The Third Man (1949)

Not Rated   |    |  Film-Noir, Mystery, Thriller


The Third Man (1949) Poster

Pulp novelist Holly Martins travels to shadowy, postwar Vienna, only to find himself investigating the mysterious death of an old friend, Harry Lime.

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8.2/10
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  • Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten in The Third Man (1949)
  • "Thrid Man, The" Orson Welles 1949 Selznick Releasing Organization **I.V.
  • Orson Welles in The Third Man (1949)
  • Joseph Cotten in The Third Man (1949)
  • Orson Welles in The Third Man (1949)
  • Orson Welles and Carol Reed in The Third Man (1949)

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Reviews & Commentary

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User Reviews


26 June 1999 | mmt02
10
| A movie ahead of its time
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 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.

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Did You Know?

Trivia

Graham Greene referred to the film as a "comedy thriller".


Quotes

Martins: I guess nobody really knew Harry like he did... like I did.
Calloway: How long ago ?
Martins: Back in school. I was never so lonesome in my life until he showed up.
Calloway: When did you see him last ?
Martins: September, '39.
Calloway: When the business started ?
Martins: Um, hmm.
Calloway: See much of him before...


Goofs

In two instances, shadows caused by back lighting don't match the scene. When the little boy is following Holly and Anna you see his shadow on the wall, and then it is on the street simultaneously when he rounds the corner. The shadows are made by two separate persons. Later, when the old balloon man appears, you see his shadow on the buildings, but the shadow shows no balloons. However, when the old man appears from around the corner his balloons show definite shadows on the pavement.


Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: V I E N N A


Alternate Versions

The UK version features introductory voice-over by the director Carol Reed; in the US version Joseph Cotten provides the voice-over, as his character Holly Martins. The UK version runs 104 minutes, versus the US version at 93 minutes, which was cut by producer David O. Selznick to give the film a tighter pace. Both versions have been released on video in the U.S., but as of today the most common is the longer British cut. A video comparison between the narrations appears on the U.S. Criterion Collection DVD.


Soundtracks

Managua, Nicaragua
(1946) (uncredited)
Music by
Irving Fields
Lyrics by Albert Gamse

Storyline

Plot Summary


Synopsis (WARNING: Spoilers)


Genres

Film-Noir | Mystery | Thriller

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