Odd Man Out

The 1947 film, “Odd Man Out,” follows the story of a Johnny McQueen, a rebel leader in Northern Ireland who kills a man during a robbery.  The wounded McQueen, played by James Mason, hides out in various places while the police search for him.  Along the way, he meets various characters such as a wacky artist, feuding sisters, and a desperate man who raises birds.

James Mason is on the lam in Odd Man Out.

Carol Reed directed this tense thriller a few years before his classic film, “The Third Man.”  Both films show Reed’s masterful use of dark spaces, as characters come in and out of the light.  Mason plays McQueen in a stupor for much of the film, and his cronies try to discourage him from participating in the crime.  He seems mentally sound at the beginning of the picture, where he’s in hiding at a safe house.  But he quickly unravels as soon as the robbery begins.

Reed uses FX affectively throughout the film to reveal McQueen’s mental state.  In one scene, McQueen spills a glass of beer and we see the faces of other characters as they talk to him.  Later, as he slips into delirium at an artist’s studio, the film shows paintings wobbling on the walls.

A disclaimer at the beginning of Odd Man Out says the film does not concern itself with the political issues.   Although many characters see McQueen as he moves about the city, their motivation for turning him in comes down to either staying uninvolved or wanting to collect a reward.

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