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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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Good film with an awesome cinematography
Opportunistic racketeering thrives in a damaged and impoverished Allied- occupied Vienna, which is divided into four sectors each controlled by one of the occupying forces: American, British, French, and Soviet. These powers share the duties of law enforcement in the city. American pulp Western writer Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) comes to the city seeking his childhood friend, Harry Lime (Orson Welles), who has offered him a job. Upon arrival he discovers that Lime was killed just hours earlier by a speeding truck while crossing the street. Martins attends Lime's funeral, where he meets two British Army Police: Sergeant Paine (Bernard Lee), a fan of Martins' pulp novels; and his superior, Major Calloway (Trevor Howard), who says Lime was a criminal and suggests Martins leave town.

An official of the British occupying forces subsequently approaches Martins, requesting that he give a lecture and offering to pay for his lodging. Viewing this as an opportunity to clear his friend's name, Martins decides to remain in Vienna. He receives an invitation to meet from Lime's friend, "Baron" Kurtz (Ernst Deutsch), who tells Martins that he, along with another friend, Popescu (Siegfried Breuer), carried Lime to the side of the street after the accident. Before dying, according to Kurtz, Lime asked Kurtz and Popescu to take care of Martins and Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli), Lime's actress girlfriend.
The Joy of Cinema: The Third Man
The Third Man (1949) ****

Carol Reed and Graham Greene's 'The Third Man' is regarded as one of the greatest and most entertaining films ever made, and I would not for a second disagree. The Third Man contains a quality that is uniquely rare in film: it embodies all that is magnificent about going to the movies. I was not born when this film was made and released. Nor were my parents for another 3 years. Yet the film transcends its age and retains such a great story, and for that it is nearly impossible for anyone to dislike. I love the film. I have since I first saw it, and I've only grown fonder of it as the years pass. I waited for a while to purchase a DVD, as I knew that it was going to be re-released on Criterion. And now, I'm proud to say that I finally own the new 2-disc edition, and very pleased to report that it is one of the best purchases I've ever made.

The film follows the lost and lonely Holly Martins as he searches post-war Vienna for clues about the death of his friend and supposed-to-be business associate, Harry Lime. He arrives in Vienna on the day of Lime's funeral. There he meets Inspector Calloway who offers him a drive back to town, and then explains that Lime was involved in the underground diluted penicillin ring, which caused the deaths of many. Martins, an unemployed pulp novelist, dedicates himself to finding out the truth and clearing his friends name, only to find out perhaps that Calloway is right, and that perhaps Harry Lime may not be dead after all. His journey takes him through shadowy Vienna and introduces him to shadowy friends of Lime and his girlfriend. Martin's falls in love with her, but her love for Harry is eternal, and perhaps even fatalistic.

The Third Man contains three key elements which makes it so perfect. First, is the razor sharp dialogue by Graham Greene; second, is Reed's brilliant direction and ingenious shot angles and shadows; third, is the extraordinary zither score. Many then, and even today, find the score perplexing and distracting. But to take it away and The Third Man would lose one of its most important aspects. It manages to be cheerful but not jokey or light. Its ironic tones bring a heavy sense of disillusionment that fits perfectly with the narrative of the film. Robert Krasker's cinematography also presents the film with a disillusioning effect. Many shots are filmed at a tilted angle which throws off the equilibrium of the shots and presents a window into the confusion and upheaval of Martins' world.

The story is typical of a thriller, but not really typical at all. The entrance of the films biggest star and plot mechanism doesn't even make his entrance until over half way through the film, but his entrance is one of the greatest, and most infamous of all movie entrances. He also delivers the greatest adlib in the history of the movies, the famous 'cuckoo clock' speech. The eventual and inevitable doomed final act culminates in one of the great movie chases. It's not fast and furious like a car chase in Bullitt, but it is slow, meticulous and intelligent like the brilliant metro chase in Melville's 'Le Samourai.' The fatal game of hide and seek is beautifully shot in bleak and shadowy cinematography and rife with the hollow sounds of footsteps, no music.

