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Plot: 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. Runtime: 104 mins Release Date: 30 Aug 1949
The Third Man is a movie that looks and feels not like a movie of the 40s, but like a neo-noir of the late 60s/early 70s. This wonderful example of classic noir is one of the all time greatest films. It combines amazing visuals, sounds, dialogue, and acting to tell a thrilling story and comment about the atmosphere after WWII.Of all the movies durring the studio era pre-1960ish , there are three movies with cinematography that always stick out in my mind: Gregg Toland's work in Citizen Kane, Russel Mety's work in Touch of Evil, and Robert Krasker's work in The Third Man all <more>
starring Orson Welles funny enough . I just recently saw a restored 35mm version of The Third Man. The crisp black and white visuals of a bombed out Vienna are so breath-taking. Shadows are everywhere. The unique way Krasker tilts the camera in some shots adding to the disorientation of the plot. And who can forget the first close-up of Welles with the light from an apartment room above splashing onto his face; one of the great entrances in movie history Lime gives his old friend a smile that only Welles could give .The cinematography is backed by strong performances by Welles, Cotten, and italian actress Vali. The writing of Greene is wonderful; you can see the plot twisting around Cotten tightly. But what makes The Third Man so great is its historical commentary well not really historical since it was commenting on its own time, but to us it is historical . On one level The Third Man is a story of betrayal and corruption in a post-war, occupied Vienna. On the other hand, its giving the audience a glimpse of the mood of Europe after the great war. The uncertainty that the Cold War was bringing is evident through out the film; Cotten is constantly trying to figure out who to trust. Vienna is on the frontier of the new communist bloc we even see the communists infiltrating Vienna trying to bring Vali back to her native Czechoslavakia . The zither music score combined with the stark images of bombed out Vienna are reminiscent of the frontier towns of American Westerns. So The Third Man is not only a wonderful film noir, but a unique look at the brief time between WWII and the height of the Cold War.
This is a rare film that is flawless in every respect. It combines great acting and memorable characters with a fascinating story, taking place in an interesting setting and adding a creative musical score. "The Third Man" is remembered for many things - for Orson Welles' wonderful performance in his appearances as Harry Lime, for its wonderfully appropriate musical score, and for its nicely conceived plot surprises. Adding to these is Joseph Cotten's fine portrayal of Holly Martins, which holds the rest of it together - it is his character who initiates most of the action, <more>
and also through whom we view everything and everyone else.The story starts, after a nicely done prologue, with Martins arriving in Vienna, and finding out that his friend Harry is not only dead but is accused of running a particularly destructive black market racket. Martins sets out at once to prove his friend's innocence, getting into an immediate scuffle with the police, and it seems at first to set up a conventional plot about clearing the name of a friend - but the actual story that follows is much deeper and much better. It is just right that Martins is an innocent who writes cheap novels for a living, and he gets a pretty memorable lesson in fiction vs. reality. There are some great scenes the Ferris-wheel confrontation being as good a scene as there is in classic cinema leading up to a memorable climactic sequence, and a good supporting cast, with Alida Valli as Anna being very good in complementing Lime and Martins. The setting in crumbling post-war Vienna and the distinctive zither score go very nicely with the story.This is a fine, flawless classic, and while obviously belonging to an earlier era, it deserves a look from anyone who appreciates good movies.
Joseph Cotten is Excellent in Revolutionary Film Noir (by peanutthegreat)
"I never knew the Old Vienna, before the war, with its Strauss Music," opens Carol Reed's The Third Man, and we catch a glimpse of the New Vienna, with its Black Market and its Shady Deals. Joseph Cotten plays cheap novelette author Holly Martins, just arrived in Vienna to meet with long-time friend Harry Lime, who offered him a job. He instead meets with the mysterious facts surrounding the death of Lime, learned bit-by-bit from Lime's friends, a woman named Anna Schmidt, who has problems of her own played excellently by Valli , and two British officers, Calloway and <more>
Paine. Learning, that there is more to death of Lime than there seems to be, Martins begins his investigation for the truth. This film was shot with some of the greatest, most ahead-of-its-time cinematography ever, and it creates mystery and deceit. It is complimented by the excellent use of shadows. The soundtrack is essentially one long song, which plays throughout the film, changing and stopping as the emotion calls for. It is a zither composition by Anton Karas made for the film. This is all topped off by an engrossing storyline, and a great performance by Joseph Cotten, as the ordinary man mixed up in this web of mystery.
