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Thriller, Mystery, Film-Noir
IMDB rating:
Carol Reed


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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
The Third Man 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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I didn't see what others saw !!!!
The Third Man is always regarded as on the greatest films to ever come out of the genre of noir. It is also regarded as one of the greatest British films of all time, but sadly I failed to find anything fascinating in this film.

From a technical standpoint the film is well made. The outdoor locations of Vienna are picturesque and well shot and the cinematography is flawless. The use of lighting in the climax is also amazing. But that's about it as far as the positives go for me. The storyline is set at the backdrop of Vienna, a city tortured by the perils of the WWII and it also deals with the context of the inevitable rise of corruption in a broken economy and a suffering society where corrupt people employ devious means to earn big by making use of the common person's deficiencies and in doing so climb to the top of the food chain. But unfortunately the director didn't go deep into the aforementioned themes and the story itself felt so flat and none of the characters seemed interesting and deep. I sat through the the initial scenes with the hope that things will get better, but they never did. A noir film at the basic level has to keep you engrossed,but this film didn't keep me so and the big reveal wasn't shocking at all.

Orson Welles is good in it, but the acting as a whole in the film is just acceptable with nothing in particular worth a special mention.

So in a nutshell, The Third Man is a technically well made film with great cinematography, but every other aspect of the film is mediocre at best. Maybe it is the raised expectations due to its critical acclaim that let me down in the end.
Beautiful cinematography, but contrived and incoherent plot
As "The Third Man" is considered a cinema classic, anyone who gives it a less than glowing review risks being labeled a philistine or worse. However, I found it a bit disappointing, viewed sixty-six years after its release.

I liked the locations. Costumes were fine. Cinematography was suitably moody, although a bit contrived. The askew camera angles seemed neither annoying nor fraught with allegorical significance; however, the balloon vendor's exaggerated shadow and the brightly lit sewers were distracting. The acting was better than average for the period, but largely consisted of posturing to deliver exposition. Dialogue was good, with a lot of subtext. I liked that the dialogue was delivered in the language of the character and appreciated the confusion it caused. I liked the ending – cynical, dismaying and very un-Hollywood, but effective.

What disappointed me was the plot, which made no sense at all. If one were to rearrange the events in chronological order, as I understood them, they would go something like this:

Spoiler Alert!!

In post-war Vienna, penicillin is scarce. Charles Lime hatches a scheme to steal it from a British military hospital with the help of orderly Joseph Harbin, dilute it and sell it on the black market to other hospitals.

The diluted penicillin proves ineffectual or worse. Major Calloway launches an investigation.

Lime conspires to cover his tracks by murdering Harbin and switching identities so the authorities believe he is dead. He will then defect to the Russian sector. But first he offers pulp fiction author Holly Martins a job and sends him a plane ticket.

Although Martins is apparently a popular, successful author, he is broke and leaps at the opportunity to travel to Vienna, where he learns that Lime is dead and tries to unravel inconsistencies in the stories told by witnesses.

The movie suggests that the penicillin somehow caused the patients distress and exacerbated their conditions. This might make sense if the penicillin were somehow contaminated in the dilution process. But absent an allergic reaction, a weak dose of penicillin shouldn't cause any immediate harm. When the dosage proved ineffective, one would expect the doctors to suspect it had been diluted and simply increase the dosage at considerably greater expense and/or renegotiate with Lime. Similarly, if it were contaminated, one would expect it to cause infections and for the doctors to suspend using it. One might just as easily blame the doctors for buying and administering suspect drugs on the black market. Everybody knows penicillin is scarce. It seems no different than drug dealers purchasing heroin. They need to conduct quality control inspections to be sure they get what they paid for. For all they know, Lime could have filled used vials with tap water.

The murder/fake death plot doesn't make much sense either. Apparently Dr. Winkel, Popescu and Kurtz were involved in the penicillin scheme and assisted Lime in faking his death. Two walk with Harbin, one entices him to cross the street and the fourth runs him over with a truck. Or maybe they pushed him. This is done in broad daylight in front of witnesses who don't want to become involved, but are ready to chase Martins all over town when they suspect he was involved in the porter's murder.

Calloway, who has a personal axe to grind with Lime and is heading the investigation, has time to attend funerals and escort visitors around town but doesn't find time to verify that the accident victim was Lime, even though some of the witnesses made inconsistent statements.

