The Third Man (1949) 4.79/5 (2)


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Rating: The Good – 87.8
Genre: Film-Noir
Duration: 93 mins
Director: Carol Reed
Stars: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli

Carol Reed may be credited with the direction of this noir masterpiece but Orson Welles’ fingerprints are all over it. Joseph Cotten stars as the American writer who arrives in post-war Vienna to stay with a friend only to learn he’s been killed in an apparent accident. The more he learns however the more he suspects foul play but his investigations soon get him into trouble with the mismatch of British, American, Russian, and French law enforcement. It’s a thrilling story that zips along and thanks to the unorthodox camera angles and sublime use of shadow the viewer is kept in a state of disorientation that mirrors Cotten’s state of mind. The final act involves some of the most seminal photography in film history as that most riveting of chases through the sewers of the city unfolds. Full of wit and intrigue, Graham Greene’s script is the equal of the Reed’s direction and with the arrival of the Welles’ character, it enters into a league of its own. That combined with the seminal direction ensures that The Third Man is rightly remembered as one of the very best films noir.

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4 thoughts on “The Third Man (1949)”

  1. Harry Lime in The Third Man has the best entrance of a character in any film. He permeates the entire movie because even when he’s not on screen, someone’s talking about him. It’s utterly impossible for me to believe that Orson Welles didn’t at least contribute to the direction. You’re right. It has Welles’ mitts all over it. So good!!

    1. Hi Kerry, yes that’s a very good point. Lime is the focal point so we’re waiting for him all through the movie even though we don’t know it. I can’t remember at time when I wasn’t aware of the plot “twist” which sends him back into the fold but I’d love to know I reacted because as you said that entry is phenomenal. I guess I must have known from word of mouth that he returns.

      I have to believe Welles was heavily involved in that shoot. I will say that directors who work with him tend to pick up a few tricks as is evident in Wise ‘s tracking shot in The Set-Up but The Third Man is quintessentially Wellsian. From the lighting to the overlapping dialogue to the fearless camera movement. Not buying Carol as the main man at all.

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