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The Third Man
Year:
1949
Country:
UK
Genre:
Thriller, Mystery, Film-Noir
IMDB rating:
8.4
Director:
Carol Reed
Joseph Cotten as Holly Martins
Alida Valli as Anna Schmidt
Orson Welles as Harry Lime
Trevor Howard as Major Calloway
Bernard Lee as Sergeant Paine
Paul Hörbiger as Karl - Harry's Porter (as Paul Hoerbiger)
Ernst Deutsch as 'Baron' Kurtz
Siegfried Breuer as Popescu
Erich Ponto as Dr. Winkel
Storyline: An out of work pulp fiction novelist, Holly Martins, arrives in a post war Vienna divided into sectors by the victorious allies, and where a shortage of supplies has lead to a flourishing black market. He arrives at the invitation of an ex-school friend, Harry Lime, who has offered him a job, only to discover that Lime has recently died in a peculiar traffic accident. From talking to Lime's friends and associates Martins soon notices that some of the stories are inconsistent, and determines to discover what really happened to Harry Lime.
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Reviews
One of the best movies ever
In my top 3. This movie has some of the best shadow work I've ever seen. Deep Caravaggio lighting is striking. And the music is tops.

On to story...They just don't write 'em like this anymore. This script has it all. The use of the camera is, too me, the most intelligent use of a camera in all of film history. The characters are all so round and bursting with fullness that it makes me want to puke...it's so perfect. How did they do it? It was just another movie that they were pumping out...They just happened to throw in a ferris wheel scene that has become one of the most classic scenes of all time.

What a splendid job of recording history. The four sectors of Vienna. I don't think I'll live to see a film that has a better final scene. wow.
2005-02-24
For me, a stylish, complex, but ultimately overrated film noir.
Let me start this off by saying that on the technical side, The Third Man is absolutely brilliant. The cinematography is beautiful, the visuals enhance the atmosphere, and that soundtrack is perfect. It's beautiful to look at and wonderful to watch.

That aside, I don't know how far I can go without sounding like a pretentious idiot or an uninformed idiot. I don't particularly like either and I'd hate to become one too.

The Third Man has a fantastic premise. Plenty of great twists and turns with fine performances from Orson Welles and Joseph Cotton, but in my opinion, I don't think that this noir story stands out or is all that great anyway.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm not too keen on several plot holes and inconsistencies. First off, we don't know who the real "Third Man" is. Harry Lime? Or someone else? Maybe that's supposed to be the beauty of it and I'm not getting it, but I don't like it at all. Second, the shop owner was killed all of a sudden when he was about to give out information. Harry Lime? Or again, someone else? He's pulled to the side and forgotten about just as soon as he's gone.

But my biggest problem with the film is with Anna Schmidt. First off, she claims she is no longer in love with Lime. Then she finds out the atrocities he's committed, and further cements her decision that she is better off living with someone like Holly instead of Lime. In fact, who can't help but dislike Lime for the things he had done? But in the end, she ends up hating everyone around her for setting him up for his death. She won't talk to Holly, she tries to defend him and show him the way out of his problem, she won't cooperate. What gives? And then the ending scene. That entire ending, in fact. The ten minute chase scene, while expertly shot, dragged and didn't need to be ten minutes long. It could've gotten to the point in about three minutes. And the final three minutes of the movie, in which Anna just walks and Holly stupidly waits for him.

I don't know. Maybe I'm not looking at this the way I'm supposed to and not appreciating it for what it is, but I wasn't at all entertained by the things I saw.
2011-11-12
A masterpiece of atmospheric storytelling
An American Pulp Fiction Novelist (Cotten) arrives in post World War II Vienna to accept a job offer from his old friend Harry Lime (Welles) and discovers that he has been killed in a mysterious accident.....and thus begins this superb film-noir. Graham Greene's screenplay (based upon his earlier novella of the same name) is majestically given life on the big screen by Director Carol Reed. What ensues is a remarkable blend of witty dialogue, clever chase sequences and possibly the greatest character entrance in the history of film. The amazing cinematography blends consummately with the haunting Zither theme music of Anton Karas, to create an eerily authentic Viennese street atmosphere.

The trio of actors; namely Valli, Welles and Howard turn in thoroughly convincing performances in their respective roles. However, the standout performance of the film is supplied by Joseph Cotten; one finds that he is so often underrated in the history of film. Nonetheless, he is wonderful as Holly Martins; a character that is thrust into a role as a drunken, and at times seemingly incompetent, amateur detective.