Astounding Visuals Make It A Treasure (by ccthemovieman-1)
Story - pretty good.Cinematographry - amazing! If you want to enjoy the camera-work, please see this on the Criterion DVD. That's not a plug for the company. It's just that no one else has ever offered a cleaner version of this film. After suffering for years with lousy VHS transfers of this gem, it was nice to see it given justice.To me, the visuals here make this DVD worth owning because the story is okay, but nothing super. To an average first-time viewer, the first hour of this film can drag. I found that to be the case on my first viewing, but the more I watch this, the better <more>
the story seems to have gotten for some reason. Despite his billing, Orson Welles has a small role in here. He doesn't even appear until after 65 of the film's 104 minutes have elapsed. Meanwhile, Joseph Cotten dominates the story, along with Alida Valli, sort of a poor man's Ingrid Bergman. Those two are okay but the story picks up dramatically after Wells finally appears. In addition to the fabulous cinematography, an unique feature of this movie is the music, which is very strange for a film noir. It's lighthearted music from a zither, almost circus-like in its sound and melody....but I liked it. It helps make this movie different.The visuals involve a lot of nighttime photography, lots of shadows and cobblestone streets. The tilted camera angles and the closeups - all traits of Wells the director, are here to enjoy
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 <more>
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.
Although I am as old as this movie, produced in 1949, I have not aged nearly as well. This film, directed brilliantly by Carol Reed "Odd Man Out", "The Fallen Idol" and written by Graham Greene, who created a long list of memorable cinematic scripts, ingeniously captures the prevailing atmosphere of disruption and chaos that Vienna, a once highly civilized city, experienced during the years that followed World War II. The upheaval is physical, social, economic, political, moral, spiritual. You name it. Vanquished Vienna, conquered by the Allies, was crippled by turmoil <more>
in every imaginable way, and we viewers are given the opportunity to experience it up close, right here.I spent a number of months in Europe after I graduated from college in 1971. Although the war had been over for more than 25 years by then, I was struck by a very pronounced attitude of cynicism on the part of many Europeans regarding uniquely American ideals and principles, which were widely considered to be naive. To me, this film accurately captures this cultural and moral conflict, which lasted for decades and may even survive to this day. "You and your American principles," they would often scoff at me with mocking derision. In many ways, the character of Holly Martins Joseph Cotten , an American who crashes into post-World War II Europe, is a victim of a serious cultural divide. Unlike the Europeans, Martins always has the option of fleeing from the chaos and returning to the United States. For that alone, he may be resented by the local Viennese.What does Anna Alida Valli know about the illegal activities of her lover, Harry Lime Orson Welles , which includes the sale of diluted penicillin to Vienna's hospitals? For children with meningitis, watered down penicillin was not only useless, but it created an immunity from full strength penicillin so that these afflicted children could never receive effective treatment. Corrupted penicillin is a glaring symbol of a totally corrupted Vienna. Harry surely understands the consequences of his business, but what about Anna? Even after the truth about Harry's conduct is clearly revealed to her, she still sticks by him to the bitter end. Love conquers all? Stand by your man, regardless of he misery that he is causing to his innocent victims? Seriously? While I don't blame her for rejecting the romantic overtures of Martins, who is somewhat of a schnook, what's with her anyway? She reminds me of the Europeans who never once caught a whiff of the burning flesh from the overworked crematoria of the concentration camps that blackened the air all around them. She is deeply in love with Harry, so just shut up about children with meningitis. OK, Anna, whatever you say, sweetheart. Perhaps those silly 18th century costume comedies in which you appear will provide the escape from reality that you so desperately seek. At least you manage to crack a weak, forced smile on stage, which is the only smile that we will ever see from you.From beginning to end, the unusual camera angles, the dark, somber, haunting sidewalks of Vienna, and the conquered city's eerie, drenched cobblestone streets contribute to the overall foreboding atmosphere of the film, which was remarkably photographed by Australian Robert Krasker "Odd Man Out","Brief Encounter" . Unforgettable images and characters appear before us, emphasizing an overall mood of mayhem and unpredictability from every direction. We witness, for example, Anna's landlady, draped in a bedspread for warmth and deeply distressed by the sudden invasion of her house by "officials" representing not one foreign nation but four of them. Then we observe one of those ludicrous, bureaucratic "cultural re-education conferences" offered to the Viennese by the allied victors, presumably to rehabilitate them after seven years of Nazi domination. And from where on earth did the balloon seller come as he pathetically peddles his merry merchandise on the dark, abandoned streets of Vienna, which are not only completely void of children at the time but of all people?And what of the inquisitive, confused character of Holly Martins, played with the usual, smooth agility of Joseph Cotten? As the writer of mass marketed western novels that even the young British sergeant happens to read, why is he broke, and what kind of job would Lime have offered him in an unfamiliar, German-speaking Vienna that is gripped by post World War II disorder, unemployment, and foreign occupation? Construction work, perhaps?While some reviewers disliked the zither music of Anton Karas, I think that the unique sound contributes to the general atmosphere of nervous tension and uneasiness that saturates the air of a normally orderly metropolis that is abruptly plunged into total disarray. Would you prefer Strauss waltzes instead? They wouldn't be nearly as effective in conveying the overwhelming atmosphere of chaos, even insanity, that plagues Vienna on so many levels at the time.Finally, we are brought to the hidden network of grand Vienna's underground sewers. What could be a more fitting symbol of the underlying foulness that lurks beneath the thin, shallow surface of what we call "civilization"? This subterranean labyrinth provides the perfect setting for the ending of an extraordinary film that very effectively portrays a world that has succumbed to a state of disorder, misery, and even madness. In the end, the sewer awaits. Bal-loon?
