Odd Man Out

Odd Man Out

It’s a long way, Johnny, but I’m coming with you.

There are banner years for film, and then there are some lesser years. It’s generally agreed upon that 1939 was one of, if not, the best years in cinema, but one must wonder about the years on the other side of the spectrum. Judging from the List, one of those years must have been 1947, as there are only four films from that year on the list, taking up such a small section of the book that a mis-flipped page can have you skipping it entirely. Nonetheless, they are there, and next in my venture is one of the films from that year. Odd Man Out is directed by Carol Reed, a name you might know from his much more famous work, The Third Man. This one and that one share a number of similarities, ones that I couldn’t help but pick up on, but story-wise, they are very different films. I just wasn’t sure if it was a story worth telling.

James Mason stars as Johnny McQueen, the leader of a nameless organization that appears to be in control of the crime syndicate in a nameless Irish city. Johnny, who has recently escaped from prison, is plotting a new heist at a mill in the city. While the heist itself goes all right, Johnny is wounded while escaping, and is accidentally left behind by the getaway driver. The film details his delirious attempts to get back to the safe house, as well as his crew’s desperate attempts to find him, all while the police close in tight. The way I’ve phrased it, it sounds quite enticing, but the film doesn’t quite live up to its own premise. It feels like only a single act of a three-act story, stretched out into two hours, rather than a complete story in its own right. There is an awful lot of padding in this film, and while some of the side stories and subplots do come into play in the later parts of the film, not all of it really warrants inclusion in the final cut. It was interesting to watch, though, mostly thanks to Reed’s careful direction, as well as touches of his style that are found all over. Fans of the sewer chase sequence in The Third Man will be pleased to know that a lot of the set design of this film is along those same lines; a lot of brick is used, which breaks up the light and shadow into a menagerie for the eyes, and boy does Reed like to use his shadows. The set design for this was very elaborate and skillful, and really made the film what it was (again, much like The Third Man), especially the last third or so when snow begins to cover the sets and locations.

The poster up there declares this “the most exciting motion picture ever made!” Now, I know the marketing efforts of yesteryear were a bit more… forthright, but I feel almost stupid when I say that I knew going into this that there was no way the movie was going to live up to that tagline. I was right, but this was still a good film in its own right; however, like a good number of others, there was nothing about it that was all that ‘must see’. The film was very low key, and the art direction was very well done, but that was about all that was standout about this. Still, like I said, it was entertaining, and it got the job done, so don’t feel too wary about going into this one, especially if you liked The Third Man. I’m not sure this was good enough to warrant a second slot on the list for Reed, but I got through it all right, so there’s a win.

Arbitrary Rating: 7/10

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