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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New interview with British cinema scholar John Hill, author of Cinema and Northern Ireland: Film, Culture and Politics
  • Postwar Poetry, a new short documentary about the film
  • New interview with music scholar Jeff Smith about composer William Alwyn and his score
  • Home, James, a 1972 documentary featuring actor James Mason revisiting his hometown
  • Radio adaptation of the film from 1952, starring Mason and Dan O'Herlihy

Odd Man Out

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Carol Reed
Starring: James Mason, Robert Newton, Kathleen Ryan, Cyril Cusack
1947 | 116 Minutes | Licensor: ITV Global Entertainment

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #754
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: April 14, 2015
Review Date: April 13, 2015

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SYNOPSIS

Taking place largely over the course of one tense night, Carol Reed's psychological noir, set in an unnamed Belfast, stars James Mason as a revolutionary ex-con leading a robbery that goes horribly wrong. Injured and hunted by the police, he seeks refuge throughout the city, while the woman he loves (Kathleen Ryan) searches for him among the shadows. Reed and cinematographer Robert Krasker (who would collaborate again on The Third Man) create images of stunning depth for this fierce, spiritual depiction of a man's ultimate confrontation with himself.

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

A film I always expected Criterion to release (and why it took so long is beyond me), Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out makes its North American Blu-ray debut, presented on a dual-layer disc in its original aspect ratio of about 1.37:1. The new high-definition transfer was taken from a 35mm composite fine-grain and is delivered here in 1080p/24hz.

It’s a nice looking image, the best I’ve seen the film to this point, though not without its issues. Though detail and definition is great, I felt the finer details were held back, with textures looking a little flat, yet this more than likely has more to do with elements or how the film was shot rather than the actual transfer process. Despite those feelings I still think the image looks rather sharp and film grain is rendered nicely. Contrast looks nicely balanced, with rich black levels that don’t noticeably crush out details in the shadows, and with most of the film takes place in them this is of course a very important aspect. Gray levels are also distinctly rendered.

The print is in great condition but has a few minor issues. Transitions present some noticeable wear, though nothing too bad, and on occasion I noticed tiny white marks that would pop up, along with a sporadic speck of dust and tiny hairs. And though they are there I should really stress they’re very infrequent. A bit more problematic—though still nothing that definitively harms one’s viewing, they’re just noticeable—are the slight fluctuations in areas of the screen that pop up here and there throughout the film: these pulses look like the remnants of stains, or possibly mold, that have been cleaned up. I feel what could have been done was done and the image still looks great. Mixed with a strong transfer I still think what we get is a very strong presentation.

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The lossless linear PCM mono track was a bit disappointing for me. Though dialogue is easy to hear and understand, damage is still noticeable. I didn’t notice any drops but there’s still a hiss and some static that becomes overly obvious during the film’s more quiet sequences (though admittedly less so during sequences that have more going on in them). It’s obviously an issue with the materials and nothing to do with the transfer, but I guess I’ve gotten so used to near-impeccable audio tracks that it stood out to me more here. The film’s music also sounds flat and there are a few louder moments that come off edgy. But as mentioned before dialogue is easy to hear and actually sounds natural and nicely balanced.

The problems in the end are slight, and have more to do with the source materials, but they’re apparent through most of the film.

5/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion puts together a rather solid special edition for the film. First, offering a little context and history of the production is film scholar John Hill. Filmed in the Crown Bar (where a scene in the film takes place but, alas, wasn’t actually shot in) Hill talks a bit about the IRA, giving a brief history, and how Odd Man Out represents the first real film to deal with “The Troubles.” He gives details about the novel on which its based and makes comparisons, pointing out the differences (a couple being substantial), and talks about the film’s look, which owes a lot, at least in the last half, to German Expressionism. It runs about 24-minutes and is a decent scholarly addition.

Expanding on the making of the film is Postwar Poetry: Carol Reed and Odd Man Out. Comprised of interviews with scholars Tony Rayns, Charles Drazin, Peter Evans, and filmmakers John Boorman and Guy Hamilton (the latter two being taken from older interviews), the 16-minute piece goes over the production’s history, starting with the novel’s publication and working its way up to the film’s successful release. The last half focuses a lot on how the film developed Reed’s style, particularly with night scenes, and how German Expressionism came into play when Reed was trying to show Johnny’s psychological state. Since the film was sure to be success (the novel was popular) Reed had a little more freedom with the film and he was able to experiment with shooting. A nicely put together making-of on Criterion’s part.

An interesting inclusion on Criterion’s part is the 1972 documentary (of sorts) Home, James, featuring Mason returning to his home town of Huddersfield, a small industrial community comprised of various villages and districts. Though it does feature Mason as our guide and narrator, and he does talk about the area of his youth and how it shaped him, I actually found myself surprisingly enthralled by its representation of the small industrial town and its people, who all still worked at the 100 year-old factories (at least at the time). It runs 54-minutes and despite the fact it doesn’t have anything I would consider to be directly related to the film, it may be my favourite feature on here.

Music scholar Jeff Smith then offers a rather extensive 20-minute discussion on the film’s composer William Alwyn and his score for Odd Man Out. He looks at Alwyn’s experimentation with sound effects music (which opens right away with the music using the cymbal clash of the Rank logo) and then how the music was used to represent certain characters or situations, Smith even playing some samples. With a bit of a history on scoring and some talk about “pre-scoring” and “post-scoring” I found it to be one of the more illuminating features of its type.

Criterion then closes the supplements off with a radio adaptation of the film from a 1952 episode of Suspense, complete with Autolite advertisements. Featuring James Mason the 29-minute “adaptation” severely changes the general structure of the story. It opens with the robbery and then quickly makes its way through Johnny (again played by Mason) fleeing and running through the streets of the unnamed city (assumed to be Belfast). It cuts out a lot of stuff obviously, but I was surprised it cut out his run-ins with the various citizens, and changes around how Shell plays into the picture. The ending is also very different from both the film and the novel. I get a kick out of these, and it’s not different here, but I was still stunned how different it was from the actual story, meaning it could have really been any generic chase picture.

Imogen Sara Smith provides a short essay in the included insert about the film and its central character of Johnny, while also examining Reed’s look and narrative structure.

I guess I expected a bigger set of supplements, maybe more along Criterion’s The Third Man, but what we get here is all fairly strong, particularly the documentary featuring James Mason. It’s all worth viewing.

7/10

CLOSING

I’m surprised it took so long for Criterion to get to this film, but they have put together a rather strong edition. Though the audio is a little weak, the video presentation is quite sharp and the supplements are all worthwhile additions.


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