Odd Man Out
Directed by Carol Reed
Film Forum’s Brit Noir and Mason Most Noir series collide for the weakest leg of Carol Reed’s acclaimed run in the late 40s. Shining the fated solitary way for The Fallen Idol and The Third Man, Odd Man Out stars James Mason on the run, or more precisely on the stagger, as a Belfast IRA leader ditched after a fund-rustling robbery. After the hushed, crowded camaraderie of an early planning scene, Johnny McQueen (Mason) is cast into the wilderness of nightflight in the streets — a litmus test for the mercies and political loyalties of strangers.
But Mason’s absence becomes too deeply felt as Reed divides his attentions among assorted pursuers, including Johnny’s devoted Kathleen and some sub-Beckettian squabblers in what resembles a grand squat. Robert Krasker, also DP on The Third Man, is Mason’s real co-star, turning the city into a noir warren of forlorn alleys and facades, and grainy stone textures (not to mention some German Expressionist eye-rubbing). Turgid dialogue, like bad Graham Greene, keeps bogging down the film, making one wish for more well-mapped bits like Johnny’s refuge-in-plain-sight at a pub.
Nighttime is rarely so enveloping and palpable as here, yet Reed’s picture feels like a collection of cloistered, sometimes mismatched scenes. Still, Mason does pain (of all sorts) so very well, his distinctive frame ever on the edge of half-spread-wings misshapenness. With this sidestep after the success of The Seventh Veil, the actor would pronounce Reed his favorite director, collaborating again on The Man Between.
Opens September 4 at Film Forum