This is a film that builds a strong case to be considered the greatest English language film of all time, especially when one considers the manner in which it is able to combine the elements of superb characterization, expressionist style and suspenseful drama.
2007-11-20
Ponderous with light Zither over tones
Throughout this entire movie I only wished that every one of the charactors just go away and be replaced by another set of charactors with a better story to tell. The Zither music is intrusive and bad. Was this suppose to be the spring board for a Zither "revival"?? That worked, right?

Using the sewers as part of the story line was, well shall we say inspired? or was it because that was the only location available to the film makers?

Harry, Harry won't you please come home!!!

Anything Orson Wells is part of was/is ponderous ..
2004-02-26
Another overrated "masterpiece"
I've always thought "The Third Man" (**1/2 out of ****) one of the most overrated movies I've ever seen 4 or 5 times. Setting aside the admittedly dazzling photography and editing, we have a plot that's as difficult to follow and riddled with holes and loose ends as the one for "The Big Sleep." If we assume that Harry Lime is the "third man" who drove the truck that killed the medical orderly that was informing on him to the police (in fact, this is never made clear), wouldn't it have been a simple matter for the authorities (or anyone else) to identify the body and discover that it was not Harry Lime? Didn't the police interview the driver of the truck? How could Lime and his cohorts have possibly gotten away with the faking of his death when he was the most notorious and sought after racketeer in Vienna? The pretext for Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton) being in the city at all is awfully weak. (The narration mentions a vague "some sort of a job.") Why would Harry want a friend from America that he hasn't seen for 10 years to come to Vienna to write about his operations? The less publicity the better it would seem to me. It's also extremely ambiguous whether or not his mistress (Alida Valli) knew that Harry was dead. The first time that Martins sees Lime he's lingering outside her apartment house as if waiting to go in, and then she does everything she can to make sure that Harry eludes the authorities. In fact, her obtuse behavior throughout the film is baffling. (I'm inclined to believe that she was in on the whole deception.) Perhaps Carol Reed and co. needed audacious cinematic razzle-dazzle and oblique dialogue to cover up the fact that their story makes minimal sense. And that jangling zither music! Time and again it intrudes upon scenes that were meant to evoke tension and atmosphere and dissipates both. After the 4th or 5th repetition of the "Third Man Theme", I was ready to turn on the "mute" button! (These comments are based on the original 104 minute version.)
1999-05-10
fantastic film that takes place in postwar Vienna
Even today in Vienna, one can take the "Third Man Tour" (Der Dritte Man) except, of course, that Orson Welles wouldn't go into the Viennese sewers and those scenes were done in England. There were actual sewer scenes with a double. Never mind, it is still a magnificent black and white film 99% filmed in Vienna. Directed by Carol Reed, it stars Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles, and Alida Valli.

Western novelist Holly Martins (Cotten) comes to Vienna at the behest of his old friend Harry Lime, but when he arrives, he learns that Lime is dead after being hit by a car. He investigates and finds the circumstances very strange indeed, especially when learning there was a third man that helped carry Harry's body to the sidewalk, a man who has since disappeared.

He then meets Harry's girlfriend (Alida Valli). And he also meets a police officer in the British section of Vienna, Inspector Calloway (Trevor Howard), who tells him that Harry was a murderer and a racketeer, and it's better that he's dead. Holly is shocked and demands proof.

One of the most atmospheric films ever made, with its zither music, cinematography, and Vienna at nighttime. Then there's some brilliant dialogue, particularly the "cuckoo clock" speech made by Orson Welles.

The cinematography is particularly striking, with its angles, back lighting, and shadows on empty streets. And who can forget the man hidden in the doorway, when the light from an apartment goes on and shows his face - certainly one of the great appearances of a star in a film.

One feels Lime's presence throughout the film, though he only has five minutes of screen time.

Though none of these actors were the first choice to play their roles, they are all excellent.

There was a Third Man TV series in 1959 that ran for six years and starred Michael Rennie as Lime. In the series, Lime is a hero.

