After a lapse of several years, I was only more impressed with this film on repeated viewing. I think it is almost the equal Reed’s better known The Third Man.
Johnny McQueen (James Mason) is the Chief of “The Organization” (clearly a stand in for the Irish Republican Army) in a North Ireland city. He has been in hiding for six months in the flat of an old woman and her granddaughter Kathleen. Kathleen is in love with Johnny but he is devoted only to the cause. Currently, he is planning the holdup of a mill. This will mark his return to active duty as a member of the robbery gang. Neither his henchmen nor Kathleen think he is up to the task. But Johnny is not deterred.
The heist goes terribly wrong and shots are exchanged. Johnny kills a guard and is in turn badly wounded, Then he hesitates entering the getaway car. A combination of missteps and basic cowardice on the part of the driver result in Johnny being left to run away alone.
The rest of the story follows the encounters of the gang members with the rest of the Northern Irish populace as they struggle to escape the police. It is a story of betrayal, greed, mercy, and fear. The last half of the film focuses on Johnny, the lone survivor, as he goes from place to place slowly bleeding to death. With Robert Newton as a mad painter.
The poster tag line bills this as “the most exciting film ever made.” I wouldn’t go quite that far but it is one of the most beautiful. For me, this is more a study of human nature than of Johnny’s specific plight. The members of the organization and the people that they encounter on their flight exhibit most of the faults and some of the virtues we all are heir to. Then again, James Mason is mesmerizing as the hunted Johnny McQueen and it is hard not to focus on him. Robert Krasker’s camera knows no limit in its Dutch angles and chiaroscuro magic. Highly recommended.
Odd Man Out was Oscar-nominated for Best Film Editing.