The Technical Points Make It A Classic (by Theo Robertson)
I can't help believing THE THIRD MAN is a film highly regarded because of its technical achievements rather than by its story . The plot itself is rather simplistic : American writer Holly Martins gets a message from his friend Harry Lime offering him a job in Vienna and when he arrives in the city he discovers Harry is dead . There's a mystery involved in how Harry died but because everyone is so familiar with the plot twists This film was made nearly 20 years before I was born there's no real surprises as to the story The film Can we describe it as " film noir " <more>
? succeeds because of its breath taking technical achievements . from the opening shot we're shown a montage of shots of post war Vienna , some real life film footage , some specifically shot for the movie with a voice over that is breath takingly conversational . When ever a film opens with a voice over it's always done by some dour American but here it's said by some cheerful English chappie . This alone sticks out in the mind and clearly states that it's a !!!!! British !!!! film . I don't mean a " British made film " financed with American money , I mean a film that was made by a British studio . Of course Carol Reed has an eye for an American market hence his casting of Orson Welles as Harry Lime and it's Welles casting that helps make THE THIRD MAN the screen legend that it is . He has very few lines but Welles speech about the cuckoo clock was ad libbed by the actor and is one of the most memorable lines in cinema . But for me the stand out aspect of the movie is the Oscar winning cinematography by Robert Krasker , it's impossible to think of this movie without thinking of shadows against walls There are a couple of flaws though . Considering Austria is in such a bad state after losing the war a couple of years previously I couldn't help noticing that scotch is freely available ! I know the black market is booming That's part of the plot but even so th way people reach for a bottle and pour themselves a stiff drink seems very unlikely , I mean how many people do you know that drink that amount of booze ? and we're in a period of time where strong liqueur is very easy to acquire . Can I just repeat that because the over familiarity of the story the plot holds no surprises ? Perhaps I' , the first person to point this out by saying I don't like the score . Anton Karras plays the zither and after a few scenes I found myself being irritated by it
Classic film noir set in postwar Vienna. (by TxMike)
Currently this movie is rated #2 all-time for Film Noir by IMDb voters. I found on DVD, the recently restored version, at my public library. The restoration is quite good, but the sound balance is off at times, with zither background music annoyingly loud at times. Other than that, it is about perfect for an older film.While the story is good, it in fact is rather simple. The story is not what makes it a treasured classic. The two things that do are the characters, particularly Orson Welles as the mysterious Harry Lime playing off the naive Holly Martins played by Joseph Cotton. Plus, the <more>
superb black and white film noir cinematography set among some of the bombed-over ruins of post-war Vienna. Even though Welles was merely an actor here, "Citizen Kane" movie-making is visible all through "The Third Man." The remaining comments contain SPOILERS so anyone who has not yet seen the movie should read no further. Pulp fiction writer Martins is invited to Vienna by his old friend Lime, with a promise of work. But Martins shows up just in time for Lime's funeral. In disbelief Martins tries to find witnesses and one describes "a third man" at the scene, one not included in police reports. In fact the third man we find out half-way through the film was Lime, and he took this opportunity to fake his own death and go into hiding because the police wanted him for crimes, namely watering down penicillin and getting rich while adults and children suffered. A cat-n-mouse game is played where Martins agrees to do what is right and help capture his old friend, until Lime is hunted down in the sewers below the city. Lime does not escape, he dies with his fingers reaching up through a street-level grate. Martins has fallen in love with Anna, Lime's old flame, but she walks right past him as the film ends.
This is a really good example of a film noir for a death that never really happened. Basically a man who used to know quite a close friend Harry Lime witnessed his coffin being taken away. He was reported to have been killed by enemies of his and he is quite devastated to find out. He is now trying to find reason for his death, then one night he sees him, he sees Harry Lime the excellent Orson Welles back from the dead. He sees him later again and Harry tells him that he needed to pretend he was dead to stop his enemies chasing him. But now Harry is in trouble with the police for some <more>
reason and there is a good sequence where he is being chased in the sewers. Also starring Bernard Lee as Sgt. Paine. Orson Welles was number 16 on 100 Years, 100 Stars - Men, and he was number 45 on The World's Greatest Actor, Harry Lime was number 37 on 100 Years, 100 Heroes & Villains, the film was number 75 on 100 Years, 100 Thrills, it was number 26 on The Ultimate Film, it was number 30 on The 50 Greatest British Films, it was number 57 on 100 Years, 100 Movies, and it was number 41 on The 100 Greatest Films. Very good!