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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
The stuff of legends
Pretty much everything to love about film noir, just set in the crumbling ruins of post-war Vienna. There's something very off- kilter about "The Third Man", which is why I love it. The dutch angles, chiaroscuro lighting and (maybe best of all), that score. I don't think I've heard the zither elsewhere since first watching this movie, and the main theme hasn't left my head since. It's merry, haunting, catchy and altogether unusual, which is why it goes so well with this film. We're talking' John Williams memorable.

But getting down to the business of the actual movie, I can't recommend it highly enough. And even though it's a "film school" movie, you tend to find yourself getting sucked into the story and mood. The cast is excellent (with Orson Welles enjoying a movie-stealing opportunity), the structure is superb, and the hype is entirely justified.

9/10
2017-11-27
Perfection in Black and White
I haven't watched this for 30 years. It is the consummate example of using light and darkness to produce effect. It involves the death of one Harry Live (Orson Welles) and the attempt by a friend to juggle his loyalties with his moral duty to try to fathom the circumstances. This is a film about mood and face. It's a bit expressionistic and off kilter. The one most important thing is that it fires on all cylinders. Joseph Cotten is magnificent as the man who steps into more than he knows. He meets a woman who despite LIme's evildoing can't stop loving him. As soon as we expect something to happen, there is a twist. When we expect characters to change they don't. There is a whole series of vignettes that are priceless. One of my favorites is when Cotten, a hack writer of Westerns, is forced to lecture on his literary techniques to a crowd of intellectuals who are asking him questions about James Joyce and others. He is in fear for his life at the time and the whole thing becomes a surreal event. Post war Vienna, Austria, is also a character in this film because it is actually four cities, divided, each with its own idiosyncrasies. This is one of the best films in history and does not disappoint.
2009-08-31
In The Gutters of Vienna
(Flash Review)

Great dark and gritty cinematography take center stage in this classic Film Noir. Laced with tilted cinematography, it helps to accentuate the shady story of who's telling the truth or not. The plot is a little hard to follow in portions but a novelist arrives in Vienna, Italy to meet up with a friend, who upon his arrival learns has been murdered. The novelist decides to do his own sleuthing to find out what really happened. Orson Welles is great as usual; such a distinctive voice. There are many shadowy shots of Vienna at night including a full exploration their sewer system. Haha. This film had one of the best main character reveals I've ever seen. Main character reveals are usually very stylish and intelligent so you know that character is important. The music score started off very fitting to the location but became overly redundant and distracting at points.
2017-07-03
That Terrific B&W Cinematography
In a bombed-out Vienna just after WWII, novelist Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) arrives from America to renew a friendship with his childhood buddy, Harry Lime (Orson Welles). Much to the dismay of Holly, a freak auto accident has recently killed his friend, according to those who knew Harry.

But in searching for details of Lime's death, Holly gets contradictory stories that don't add up. One of the persons who knew Lime is an attractive woman named Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli) whose continued presence in the story invites suspicion. The film's plot has Holly searching for the truth about his friend, while trying to stave off a city detective, Major Calloway (Trevor Howard) who tries to persuade Holly to leave Vienna.

The film's story is okay. But what makes "The Third Man" really interesting is the B&W cinematography, by Robert Krasker. Unlike most films, camera movement here is restricted, so as to draw attention to each frame's geometry. Typically in this film, a frame is tilted at an angle so that both vertical and horizontal points of reference are off-kilter. Frame images thus become a series of diagonal straight lines and curves. Further, very high-contrast lighting, especially in outdoor scenes at night, creates a bizarre, almost nightmarish look and feel, and are suggestive of German Expressionism.

All of which results in a visual disorientation for viewers that parallels Holly's disorientation both in the streets of Vienna and in his understanding of the circumstances surrounding Lime's absence. In most outdoor scenes there's a conspicuous lack of crowds, a lack of hubbub one would expect in a bustling city. Instead, only a few secondary characters appear in night scenes. This sparseness in characters on the streets conveys the impression that hidden eyes are watching Holly, ready to pounce at any moment from out of dark shadows.

"Everybody ought to (be) careful in a city like this", says one character to Holly, as an implied threat. Soon, a man who wants to give Holly some valuable information is murdered.

The script's dialogue is quite impressive, with some interesting lines and points of view. Some of the dialogue is in German, which enhances authenticity.

The film's acting and editing are very, very good. Adding a slightly romantic, and at times melancholy, tone to this dark film is the music of the "zither", an instrument similar to a guitar, but sounding quite different.

