Revisited Odd Man Out, a film which grows at each viewing, for reasons well explained by Matti Salo in his introduction to his personal favourite film, also the favourite film of Roman Polanski and James Mason.
Matti Salo explained the solid poetic concept of the movie, major motifs of which are instantly introduced in the beginning. The precise location is not named in the film, but it has been shot in Belfast, and the novel, as well, is set in Belfast. The period: contemporary, as can be seen from the bomb shelters and ruins. The cinematography by Robert Krasker is first rate, influenced by German Expressionism and French poetic realism, yet brilliantly original. The symphonic score by William Alwyn is based on the leitmotif principle. Carol Reed was an experienced artist who with this film rose to his highest level of achievement (his next films were The Fallen Idol and The Third Man). Matti Salo remarked that it is interesting to compare Reed with Hitchcock. As Reed was growing into his full stature, Hitchcock was experiencing an uncertain period in his career. One of Reed's strengths is his direction of actors. They are all good, and especially great is James Mason's performance as the protagonist, the leader of the organization, who has begun to doubt the way of violence, but who, however, insists in participating in the fatal robbery. One may have questions about the religious component of the story. Everybody fails to fulfill his/her promise except Kathleen. It took many viewings for Matti Salo to detect the meaning of the Finnish title, "The House of Four Winds": it is the tavern which serves as one of Johnny's refuges. (My reinterpretation of Matti Salo's introduction of which I did not take notes.)
AA: An interesting Irish resistance trio by great film-makers: - Juno and the Paycock (Alfred Hitchcock) - The Informer (John Ford) - and Odd Man Out (Carol Reed). All displaying their Expressionist affinities.
Odd Man Out has a noble heritage. It can be compared with You Only Live Once (Fritz Lang) and Pépé le Moko (Julien Duvivier). James Mason has the same level of inspiration as Henry Fonda and Jean Gabin in those films.
Film-makers with affinities with and perhaps influenced by Carol Reed include Ingmar Bergman (his existentialist fyrtiotalismen period) and Orson Welles (Mr. Arkadin).
In her debut starring role Kathleen Ryan creates a soulful and understated performance. Odd Man Out is also a story of l'amour fou. Perhaps the political story is also one of un amour fou.
The protagonist's war fatigue and disillusionment with violence may have struck topical chords after WWII.
I saw Odd Man Out for the first time in 1969 at 14 in a film society in the company of my father. His ironic remarks about its young rebel martyrology turned me against the film, and first Matti Salo's persistent commitment to Odd Man Out as his personal favourite film has turned me to really to discover it. Now Odd Man Out is for me a story about "all who take the sword will perish by the sword". Yet its deepest sympathy is with those who have failed for a noble cause.
The 1959 print has been in heavy use, but there are enough passages that display the brilliance of the cinematography to make this a worthy cinema experience.