The Third Man is one of my all time favorite films. It's as entertaining as any movie, and totally re-watchable. I've seen it at least 10 times so far, and will see it certainly many more than ten times. The Third Man embodies all that is joyful about going to the movies.

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!
Four men on a bridge
A great deal has been said about "The Third Man" by contributors to this forum. Having seen the restored copy that was shown at the Film Forum, recently, I could not resist watching this masterpiece once more when it was shown by TCM, the other night.

This movie owes a debt of gratitude to Graham Greene, a writer who had the most developed sense of intrigue among his contemporaries and one of the best writers of the last century. It also helped that a great director, Carol Reed, brought it to the screen. Mr. Reed was a director who had an eye for detail, as he demonstrates here, as well as in the rest of the body of work he left for us to enjoy.

The screen play is faithful to the original novel. If to all of the other elements we add the fabulous cinematography of Robert Krasker, the result has to be the masterpiece we see today. Never before has a city taken center stage in the development of the story that is presented here. Mr. Krasker's wonderful night vision of this city enhances the story as we are taken along for a fantastic trip of the post war Vienna of 1949.

The casting of this film is amazing. Never had so many excellent actors been thrown together in a film, as it is the case as with this picture. Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Trevor Howard, Orson Welles, Bernard Lee, Ernst Deutsch, Paul Horbiger, Erich Ponto and Wilfred Hyde White are splendid in their roles. It is hard to imagine these characters played by other actors.

Orson Welles has perhaps the best part, even though his time before the camera is short. This must have been one of the best roles in which Welles appeared. Of course, there are so many others, but his Harry Lime is an original and could have fitted perfectly in one of his own films.

The music by Anton Karas is still haunting, with the exception of a few times at the beginning of a couple of scenes, when it startles the viewer and actually doesn't add anything to what we are about to see.

This film will live forever.
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.
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.
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.
Classic Welles, Classic Greene
The Third Man is classic film noir. Combining the genius of Welles and Greene, the film tells the story of Holly Martins (Cotten), a writer of pulp western arriving in post-war Vienna, discovering that his school-boy friend Harry Lime (Welles), has met his end. Martins' curiosity into the events surrounding Lime's death are well founded as he seeks to find the truth surrounding Lime's death. What he finds about his friend Lime is the catch. Classic Welles, classic Greene...don't miss this film.
Great film
Greetings from Lithuania.

I can believe of how involving and intriguing "The Third Man" (1949) actually is after seeing it just now for a first time in 2017. This is a movie which stood the test of time. Now for a second this movie in term of its narrative, script, writing, acting and directing looked like of felt like it was made back in 1949. All of the above mentioned parts of the film were more then great - they were a head of its time. Now i also loved how somehow darkly funny this movie was and especially the whole story if you think about it - i won't spoil the ending for those who haven't seen it yet, but the story about a novelist desperately trying for find out about his closed friends dead and how it all ends its just a funny, darkly funny thing. Music as well cinematography were also great.

Overall, while "The Third Man" isn't perfect nor it blew my away like some other films of the period, this is a great film overall, a bit a head of its time.
This motion picture belongs in the all time top ten list
Notwithstanding 'Citizen Kane', this is the finest movie Orson Welles has ever made. Indeed, this is one of the finest movies anyone has ever made. The classic Welles touch permeates this fine film and anyone who wishes to know what the man was all about should start with this one. All of the actors, fine performers in their own right, seem to have peaked in this movie. I have not read the Graham Greene novel but I would have to believe that, contrary to the usual book/movie comparisons, this movie has surpassed the book. I say this partly because of the almost dreamlike scenes and camera angles , something of a signature of Welles' work, and partly because of the hauntingly lovely strains of Anton Karas' zither, tying one scene to another and delicately enveloping the whole work. A book cannot do that. I don't know how many times I have seen this movie but, like a fine painting, I see it again at each opportunity. If you have not seen this movie you are missing a major contribution to the world of cinematography.
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