I was happy to revisit Carol Reed‘s 1947 suspense classic Odd Man Out – new to the Criterion Collection – recently. It has been at least fifteen years or so since I last watched it and I confess it left my radar a little. I wonder if sometimes we forget the more minor classics, when a filmmaker makes one of the all-time greats. A movie like The Third Man tends to overshadow the others. That’s a pity, as Odd Man Out remains as suspenseful and taut as ever. There’s just no fat to the story: a bank heist goes wrong and one man (a wonderful, wonderfully young James Mason) finds himself wounded and alone. Soon his gang, the police, and a smitten young woman are looking for him. The film is a fine thriller.
This time around though, I saw Odd Man Out as another kind of movie. As its bank robber staggers through darkened alleys, I started thinking: I’ve seen this kind of movie before. Yes, the film meets a lot of our basic thrill needs …but there is something else – something specific – going on. In this kind of movie the protagonist needs these two things: Number 1 – GET ACROSS TOWN. They’re in hostile territory with no one to trust. And number 2, our hero needs to SURVIVE THE NIGHT. The odds are long but this someone – cold, alone, hurting, and desperate – just needs live long enough to see morning. There are a few of these movies, so I am proposing that we recognize this new genre.
Several years ago – we’re talking MANY YEARS AGO – on a university trip to Italy I was videotaped doing something foolish. I was a younger man, a less thoughtful man and I was in a country celebrated for its wine. I imbibed a little, yeah. And one night of (perhaps too much) imbibing, I ended up barely coherent and certainly not mobile, but still conscious on the bathroom tiles of our charming pensione. One of my “friends” decided to record this event and include the footage on an overall “our school trip to Italy” video. I have no idea if any of this footage exists today (about 30 copies of the videotape were made at the time). It seems unlikely and that’s awesome.
Awesome because here’s something that I could happily never experience: I would love to go my whole life without being publicly shamed. It sounds like an absolutely horrible experience. Offer up a piece of writing that gets exposed as untrue or made up? That’s a public shaming. Post on twitter a profoundly stupid and misguided joke about Africa and AIDS? That’s a public shaming for sure.
Here’s a pro-tip: keep an eye out for new arrivals on the VPL website. I check every several days or so, to ensure that my name isn’t too far down on the waiting list. I also like to catch some of the lesser known new titles that might have escaped my (generally vigilant) attention. I am especially keen on older movies that are new-to-dvd. The 1972 William Holden western The Revengers is one example.
Just from the guns-a-blazin’ cover alone, this movie looks like a jewel. A (re)pairing of Holden with Ernest Borgnine as two aging outlaws out for vengeance, it suggests a throwback to the 1969 oater The Wild Bunch – my all-time favourite western and my fourth all-time favourite movie period. Throw in a little of that “create a team of bad guys to take on other bad guys” magic from The Dirty Dozen (another film with Borgnine), well then The Revengers might be something special.