Meanwhile, Lime, who has done all this so he can get away clean, doesn't go anywhere. He manages to slip into his apartment building, where everybody knows him, in broad daylight without being seen, and murders the porter then slips out again.

Artistically, the film is superb. It has many excellent qualities. But the plot is flimsy, incoherent and relies upon numerous coincidences and contrivances.
Classic and immortal thriller-mystery set in Vienna during the Cold war
The motion picture concerns on an American writer of pulp Western named Holy Martin(Joseph Cotten), he arrives in a post-war devastating Vienna to see his old friend Harry Lime(Orson Welles), but he discovers he has been killed. In the funeral knows a gorgeous scene actress(haunting Alida Valli). Manipulative Harry is a known delinquent drug-dealer, smuggling adulterated penicillin in black-market and master-criminal at large in a Vienna of nightmare divided in four zones, the city is plenty of ruins, trash,devastation,rubbish and debris. Lime is allegedly dead , but is finally pursued throughout the sewers by authorities(Trevor Howard, Bernard Lee, Geoffrey Keen).

Based on Grahame novel's , this classic movie noir thriller is an excellent story lavishly produced by the great American producer David O Selznick and Hungarian producer Alexander Korda. This is a deeply satisfying and intelligent picture for not be missed, using a considerable talent in acting as main cast as secondaries actors formed mostly by foreigners players of various countries and utilizing the cream of British experts in writing and technical departments. With a plethora of anthological images and dialogs such as the scenes about conversation in the fairs between Harry Lime and Martin and the underground-sewers pursuits. Magnificent Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten, great friends in real life; Welles reportedly intervened in direction principally on his scenes, though in an interview he explained that Carol Reed directed totally this outstanding movie.Extraordinary Anton Karas'musical score , though insistent and sometimes irritant zither which hooked itself into the people of the world.Robert Krasker's gorgeous cinematography , reflecting splendidly the shapes, lights, shadows with sophisticated, elegant use of camera angles and deservedly winning an Oscar and nomination for film-making and edition. The film is perfectly directed by Carol Reed in his second adaptation about Grahame Greene novel, the first was 'The fallen idol(1948)' and later 'Our man in Havana(1959)'.
A Great movie of 1949
Holly Martins a novelist comes to visit one of his friend Harry Lime, but later founds out that his friend died on that day only. Holly comes to know that no strangers were there when Harry Died in accident, which creates a doubt in his mind that whether it was an accident or a murder? From the Harry's porter he comes to know that there was a "third man", who was he? is the question Holly seeks in the movie. Later on some events unfolds in such a way forcing Holly to change his mind toward Harry. The movie is set up during the post war period, opening shots shows Vienna which has been destructed by the war. The most amazing thing about the movie is the camera work and the editing. The movie is of 1949, and by this it can be said that during that point of time people would have loved it, as the plot is so intriguing that you cannot leave your seat for once. Last but not the least the character of Anna Schmidt will make you love her more and more.
What Criterion edition?!
The Third Man has received a 4K remaster recently, and was released by Studio Canal, in France, Germany, and in the UK. The results are most excellent! Contrast has been greatly improved, as well as shadow detail. This new print is gorgeously dark, as was the artistic intent. Grain also appears well intact and quite even. All the issues that the prior Studio Canal release had, have been eliminated, namely the annoying flickering. This print appears to be free of any damage, scratches, etc. I personally, cannot stress enough how beautiful this print is. The blacks are just perfect! Having only listened to the English DTS-HD master audio.2.0, I can say it sounds excellent! Clarity is front and center, and I did not hear any hissing, or other related age issues, typically found in a film of this age. And, the Harry Lime Theme, played on the Zither, has never sounded better. All in all, this is a truly wonderful release. The digibook(France release) was a nice touch as well, with somewhat better artwork than most releases of this film have seen. I personally also greatly appreciated the excellent array of special features. Mostly, the restoration featurette. Which provided some fascinating insight into the restoration process. Short of a new 4K UHD release, I'll never need another copy of this masterpiece!
A classic (spoilers)
Broke American pulp writer Holly Martins (Cotton) comes to Vienna for a job his friend Harry Lime(Welles) has promised him, only to discover when he gets there that Lime is dead, run over by a car, and that the police accuse him of horrendous black market activities. Cotton tries to clear his friend's name, and begins to suspect something's up when a mysterious "third man" is mentioned at the crash site.

