The Third Man (1949): Sublime

The Third Man (1949)

A not-too-smart hack novelist, Holly Martins, blunders onto the streets and dives of post-war Vienna to solve the riddle of how his shady friend, Harry Lime, died…

The Third Man ranks up there with Citizen Kane, Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, and The Grapes of Wrath as one the great English-speaking films: a multi-faceted jewel of a picture.

From the innovative opening credits, introduced by the haunting zither rendition by Anton Karas of the movie’s theme, you are hooked.

With great performances from Joseph Cotton, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, and Trevor Howard, with a strong supporting cast in an adaptation by Graham Greene of his own novel, director Carol Reed and cinematographer Robert Krasker together define a dark and intriguing filmic universe that renders the city of Vienna as important as the the story which is played out on its streets and below.

The strength of the story is more than the engaging cavalcade of characters in a true human comedy, but the deep analysis of love and friendship, and the imperatives of conscience. Is loyalty out of passion stronger and more genuine than the loyalty of friendship, where the object of affection is amoral and commits despicable acts?

The following kaleidoscope of frames from the film convey the film’s atmosphere:

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  1. Hard-Boiled Dick

    This movie is pitched black. Noir does not get much better than The Third Man. Thank you Mr. Graham Greene, Mr. Carol Reed, Mr. Orson Welles, and Mr. Trevor Howard. And thank you UFA for teaching directors and cinema-photographers the wonderful world of dark shadows. You’ve made my day.

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