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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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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 ..
"The Third Man" is a masterpiece by British director Carol Reed filmed from a screenplay by famous writer Graham Greene. This is one of the best European film noir, with its distinctive atmosphere of postwar moral chaos and hopelessness, and an unhappy romantic love story that describes the crime and moral decay of the world in which the protagonists are trying to survive.

After the end of the second world war-torn Vienna is divided into four zones, each governed by one of the military police of the winning countries - US, Soviet, British and French. Holly Martins (J. Cotten), American writer, comes to Vienna as he was invited by his friend Harry Lime (O. Welles), offering him some work. Holly came to the house where Harry lived in a rented apartment and finds out that Harry was killed the day before - run over by a car in front of the same house. Shocked, Holly finds himself at Harry's funeral and meets two British military officers, Major Calloway (T. Howard) and Sergeant Paine (B. Lee). Calloway is interested in late Harry Lime, and he examines Holly, advising him at the end to leave Vienna because of the danger. Holly meets two of Harry's friends, Baron Kurtz (E. Deutsch) and Popescu (S. Breuer), who allegedly witnessed Harry's death. Exploring the unfortunate circumstances of Harry's death, Holly is puzzled by many contradictions, Holly begins to suspect that something is wrong ... The character of criminal Harry Lime is one of the most charismatic in the history of film, and Orson Welles plays it with a lot of charm and humor. Particularly notable in the film music of Anton Karas zither on a theme Harry Lime is one of the most famous evergreens in history of film music. Reed's film won the 1949 Palme d'Or at Cannes, and the Oscar for best picture.
long shadows in the wet streets of Vienna
For me it wasn't an advantage that I knew how well this movie is regarded by most people. My expectations were of course very high also because my favorite film critic from my own country (Denmark) simply regard "the third man" as the best movie he has ever seen. Since I also know Graham Greenes work well, as he is one of my favorite writers, I had expected more.

That Holly Martins is mistaken for a serious and intellectual writer when he is only a writer of "cheap novelettes" can easily be identified as the fingerprint of Mr. Greene; it is a common theme in Greenes books that a person is mistaken for something grander than he really is which poses some very interesting dilemmas. This also leads to one of the humoristic scenes as Martens is invited to talk about "the contemporary novel" at the "cultural reeducation section" which actually is hilarious. He ends up being asked questions about James Joyce and "stream of consciousness" which he of course has no chance in hell to answer since he only writes lousy western novels (like "Bill & Ben" I suppose).

I didn't like the casting of Holly Martins - and I can see that others are critical of him too. His role wasn't interesting either; He wasn't interesting or mysterious – he was just what he appeared to be: an American who wrote cheap books on a mission to find the truth as to why his friend died; all for the wrong and naive reasons.

Anna Schmidt who was Limes mistress was tiresome in the long run. I didn't understand why she had fallen so desperately in love with Lime. Lime appears very charming but still…

I can see from the other reviews, that a memorable part of the movie is the discussion on morality. It is as if Lime almost succeeds in persuading you of his alternative way of seeing the world. And this is scary.

What I really really loved about the film was the photography… Oh my god. The wet and dark Vienna with the long shadows. The faces. Baron Kurtz. Orson Welles.

I can only give this one 6/10 but I will certainly wonder why it didn't appeal more to me.

Regards Simon
A great film that keeps getting better.
As you watch The Third Man, you are slowly sucked into the word of past war Austria. You can almost taste the wet stones that line the streets and you feel just as alone as Holly Martins does. Holly has come to Austria at the request of his boyhood friend, Harry Lime. Upon arriving in Austria, Holly learns that Harry has been killed. As Holly digs deeper into Harry's life in Austria, things start to get weird. Turns out Harry wasn't all that Holly thought he was. That only drives Holly to find out what really happened to Harry, and who the mysterious Third Man is. The Third Man not only showcases great performances from Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles, but it also boasts great black and white cinematography. Shadows abound from every corner and the angles give you a feeling of being off balance, which is how Joseph Cotton feels through the first half of the film. Post war Austria lends itself well to the story. The bombed out buildings and dark streets highten the mystery and danger that lurk in the corners. A great film that can never be topped, and once you've finished the film, you'll be in a dither over the zither.
It always helps if your film has the single best theme music ever
"The Third Man" is a classic, but did you really expect me to say anything else? Few films have managed to have such a flow and feel to them. The film flawlessly juggles comedy, thriller, and film noir and manages to find the perfect balance between all those elements. For a genre such as film noir that was notorious for often not having a sense of humor, much of the action in "The Third Man" is very tongue-in-cheek. Few non auteur films have achieved such a consistent flow and seem to be from one mind. In addition to how well made it is, its a wonderfully entertaining film. Its often compared to "Citizen Kane", and while its not on the technical level of that film, its certainly more enjoyable. Anyone who is new to classic cinema, this is one of the first films you should check out.

Every aspect is superb in the film. The direction by Carol Reed creates an unforgettable atmosphere to the proceedings. He fashions a unique look to the scenes, and the climax set in the sewers is cinema perfection. The screenplay by Graham Greene is a tad confusing initially (which is what keeps this from being a total classic) but is clever and full of many classic, quotable lines. The best aspect of this film is certainly Orson Welles though. As Harry Lime, Welles takes one of the most despicable villains ever caught on camera and makes him so charming and roguish you can't help but love him. You despise all his actions but the man's personality is so appealing and infectious. His "cuckoo clock" monologue is possibly the best ever in cinema. The supporting cast (Joseph Cotton, Valli, and especially Trevor Howard) are all great, but this is Welles' film completely. This is one of the few films that viewing for anyone with a slight interest in cinema is mandatory. Plus, it always helps if your film has the single best theme music ever (you'll be humming the "Third Man Theme" for the rest of your life). (9/10)
The real mccoy when you want to talk serious screen legends!
What IS it makes THE THIRD MAN the classic most everyone agrees it is? (And lets face it, voted no 35 in the top all-time films gives it MORE than just some passing credibility!) Is it Orson Welles' menace? The whiff of corruption in occupied post-war Vienna? the cuckoo-clock speech atop the big wheel? even Anton Karras' zither? Perhaps ALL these things? If however, you had to nominate just a single influence within the whole production that elevates it to greatness I suggest that would be Robert Krasker's cinematography.

