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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

ODD MAN OUT (1947)

Carol Reed had been helming to fine effect for a decade when he upped the artistic ante and made his international rep on a trio of city-specific films* beginning with this Belfast thriller. Really more dirge than thriller, with James Mason’s escaped I.R.A. prisoner getting seriously wounded a reel & a half in during a botched robbery. The rest of the film finds a few loyal friends trying to locate him before the police & British authorities do, while Mason tries to last out a long night, passed about like a political hot potato who's too much trouble to turn in, even for a reward. In some ways, the film is something of a hybrid as Reed’s initially smooth mix of location & studio work yields to more stylized/subjective treatment in Robert Krasker’s glistening, high-contrast cinematography. Film noir & German Expressionism are obvious touchstones, especially as Mason’s condition deteriorates into hallucinations, but the spirit Reed evokes is closer to ‘30s French poetic realism. (Think Marcel Carné/Jacques Prévert/Jean Gabin: LE JOUR SE LEVE/’39; remade in Hollywood that year as THE LONG NIGHT/’47 from Henry Fonda/Anatole Litvak.) James Mason brings terrific glamour & melancholy to his doubting Irish nationalist, it tends to neutralize the politics, but Reed is more interested in the doomed romance with the underplaying Kathleen Ryan, anyway. And in laying on florid supporting players like Robert Newton who just gets away with his sodden, mythologizing portrait painter. Very memorable stuff.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *The other two, THE FALLEN IDOL/’48 and THE THIRD MAN/’49, were written by Graham Greene, but all three films might have shared the title: ODD MAN OUT - BELFAST; ODD MAN OUT - LONDON; ODD MAN OUT - VIENNA. For that matter, OLIVER/’68, Reed’s last great film, could have been called ODD BOY OUT.

DOUBLE-BILL: As mentioned above, LE JOUR SE LEVE and/or THE LONG NIGHT..

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