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This classic noir mystery, from the team of Carol Reed and Graham Greene, is generally considered to be the best filmwork of both of these estimable talents. THE THIRD MAN features Joseph Cotten as Holly Martins, a pulp novelist who has come to post-WWII Vienna with the promise of work from his friend, Harry Lime (Orson Welles). When he finds that Lime has just been killed in a questionable car accident, he decides to remain in the city to investigate his friend's demise.

There have been few better movies in the history of the planet thanThe Third Man, and fewer still as brilliantly directed from second to second. Orson Welles played the title role, and his legend has tended to engulf the film. But it was directed by Carol Reed and written--except for a Wellesian riff on the Borgias--by Graham Greene, and the credit for this masterpiece is properly theirs. Theirs and Joseph Cotten's; for awesome as Welles is, hisCitizen Kanesecond banana is onscreen about six times as much, and Cotten uses every minute to create one of the most distinctive--if also forlorn--of modern heroes.

You know the story. Holly Martins (Cotten), a writer of pulp Westerns and one of life's congenital third-raters, arrives in post-WWII Vienna only to learn that his old pal Harry Lime, the guy who sent him his plane ticket, is being buried. Everybody, from a cynical British cop named Calloway (Trevor Howard) to Harry's Continental knockout of a girlfriend (AlidaValli) and his sundry absurd/Euro-sinister business associates, feels that Holly should get on another plane and go home. He doesn't. Things come to light. Other deaths follow. The world lies in utter ruin.

The Third Man completed a sublime hat trick--an international critical and popular smash following upon the success of Reed's Odd Man Out ('47) and The Fallen Idol ('48). Although other filmmakers had begun to use war-ravaged Europe as a great movie set, The Third Man is so vivid in its canny mix of gray semidocumentary and insanely angular, Expressionist/Surrealist chiaroscuro that it seems to have imagined not only the postwar thriller but also postwar Europe itself singlehandedly.

What great movie moments: The throwaway details like a mourner who forgets to drop his wreath on a newly dug grave. The sly editing whereby thick-headed Sergeant Paine (Bernard Lee, once and future "M" to 007) goes on leafing through a magazine, knowing just the moment he must rise and subdue the nervy Yank who would take a punch at his boss. The way Anton Karas's legendary zither score seems to jangle in the very guy-lines of a bridge where, far below Robert Krasker's Oscar-winning camera, the Third Man calls a war council. The shadow of a dead man towering, big as Europe, over the nighttime streets of Vienna. --Richard T. Jameson

Stills from The Third Man (Click for larger image)

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CastTrevor Howard, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Orson Welles, Alida Valli, Joseph Cotten, Bernard Lee, Ernst Deutsch, Siegfried Breuer, Paul Hörbiger, Erich Ponto
DirectorCarol Reed
Genre:  Film-Noir, Mystery, Thriller
Release Date:  31 August 1949 (UK)
Screen WriterGraham Greene
DVD Release Date:  November 16, 1999
Runtime:  104 min
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review by . August 24, 2010
One of the great film-noir movies of all time!!!
Carol Reed’s 1949 film-noir “The Third Man” is Reed’s greatest work, and probably Orson Welle’s second greatest acting role of his career!  This is not an idle boast considering this movie is considered the greatest British made film of all time by the British Film institute, (#57 on AFI’s top 100).  By the way, Welle’s has the unique distinction of also acting in the #1 movie on the American Film Institute list, “Citizen Kane”!!!   …
Quick Tip by . August 29, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Caption
Carol Reed’s 1949 film-noir “The Third Man” is Reed’s greatest work, and probably Orson Welle’s second greatest acting role of his career!  This is not an idle boast considering this movie is considered the greatest British made film of all time by the British Film institute, (#57 on AFI’s top 100).  By the way, Welle’s has the unique distinction of also acting in the #1 movie on the American Film Institute list, “Citizen Kane”!!!   …
Quick Tip by . October 30, 2009
Amazing cinematography and soundtrack, great acting. As dark as it gets!!
review by . February 13, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Orson Welles makes an impression!     Cons: Can be tough to follow     The Bottom Line: Cuckoo! Cuckoo!     One of the great tragedies of cinematic history is that Orson Welles really didn't capitalize on the potential he showed with Citizen Kane. He made a couple more noteworthy movies like The Third Man and Touch of Evil, but mostly his career just faded out to the point where he was voicing commercials during his later years to …
review by . September 21, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Ah, what an excellent, entertaining little film this is! I'd heard of it, off and on, throughout the years, but never seen it until I had the joy of getting the Criterion Edition of the film, so I come to it as fairly recent first-time viewer.    The movie's plot, as you know, centers around an American writer, Holly Martens, who goes to post-War Vienna to work for a friend named Harry Lime. When he gets there, he finds that Lime has met an untidy end, one that gets more and …
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