47 Years of Student Run Cinema
Student Film Society of the Year 2002, 2005, 2006
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Carol Reed, UK, 1949, 104 minutes
Sometimes movies manage to have everyone involved working at the peak of their abilities, and The Third Man is one of these times. From a story by Graham Greene and producer Alexander Korda, The Third Man is Carol Reed's finest film, and sees pulp novelist Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton) arrive in post-war Vienna to work for his old friend Harry Lime. When he gets to Lime's apartment, however, he finds that his friend has been killed in a car accident. At the funeral he meets a British policeman, who seems less than sorry to see Lime dead, branding him a racketeer. Martins is outraged at this slander, and decides to investigate exactly what happened. He enlists the help of Lime's lover Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli) in tracking down those that saw the accident. This quickly leads him to a search for the 'third man' which one witness said was seen carrying Lime to the side of the road after the crash. However, Lime's two friends who were at the crash deny that this third man ever existed...
Vienna has never looked as good as it does in The Third Man. Much of the movie takes place at night, and the way the city has been captured by cinematographer Robert Krasker makes it as much of a star of the film as any of the actors. The damp cobbled streets glisten and are joined by inky black shadows that leave you wondering why they don't make movies in black-and-white any more, as it can look so good.
A final memorable touch to the film is the infectiously catch score: written and preformed by Anton Karas using that little known instrument the zither, the theme will have itself lodged in your head as you leave the cinema.
Review by Jonathan Caryl
Written for EUFS Programme Spring 2001
One of the most eye-catching features of this film is the appearance of a moon-faced Orson Welles as the elusive eponymous hero of Harry Lime. However; since his screen time actually amounts to only 17 minutes, it is evidently more than this factor which makes The Third Man the masterwork it is.
One should look then, at Anton Karas's instantly recognisable 'Harry Lime Theme' zither score; Graham Greene's unsurprisingly slick and glossy script from his own novel; Alexander Korda's production, and his younger brother Vincent's experienced role as art director; Robert Krasker's idiosyncratic skewed camerawork; and Carol Reed's skill in successfully putting these elements together.
The setting is divided post-war Vienna, damaged and crumbling by day; by night, shadowy and wet (the cobbled streets were repeatedly hosed down during filming). Small-time American author Holly Martins goes to Vienna to take up a job from a friend, but is shocked to find that he has been killed in a car accident. Martins suspects foul play and sets out to discover the identity of the 'third man', the third mysterious witness of the incident, and the person whom Martins hopes can reveal the true story.
Reed's film is an examination of evil, with Martins as a Marlowe-like investigator travelling towards a confrontaton with Welles' Kurtzian Lime. The ending is one of the greatest put-downs in movie history. The Third Man is quite simply superb.
Taken from EUFS Programme 1994-95