He's no hero in the movie, but it is a powerful story and film, never forgotten once seen.
2016-02-06
Haunting and Poetic; A True Masterpiece...
Carol Reed's "The Third Man" strikes all the right cords, establishing itself on so many different levels that it almost becomes untouchable. It has an underlying tone of darkness that not only thrills but chills. It grabs the viewer from the start and never lets go. It opens with Anton Karas' startling zither music and quickly propels the viewer into a world of evil and lies. The tale is familiar to any film lovers: A pulp Western writer named Holly Martin (Joseph Cotten) is invited to post-war Vienna by an old friend of his, Harry Lime (Orson Welles). The city has been divided into American, British, French and Russian zones. The city exists as a shattered remnant of the past - haunting and horrifying, dark and mysterious. Upon his arrival, Holly discovers to his horror that his old college pal is dead - hit by a car in the middle of a street. But for Holly, the circumstances don't add up - everyone involved in the accident was related in some way or another to Harry. So Holly searches for clues, much to the chagrin of the British officer Calloway (Trevor Howard), whose name is misused as Callohan by Holly many times throughout the film. ("It's 'Calloway,' Mr. Martin, I'm not Irish.") Holly Martin does begin to stumble upon some vital clues as to the real story behind Lime's death - and finds out more than he bargained for. Lime's old girlfriend is a stage actress. ("Always comedy.") She accompanies Holly throughout the film, and we expect an underlying romance to blossom, but yet in the end it does not - one of the many surprises of the film. I suppose it would be a sin for me to give away how Harry Lime reappears, or even give away the fact that he does, for that matter (though by now I am sure you realize Orson Welles is in this movie and therefore turns out to be alive). But for those who have seen the film, we all remember that terrific scene where the cat meows, and suddenly he appears, an evil smirk on his face like a child who has gotten away with the cookie from the jar. And then the ferris wheel scene, and the chase through the sewers that no doubt helped win the film an Oscar for cinematography. These are all some of the most memorable of film scenes. The director of "The Third Man," Carol Reed, stumbled upon the film's musician, Anton Karas, one night in a trashy bar in Vienna. It is no wonder that out of all his candidates he chose Karas - the film's tune is literally the most perfect example of matching harmony between a film and its music I have ever seen (although "JAWS" is up there with it). To go into the music is pointless - it must simply be heard in synchronism with the film for you to understand where I am coming from. When I think of film noir, "D.O.A." (1949) and "The Third Man" (1949) are the first two films that come to mind. Both accomplish what they set out to do, but "The Third Man" exceeds even farther than the former - it is haunting and almost poetically vibrant in the way it displays its story and the outcome of its characters. It is a film that will be around for years and years. "Citizen Kane" is often thought of as the greatest American motion picture of all time. But if I had to choose between the two, I would most likely choose "The Third Man." It's just my opinion, of course, and many may not agree, but as far as I see, "The Third Man" beats "Citizen Kane" - for me - on more levels than one. Welles' "Citizen Kane" (1941) was an artistic film that rarely used close-ups. It would almost stand back from the scenes and let the viewer focus on what he or she wanted to focus on. "The Third Man" has many close-ups. I do not take this as a director trying to give the audience what he wants them to see, but rather a director in touch with his feelings and ideas. Director Carol Reed knows just how to evoke characters' feelings from scenes and close-up shots. The camera tilts at awkward angles more often than not. The more and more paranoid and afraid our hero becomes the more and more intense the close-ups and angles. There is some haunting material in "The Third Man," some material the most novice of filmgoers might not expect. And the music and direction only makes it all the more terrifying and haunting. This is a film that you must witness to believe. 5/5.
2003-09-27
The Third Man's the charm
The Third Man is an ideal example of Film Noir. With its impossible shadows and bleak plot elements, it embodies everything that makes the genre what it is. The protagonist of the film is Holly Martins, an American who goes to Vienna because his friend Harry Lime has offered him a job there. Upon reaching Vienna, Martins discovers that his friend has been run over by a car and killed. Or has he? Holly Martins is played by Joseph Cotten, a renowned actor of the period. Since Martins is the protagonist it is his journey throughout the film that is the most fleshed out, and it is he with whom we sympathise. Joseph Cotten does a good job of making his character seem believable and sympathetic, and portrays his journey from an innocent child-like author of westerns to a hardened man who has seen too much of the world with great skill.

The leading lady is Alida Valli, who plays Anna Schmidt. Schmidt was Harry Lime's girlfriend before the 'accident', and the character is deeply upset by her loss. Alida Valli manages to portray her character with a haunting believability. There is something mysterious and sad about the character which is not seen in very many other films.

But what really makes the film good is the performance of Orson Welles. Welles plays Harry Lime himself, and though the character really gets a minimal amount of screen time, Welles really steals the show. He doesn't just chew on the scenery, he swallows it whole! His character is the most complex of all, so pulling it off as well as Welles did is no walk in the park. Welles manages to show Lime's evil mixed with friendship for his wholesome friend Holly. His entrance to the film, as the light from an upstairs window beams down across his childish face, is by far the most memorable shot in the entire film. The look that he gives his old friend, half guilty half happy, still stays fixed in my eyes now.

There is a reason that this film won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography. It is superb. As I have said before, the film has many impossible shadows, as well as tilted camera shots. I think we have all seen scenes in films where a huge shadow coming round a corner precedes its considerably smaller caster. This was the film that invented that device. Even with the impossible shadows and camera angles, the cinematography does not feel out of place. With the films tone of darkness, evil and falsity, the shadows fit right in, and the askew camera angles only enhance the askew plot points.

