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 led 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. Written by
Mark Thompson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In the AFI book "Private Screenings" critic Roger Ebert cited this as his favourite film. He later listed it in his piece "Ten Greatest Films of All Time". See more »
When Holly Martins first encounters Harry Lime across the street in a darkened doorway, he doesn't know who it is and he yells out, "What kind of a spy do you think you are satchel foot?" When he says this line, you can clearly see that he is not saying anything at all. See more »
I was going to stay with him, but he died Thursday.
Goodness, that's awkward.
Is that what you say to people after death? "Goodness, that's awkward"?
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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: odd 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.
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