Criterion way. In fact, the film's trailer is the only thing you won't find here and wish you did.
Bigger and more substantial extras accompany the film on Criterion's Blu-ray.

The all-HD extras begin with "Template for the Troubles: John Hill on Odd Man Out" (23:50), a new interview in which the cinema scholar discusses the movie's depiction of Northern Ireland, compared to the book on which it's based. He has more to say about the subject than you'd expect given the apolitical nature of the film, which he also compares to and contrasts with American noir.

"Postwar Poetry: Carol Reed and Odd Man Out" (15:46) is a new documentary that considers the film, its making, and its place in the director's canon. Relying chiefly on comments from filmmakers/admirers who did not work on the film, it is inevitably a bit dry and academic, but still adds insight while compensating for the lack of an audio commentary.

James Mason returns to Huddersfield, England to host the 1972 documentary "Home, James." James Mason lies motionless on Criterion's Odd Man Out Blu-ray menu.

"Home, James" (53:45) is a 1972 television documentary which follows actor James Mason to his hometown of Huddersfield, England, a place he proudly shows off. As you can imagine,
it's something of an interesting curiosity. It may require a deep appreciation of Mason or his distinct voice (which is extensively employed) to enjoy this as intended in full, as he visits and discusses local businesses and organizations.

"Collaborative Composition: Scoring Odd Man Out" (20:40) lets film music scholar analyze William Alwyn's score in detail in an informative new interview.

Last but perhaps not least comes episode 460 of the radio series "Suspense" (29:23). Originally broadcast February 1952, this adapts Odd Man Out, with James Mason reprising his role in a voice cast that also includes Pamela Kellino and Dan O'Herlihy. It is comparable to any radio adaptation, as it condenses the action to a half-hour and loses the visual aspect. Left in, the vintage ads for auto parts may be the most exciting part of the show (although it does rename Kathleen "Agnes"). Thank God for television, but also Criterion for preserving this nifty artifact!

The menu is a still frame of James Mason set to an excerpt of the appealing score. Of course, Criterion authors the disc to support bookmarking on the film and resume playback of everything.

Finally, the clear keepcase, which utilizes its translucency to display additional reverse side artwork, holds a little booklet that folds out to ten pages. Half of those pages go to "Death and the City", a new essay by film historian Imogen Sara Smith. She dissects the film, which she calls Carol Reed's first masterpiece, noting its evolving style, coded depictions, and striking design. The remaining pages supply the usual film and disc credits plus further imagery from the film.

Kathleen (Kathleen Ryan) tries to usher Johnny (James Mason) to seclusion in the snowy climax of "Odd Man Out."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Though not the great cinematic achievement that Carol Reed would soon make in The Third Man, Odd Man Out is an interesting and unconventional little noir thriller. Not surprisingly, Criterion treats this film to its greatest home video presentation to date in this substantial and highly satisfying Blu-ray Disc.

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Related Reviews:
Directed by Carol Reed: Night Train to Munich Oliver!
New to Blu-ray: Cries and Whispers Hoop Dreams Kidnapping Mr. Heineken A Most Violent Year
1940s on Blu-ray: It's a Wonderful Life Man Hunt The Ghost and Mrs. Muir All the King's Men
James Mason: A Star Is Born North by Northwest 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea The Verdict
Robert Newton: Treasure Island | Ireland: Darby O'Gill and the Little People Jack Taylor: Set 1 Stand Off

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Reviewed April 23, 2015.



Text copyright 2015 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1947 J. Arthur Rank, Two Cities Films, General Film Distributors, Carlton Film Distributors,
and 2015 The Criterion Collection, Janus Films. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.