The music of the film was written by Anton Karas. It is almost entirely zither music, and it brings a unique feel to the film. While the light-hearted music seems out of place at first, the viewer eventually gets used to it, and the music actually takes the film along a whole other road to where it would have gone wit darker music. While mostly light, the music is undoubtedly intense, and it emphasises certain themes very well, particularly in the scene just before the landlord gets murdered. As he turns around and notices his off-screen attacker, the music comes on very strong, and gives a feeling of fear to the film. As much as the music works in certain scenes, the lack of music works in others. During the showdown in the sewer, there is almost no music; just the sound of the falling water echoing through the tunnels. This gives a true sense of realism to the scene.

The director, Sir Carol Reed did very well with this film. He (as opposed to she, no matter what the name suggests) managed to evoke the characters feelings from not only the actors, but from the lighting and scenery as well. There is something about The Third Man that is unique. While it feels dated, many of the themes the movie embodies are still relevant today, and it is still enjoyable to modern audiences. I would give this film nine stars
2008-10-01
Murder, Mystery & Harry Lime
Post-war Vienna. A dangerous city, full of intrigue, crime & sudden death. Notorious American racketeer Harry Lime starts to cross a street. There is an accident and he is killed instantly. Or is he? His body is carried to the sidewalk by two friends. Or does another man assist them? If so, who is THE THIRD MAN and what does he know about Lime's suspicious death?

Such is the puzzle at the beginning of what many consider to be the greatest film ever made. Its glories are so obvious that it is almost futile to pick out any for observation: the marvelous sewer chase, the balloon man, the little boy with the ball, the giant wheel, the cuckoo clock speech & the long closing walk across the cemetery. All of these linger in the mind, becoming permanent residents of our cinematic subconscious.

The entire cast is excellent: Joseph Cotton as Lime's American friend trying to piece together what has happened; Trevor Howard as the stalwart British Major of Police; gorgeous Valli as Harry's faithful lover; Bernard Lee as the tragic Police Sergeant; Wilfrid Hyde-White as a dithering English cultural attaché. And then there's Orson Welles...

The character of Harry Lime, alive or dead, on-screen or not, is one of cinema's most fascinating villains. Charming & deadly as any cobra, he attracts & repels at the same moment. It is interesting to note that BBC Radio resurrected the character for the series 'The Lives of Harry Lime' very shortly after the film's release. Harry was not allowed to stay in his grave for long...

Three more items of note: (1) The cinematography is first-rate, making Vienna by night look almost lunar. (2) Orson Welles' first appearance on screen is a real dandy. (3) Above & around & through everything is the famous zither music of Anton Karas, which becomes like a Greek Chorus, commenting on the action. Its complete silence during the sewer chase only underscores the starkness of the sequence.
2000-01-25
Nobody thinks in terms of human beings. Governments don't. Why should we?
The Third Man is directed by Carol Reed and written by Graham Greene. It stars Joseph Cotton, Alida Valli, Trevor Howard and Orson Welles. Music is by Anton Karas and cinematography by Robert Krasker.

When writer Holly Martins (Cotton) travels to Vienna to hook up with his childhood friend Harry Lime (Welles), he is distressed to find that Harry has been killed in a road accident. After attending the funeral, Holly comes to believe that Harry's death was no accident and begins to try and clear his friend's name. But nothing is as it first seems.....

It's well over 60 years since it was released and Carol Reed's film noir thriller continues to feel fresh and hold up under the closest of critical scrutiny. A haunting tale as it is anyway, the black market racketeers and penicillin tampering bastards leaving an unsavoury taste in the mouth, but the film is still further boosted by the director's ability to craft unnerving atmosphere by way of style and clinically paced passages of play. Performances are superlative across the board, with the film producing equal amounts of iconography and mischievous myth-making. It stuns with the narrative structure unfolding amongst a post war ravaged Vienna that dovetails with the fractured nature of the human characters.

A maze of moist cobbled streets host chases involving man and long shadows, there's a fairground scene that is now steeped in folklore, which in turn is a witness to the banality of evil, and of course those cavernous sewers, home to such sullen tones. Reed brings the canted angles, with moral decay the order of the day and a side order of confusion to finally fill your noir hungry bellies. Krasker deals in expressionistic chiaroscuro as Karas plucks away at his Zither to land in your ears for eternity. A murder mystery, a pained romance and a suspense laden film noir, The Third Man is enduring in its qualities. Cuckoo clock and cat, shadowed doorway and the lone sombre walk of a female, it's still today entertaining the film purist masses and still being pored over by film makers home and abroad. The Third Man, it's a masterpiece by jove. 10/10
2012-08-02
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