The finished product innovatively, was years ahead of its birthright. Time and time again the viewer is bailed up by stunning camera angles and back-lighting. The eerie shadows around the deserted streets and of course the unforgettable first glimpse of Harry Lime (Welles) himself as he skulks like the rat he is, in the corner of the building, lit in close-up suddenly from the light in an adjacent apartment. Offhand I cannot think of a character's more dramatic entrance to a film.

Welles in fact has minimal screen time, though his dark presence and influence infiltrate proceedings like an insidious disease. Yet somehow his ultimate demise in the sewers brings into play an incredible sadness and compassion that has absolutely no right being there. It remains for me one of my top five film favorites. I have always given it a "10" personally but hey, to be voted an "8.6" universally is a pretty fair vindication of my words here.
The Trouble with Harry Lime
I initially felt a fool for not having seen "The Third Man" earlier. However, in retrospect, having now read most of Graham Greene's major works, and having received some keen insight into the back-story of producer Alexander Korda through Kati Marton's book "The Great Escape", I feel I was able to enjoy "The Third Man" even more for the staggering masterpiece that it is.

As a European/American co-production bankrolled by two legendary hands-on producers, David O. Selznick and Alexander Korda, "The Third Man" was masterfully crafted by director Carol Reed from a screenplay by British novelist Graham Greene. The film served as a pinnacle of the film noir movement and is a prime example of master filmmakers working with an iconic writer and utilizing an amazing cast and crew to create a masterwork representing professionals across the field operating at the top of their game.

Fans of Greene's novels need not be disappointed as the screenplay crackles with all that signature cynicism and sharp witted dialogue. Carol Reed's crooked camera angles, moody use of shadowing and external locations (Vienna, partially bombed out, wet and Gothic, never looked more looming and haunting) and crisp editing are the perfect visual realizations of Greene's provocative wordplay and often saturnine view of the world. Reed's brief opening montage and voice-over introducing us to the black market in Vienna is also shockingly modern, as it is that energetic quick-cut editing that has influenced directors like Scorsese to film entire motion pictures in just such a style. Also making the film decidedly timeless is the zither music score of Anton Karas, a bizarre accompaniment to the dark story that serves as a brilliant contradiction to what is being seen on screen.

The story of "The Third Man" slides along like smooth gin down the back of one's throat as characters, plot and mood meander and brood along cobblestone streets and slither down dark alleys in an intoxicated state. Heavy drinking hack writer Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten, doing an excellent Americanized riff on Graham Greene himself) arrives in post WWII occupied Vienna to meet up with his old pal Harry Lime (Orson Welles) only to find that Lime is reportedly dead, the police (headed by a perfectly cold Trevor Howard) don't seem to care, and Lime's charming broken-hearted mistress (Alida Valli, perfect as another Greene archetype) has been left behind. Of course, Martins can't leave well enough alone as conspiracy, murder, unrequited romance, and political intrigue ensue. Welles benefits greatly from being talked about for most of the film and appearing mostly in shadows spare for two scenes: the famous ferris wheel speech, and a climatic chase beneath the streets of Vienna through Gothic sewers. His top hap, dark suit, and crooked smile are the stuff of film legend.

The side characters, however, are what make "The Third Man" such a rich, rewarding experience. We're treated to small glimpses into the mindsets of varying people ranging from a British officer obsessed with American Western dime-store novels (of which Martins claims his fame) to an Austrian landlady eternally wrapped in a quilt going on and on in her foreign tongue as international police constantly raid her building and harass her tenants. The brilliance is that one needs no subtitles to understand her frustration. These added layers of character and thoughtful detail, hallmarks of Greene, set "The Third Man" in a class above the rest of film noir from the late 1940's era.

Make no mistake, "The Third Man" is arguably one of the most finely crafted films ever made. One's preference towards noir and Greene's world-view will shape how much one actually enjoys the film. For the sheer fact it has held up so well over the decades and has clearly influenced so many great films that came after it, its repeated rankings as one of the greatest motion pictures ever made can not be denied. With a good stiff drink in hand, and Graham Greene's collection dog-eared on my bookshelf, "The Third Man" is undoubtedly now one of my favorite films. Reed's closing shot of a tree-lined street along a cemetery and Joseph Cotten leaning against a car smoking a cigarette while Alida Valli walks right past him with that zither music score playing is one that has left an indelible mark on my memory and enriched my love of film as art.
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.
Probably the best film ever.
It has the most wonderful photography, the most haunting music, tremendous atmosphere, riveting personalities, historical interest - just simply, everything. No more need be said except that if you haven't yet seen it, then fall in love with it as soon as possible; you are missing pure magic.
the best of all time
Unrelenting fascination is what I have every time I watch this movie. It never seems old. It's in my mind, haunting me, with its unearthly music and its dark, oblique photography. And that great Orson Welles' speech, and also the best entrance in movie history to go along with the best exit in movie history. It couldn't be better. I can't even express how I feel in words. Watch it again and again, and you'll be dazed!
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