My one complaint about this film is that it's hard to keep tabs on some of the background characters. Trying to connect names with faces can be difficult, resulting in some confusion.

"The Third Man" tells an interestingly bleak story, set in a bleak, desolate urban environment, rendered truly mesmerizing by the creatively surreal B&W cinematography.
2009-06-20
Old classic
An example from the classic era of film noir. Director Carol Reed introduces us to post-war Vienna filled with harsh angles, Gothic shadows, lonely streets and gleaming streetlamps. Pulp novelist Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) arrives to the city looking for a job his good friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles) has promised him. Immediately upon arrival he finds out that Lime has been run over by a car. Police think it a simple accident, but Martins has other ideas.

Reed is a known expressionist and this shows heavily in the film. Dutch angles fill almost every shot and a lot of time is given for the buildup and the atmosphere of the city. And the film is to be praised for this. Many of the shots seem eerily familiar to the viewer. Not because you've seen the film but because so many later directors and cinematographers have been influenced by it. The shot of Lime's shadow looming against a wall as he slowly approaches is a fine, fine piece of film making and the most iconic the film has.

Eerily familiar also describes the story to a tee, but in this case that is not a compliment. The plot is fairly easy to predict, despite of it containing some pretty clever twists. I can only imagine how revolutionary a film such as this one must have seemed like back on its day. But now, as someone who has watched so many other similar films... Well, it honestly makes the film something of a bore. I can appreciate it visually and the actors are extremely talented, but the story didn't leave me with much.

And this is honestly the problem with a lot of mid-century films. At least for yours truly. There is something to be said about being one of the first to do something. But if that thing continues to be done better and better throughout the years, is it okay, at some point, to let the first examples go. Am I doing this film and others like it a disservice by not having seen them earlier when I would have been more able to appreciate them?

Perhaps. Or perhaps history and time march on, like they always do. Nevertheless, it's a fine film. Very well made, very well acted. And the story is a good one. The fact that it has been made again so many times since then is a testament to that.
2017-08-24
Worth watching Noir
A novelist travel to beautiful city of Vienna invited by his friend Harry Lime. When he arrives in Vienna, he receives the bad news that his friend was part of a traffic accident. Accident that killed his friend. An accident? Holly Martins doesn't think so. So he end up investigating the case.

A wonderful story written perfectly by Graham Greene where piece by piece changes our mind where the story and characters are going. This movie is a masterpiece of cinematography. Streets and magnificent views of post-war Vienna.

Orson Welles had not much minutes on the screen, but he did a great performance. Anyway, the whole cast was great.

Overall I liked The Third Man, but there are some better Film-Noir movies I've seen.
2015-07-31
The Mysterious Third Man
Who is the third man? An accident has occurred, a man was hit by a car. Three men were on the scene, but only two have been identified and everyone refuses the existence of the third man.

The Third Man is the story of American novelist Holly Martins going to post-WWII Vienna, Austria to visit his friend Harry Lime. Upon arrival Martins learns that Lime was recently hit by a car in an accident, but Martins soon begins to uncover a conspiracy about a penicillin racket and this mysterious third man that leads him to believe that his friend might have in fact been murdered.

The Third Man is really a hit-and-miss film. The premise is ripe with potential for suspense, but there was never a moment in the film where the suspense really elevated to the level needed to really keep me on the edge of my seat. The mystery unfolds in a fashion in which is fairly predictable, the music to the film felt odd and out of place for a film noir, and the film's tone was constantly shifting. Just when the film seemed to be on the right track to hooking the viewer, it did a complete U-turn and went back the other way.

Even for all my gripes, the film has many great things about it. The performances from Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles as Martins and Lime were superb, the cinematography was simply marvelous, and for the time the direction was very unique, directed in a way that many movies weren't done till at least the 60s (the infamous sewer chase is the true stand-out moment of the film).

While the film has many things going for it, at the end of the day it doesn't stack up well against some of the finer mystery/thrillers in cinema history.

I give The Third Man a 6 out of 10!
2009-10-27
Atmospheric British thriller
American author Holly Martins arrives in Vienna to meet old friend Harry Lime. On arrival he finds Harry was just killed in an accident and attends his funeral. The police are happy that his death was an accident and are also closing crimes by attributing them to him. Martins begins to investigate the accident and finds out things that lead him to a shocking discovery that will eventually challenge his values and friendship.

This is a classic bit of British cinema that owes a lot to the source material (Graham Green) and the slanted, moody cinematography throughout. The story is quite straight forward and can be perceived more complicated than it is. The best bits of the story come early, with Martins investigating the accident against a backdrop of secrecy and cover-ups, and later when he confronts Lime briefly on a Ferris wheel. The story is mainly a story of friendship and morals packed into a mystery setting. The final shot of the film is really good and gives a realistic (if not happy) end to the story.