Hard to say too much about this movie without giving a lot of it away, but this is a true classic. Cotton is very effective as Martin, a naive do-gooder who quickly gets in over his head. I spent a lot of the movie annoyed at Holly -- his character is amazingly obtuse (in fact, the story for the first 2/3 of the movie essentially happens *around* Holly, in conversations that happen behind Holly's back or murmured off in a corner, or in reactions to Holly that he either ignores or misinterprets). A lot of the movie is an ironic take on the traditional Hollywood hero -- it's no mistake that Holly writes Westerns, after all. Yet Cotton made me believe in Holly's essential decency: Holly's a superficial guy, but he doesn't really understand he's superficial.

Welles only has a few scenes but steals them all. He dominates the two classic scenes in the movie, the famous "cuckoo clock" conversation with Cotton (essentially a charming piece of nihilism) and the final chase in the sewers (beautifully, moodily shot by Carol Reed and Robert Krasker), where he's portrayed alternately as a rat and a scared human being. Still, the movie is Cotton's: Graham Greene's literate script is essentially a skeptical, sad examination of loyalty -- Cotton is a pawn in a bigger game he doesn't understand, but his choices are ultimately what define the story. Who should we be loyal to? Greene asks, and offers no easy answers.

Just a wonderful movie, with great settings and a memorable zither score from Anton Karas. Highly recommended.
The Greatest Movie of All Time
The Third Man is the most perfectly executed movie I have ever seen. All the performances are perfect. The camera work is as innovative as Citizen Kane's. The Screenplay by Graham Greene is the greatest ever to be used on screen (even though he didn't write Orson Welles speech about the Cuckoo Clock). The film also has historical importance as a living reminder of the impact of World War II on Vienna and the world in general. The messages of this film have haunted ever since I first saw it, and the suspense sequences are first rate. Carol Reed should have gotten his best director Oscar for this and not Oliver. Anyone who wants to see a truly great film should do whatever they can to get their hands on a copy of this masterwork.
Post War Brilliance
'The Third Man' has every right to be described as the greatest British film ever made. It perfectly captures a country ravaged by war nd struggling to get to grips with defeat where the black market is rife. Director Carol Reed makes the black ands white images harsh and almost sharp to capture this feeling of despair. It is impossible to see that this film could ever have worked in colour. The cast is faultless with Orson Welles perfect as the mysterious Harry Lime. The character who may not been be seen for much of the picture but his is presence is strangely felt in every scene. Each piece of Harry's life in Austria is slowly unwrapped by his best friend Holly Martins played by Joseph Cotton. A pulp fiction writer who is invited to Vienna with a promise of work but only to discover that Lime as died. Suspected foul play Martins is torn between loyalty between is friend and the harsh realty that his friend is a crook and he has fallen in love with Harry's girl, Anna (alida Valli). The plot may seem a little dated but it still gives a new audience the opportunity to sit back and watch a well crafted film without graphic violence. In fact the most disturbing images are left instead o the audience's own imagination. A true classic movie.
"The dead are happier dead"
The bond a woman feels with her lover -- has a film ever captured it so realistically?

Anna (Alida Valli) will have no part of any schemes to capture expatriate Harry Lime (Orson Welles), though he has faked his death and left her to fend for herself in the corrupt and broken-down rubble of post-war Vienna. Nor, once she knows Lime is dead for good, will she have any of Holly Martin (Joseph Cotton), the hard-bitten American pulp writer who possesses the integrity that Lime has long ago exchanged for expediency.

Lime had offered a job to Holly, and that's what has drawn him to the dark and dilapidated streets of the Austrian capital. In the end, we see, Martin has performed his duties to perfection.

It's hard to believe the book "Positive Psychology at the Movies 2" does not list "The Third Man" in its index. In many ways, this film shows man at his best under grueling conditions. Martin shows judgment, self-regulation, perseverance, perspective, and bravery.

The casting and ensemble work here are perfect, and Robert Krasker's cinematography must set the standard in the field. I'm a little mixed on the famous score featuring endless gyrations of the zither. Perhaps it provides a bit of metaphor: Like the rot at the core of the culture, one can never quite escape its rather crazy-making influence.
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.
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