A wounded man's delirium on the back streets of Belfast makes this gripping thriller one of the best of British movies. James Mason lurches and stumbles as IRA gunman Johnny McQueen, shot in a bank robbery gone wrong and left to fend for himself on the rain-swept cobbles. As Johnny wanders through the city's underbelly and the police run him to ground, director Carol Reed lays the foundations of the nightmarish noir he'd perfect in The Third Man.
James Mason always has an air of flawed humanity on-screen; here it's put to good use as mentally unbalanced anti-hero Johnny, an ex-con traumatised by his murder of a security guard during the robbery. Staggering from air raid shelter to hansom cab, boozily boisterous pub to artist's garret, Johnny's on the run from the police and his own conscience. Like all great tragedy, the end is as inevitable as it is pitiable.
"ASTONISHING HALLUCINATORY TONE"
Reed's take on the material is innovative, letting realism blur into an anaemic, soul-searching delirium. Camera trickery is used to mind-bending effect and Odd Man Out's hallucinatory tone is often astonishing: a spilt pint of Guinness sends Johnny spiralling into brief madness, accusing faces of the supporting cast staring out at him from the black and white bubbles. Meanwhile, cinematographer Robert Krasker provides a high contrast film noir look, chasing Mason through muddy alleyways where wet brick walls glisten in the glare of streetlights. Technically triumphant and marvellously played, this is a neglected British classic well deserving of a re-release.