Joseph Cotton was always good around this period and seemed to be on a roll when he teamed up with Wells. Here he is good as Martin, even if his character is not as interesting as Harry Lime is. Orson Wells is excellent, casting a huge shadow (literally!) over the film despite having a very short time onscreen compare to Cotton. The director and the writer fought the producer to cast Wells in order to make the film more sellable to the American audience (the producer wanted Noël Coward) and the film is much better for their choice. His character hugely lacks morals and, despite being a small hustler, is almost a demonic figure - most notably in his speech on the Ferris wheel where he defends his actions to Martin.

The film is given a great mood of shadows throughout. The city itself is shown as both beautiful and in ruins and is constantly slanted and shadowy. The final confrontation in the sewers of Vienna is excellent. The score is also good - at first it doesn't seem to fit, as it seems out of step with the mood, but it does work well with the culture that exists in the city at the time - I can't really explain it better than that but it does work.

Overall this is a classic. The story may not be enough to support repeat viewings but the moody, the cinematography and a towering performance by Wells all make this essentially viewing for film fans.
2002-01-18
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
Mesmerizing Noir By Sir Carol Reed
I don't know if Carol Reed set out to prove that film noir was not the exclusive province of Hollywood men like Billy Wilder, but THE THIRD MAN, made by a British director and filmed in and around postwar Vienna with an international cast, is one of the greatest films noirs ever made.

The great, underrated Joseph Cotten stars as Holly Martins, a moderately successful writer of pulp fiction who comes to Vienna in search of his boyhood friend Harry Lime. He is, however, a day late and a dollar short: he is informed that Lime was run over in the street the day before and killed.

Shocked at the news, Holly naturally asks many questions, but it quickly becomes clear that no one wants to give him any answers. Everyone he talks to acts like they are being followed, and all he learns is that two men were with Lime when the accident happened and carried his body to the side of the street. Only the porter's account differs from this official version: he insists that there was a "third man" there at the time, but try as he might, Holly can get nothing more out of him.

Also mixed up in whatever is going on is Harry's mistress Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli, billed here only by her surname), a beautiful actress at a local theatre who, like everyone else Holly has encountered, seems reluctant to talk and gives a good many enigmatic answers.

Torn between dissatisfaction at the lack of information he is getting yet at the same time drawn to Anna, Holly makes a few awkward attempts to court her, such as bringing her flowers. Unfortunately for both of them, he can't resist trying to find out what happened to Harry, and is shocked when Anna actually suggests that he is better dead.

Meantime the local police want nothing more than for Holly to get on the next plane back to the States. Everybody in this film is either hiding something or afraid of something (or both), and Holly's attempts to find out the fate of his friend go nowhere for some time. Finally it is revealed that Harry Lime was involved in the black market distribution of diluted penicillin; the description of the effects of the watered-down medicine does not bear close scrutiny, but it does not matter. Holly is forced to come face-to-face with the truth that the boy he once knew became a man he did not know.

Just when you think things can't get any more twisted, Harry (Orson Welles) turns up, very much alive and completely unrepentant with regard to his black market activities.

This is a real roller-coaster-ride of a movie; it has the most unexpected twists and turns, including an unforgettable chase scene through the sewers of Vienna at night.

One of the stunning things about this movie is how forcibly Welles's presence is felt despite the fact that he does not show up until the film has been running for a solid hour. In fact, probably the most remarkable thing about this movie is that it is about a man that we do not see until the movie is into its second hour and who is really neither the lead nor the title character although the story revolves around him (the "third man" of the title is not Harry but one of the men who carried him to the sidewalk after being run over in the street). and who dominates the film even though he appears in only a small handful of scenes. Welles is perfect here; he tones down his tendency to be hammy and underplays beautifully, probably so that he would not look a fool next to Joe Cotten, one of the greatest actors of his day, who delivers here one of his finest performances.

And Valli makes three: stunning, enigmatic, with an undertone of bitterness, she makes Anna an unforgettable character.

I've given enough away, I think. The greatest movies are those that defy simple categorization. Reed may have set out to make a noir, but the end product is much, much more than the sum of its parts. And Anton Karras's zither-based score is haunting and fits the mood of the piece to perfection.

This film also has one of the most iconic and unforgettable final shots in cinematic history. I won't reveal it; it's just too good.

A real stunner.
2011-09-02
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