The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949)

30Jun10

Joseph Cotten (Holly Martins), Alida Valli (Anna Schmidt), Orson Welles (Harry Lime). Written by Graham Greene. Directed by Carol Reed. Rating: PG. Running time: 104 minutes.

One of the most highly acclaimed films of all time, The Third Man is a classic noir-thriller set on the dark streets of Vienna, telling the story of the mysterious ‘murder’ of Harry Lime, and his friend Holly Martins’ attempts to uncover the truth. Harry is understood to be involved quite deeply in racketing and the black market, and thus his death is of little worry to the local police officers, but when the eyewitness accounts start to contradict one another, Holly grows suspicious of the official story and sets out to work out what’s fishy and false. Cue a long exploration of the city with twists and turns, as Martins trades in his day job as an author to become to all intents and purposes a detective. The biggest shock of all comes when Lime himself appears in a darkened doorway, leading to a later face to face encounter with his old friend Martins, and the latter’s realisation that the former probably is as evil as the police claim he is: when they talk in the top carriage of a ferris wheel, Lime jokes in a Nietzschean fashion about the dispensability and pointlessness of most of the dot-people they can see down below. Martins sets Lime up for capture, leading to the most Hitchcockian part of the film. A stunning chase ensues through the Viennese sewers, signalling the finale of a wonderful 100 minutes. I can’t rate The Third Man as highly as everyone else seems to. It’s far from the greatest film I’ve ever seen. But it’s a robust thriller, nevertheless, and not one to be missed.

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One Response to “The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949)”


  1. 1 Shadow of a Doubt (Alfred Hitchcock, 1943) « jacob williamson | thoughts on film

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