The Third Man

The Third Man

United Kingdom, 1949, 104 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Archival, Based on a Book, Film Noir, Foreign
Language: English

Archival 35mm presentation - “In Switzerland they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace. And what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.” In rubble-strewn postwar Vienna, its occupation divided among four powers, Joseph Cotten’s pulp Western writer Holly Martins arrives to meet up with his old friend Harry Lime only to find that he’s dead — or is he? And as the supremely naive Cotten, a monoglot stranger in a strange land, descends through the levels of deception, and as he discovers his own friend’s corruption, the moral choices loom. With its Vienna locations, including the gigantic Prater ferris wheel and the dripping sewers, shot over a five-week period of double shifts (8PM to 5AM, then 10AM to 4PM), this is a triumph of atmosphere, with its tilted camera angles (“to suggest that something crooked was going on” – Reed), its Robert Krasker-shot shadows, and Anton Karas’s unforgettable zither theme. And with its stars in perhaps their most iconic roles: bereted Trevor Howard at his most Britishly military; Alida Valli, after her unsuccessful Hollywood period (Hitchcock’s The Paradine Case), here truly enigmatic and Garboesque; and Welles’s Harry Lime arriving in one of the greatest star entrances ever, and adding the famous “cuckoo clock” speech to Graham Greene’s original script. With the whole topped by its legendary, almost endlessly drawn-out final shot, imposed by Reed over Greene’s original objections.

DIRECTOR: Carol Reed
Screenwriter: Graham Greene
US Distributor: Rialto Pictures

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