From the sewers to the streets, Carol Reed excelled at depicting hunted men fleeing through dark cities. In The Third Man
, it was Orson Welles' Harry Lime in Vienna. In Odd Man Out
, it was James Mason negotiating dark passages and scary accents in Belfast as he seeks safety after a botched bank robbery.
That is, the city looks
like Belfast, though it is never named. Nor is "The Organization" for which Mason's Johnny McQueen plans the robbery named. Nor are the words England
or Irish Republican Army
uttered, if my memory serves me well.
Was an English audience unprepared for political explicitness in 1947? Was the British Board of Film Censors unprepared to allow it? Does anyone out there know whether F.L. Green's novel, on which the movie is based, is more explicit on such matters?
Wikipedia says Odd Man Out
's cast was drawn largely from Dublin's Abbey Theatre, but Mason sounds like his upper-class English self, only intermittently trying some well-enunciated stage Irish. Robert Beatty, fine as a member of "The Organization," doesn't even try to sound Irish. I thought he was American, but he turns out to have been from Hamilton, Ontario, in Canada. As Wikipedia puts it, "Few of the main actors in the film actually manage an authentic Ulster accent."
A further oddity, and a question for Irish readers, especially: One scene takes three of Johnny's friends into Belfast's entries
, the atmospheric alleyways that slice through the city's center, only to bring them out by a row of fine brick houses like the ones in South Belfast, up the hill and a fair distance away. Was that artistic license, or did Belfast's center once contain similar grand red-brick homes? I'll guess the former, because there's an obvious cut between the "entry" shot and the shot with the houses.
See Mason hallucinate here
. See Orson Welles chased through Vienna's sewers in The Third Man here
. And here's a story about efforts to track down Odd Man Out's child actors
sixty years after the film was released.© Peter Rozovsky 2010
Labels: Belfast, Carol Reed, Ireland, James Mason, movies, Northern Ireland, Orson Welles