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The Third Man (1949)

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Pulp novelist Holly Martins travels to shadowy, postwar Vienna, only to find himself investigating the mysterious death of an old friend, Harry Lime.

Director:

Carol Reed

Writers:

Graham Greene (by), Graham Greene (screen play)
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2,809 ( 744)
Top Rated Movies #135 | Won 1 Oscar. Another 4 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Joseph Cotten ... Holly Martins
Alida Valli ... Anna Schmidt (as Valli)
Orson Welles ... Harry Lime
Trevor Howard ... Maj. Calloway
Bernard Lee ... Sgt. Paine
Paul Hörbiger ... Karl - Harry's Porter (as Paul Hoerbiger)
Ernst Deutsch Ernst Deutsch ... 'Baron' Kurtz
Siegfried Breuer ... Popescu
Erich Ponto ... Dr. Winkel
Wilfrid Hyde-White ... Crabbin
Hedwig Bleibtreu ... Anna's Old Landlady
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Storyline

An out of work pulp fiction novelist, Holly Martins, arrives in a post war Vienna divided into sectors by the victorious allies, and where a shortage of supplies has led to a flourishing black market. He arrives at the invitation of an ex-school friend, Harry Lime, who has offered him a job, only to discover that Lime has recently died in a peculiar traffic accident. From talking to Lime's friends and associates Martins soon notices that some of the stories are inconsistent, and determines to discover what really happened to Harry Lime. Written by Mark Thompson <mrt@oasis.icl.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

You've never met anyone like him! (from reissue print ad) See more »


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English | German | Russian

Release Date:

12 October 1949 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

The 3rd Man See more »

Filming Locations:

Austria See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend:

£17,856 (United Kingdom), 18 July 1999, Limited Release

Opening Weekend USA:

$13,576, 9 May 1999, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$449,191, 31 December 2015
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Joseph Cotten re-created his role in the Lux Radio production of "The Third Man" with Evelyn Keyes playing Alida Valli's role. Orson Welles was not in this radio play. See more »

Goofs

Upon arriving in Vienna, Martins says that he will be staying with Lime at Stiftgasse 15, which is in the Josefstadt section of the city. Lime's apartment, though, is located at Josefplatz 5 in the city's central district, directly across the street from the statue of Emperor Joseph II and about a mile away from Stiftgasse 15. See more »

Quotes

British MP: I'm sorry, Miss, it's orders. We can't go against the protocol.
Anna Schmidt: I don't even know what protocol means.
British MP: Neither do I, Miss.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: V I E N N A See more »

Alternate Versions

The UK version features introductory voice-over by the director Carol Reed; in the US version Joseph Cotten provides the voice-over, as his character Holly Martins. The UK version runs 104 minutes, versus the US version at 93 minutes, which was cut by producer David O. Selznick to give the film a tighter pace. Both versions have been released on video in the U.S., but as of today the most common is the longer British cut. A video comparison between the narrations appears on the U.S. Criterion Collection DVD. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Castle: The Third Man (2010) See more »

Soundtracks

Managua, Nicaragua
(1946) (uncredited)
Music by Irving Fields
Lyrics by Albert Gamse
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
That Terrific B&W Cinematography
20 June 2009 | by LechuguillaSee all my reviews

In a bombed-out Vienna just after WWII, novelist Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) arrives from America to renew a friendship with his childhood buddy, Harry Lime (Orson Welles). Much to the dismay of Holly, a freak auto accident has recently killed his friend, according to those who knew Harry.

But in searching for details of Lime's death, Holly gets contradictory stories that don't add up. One of the persons who knew Lime is an attractive woman named Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli) whose continued presence in the story invites suspicion. The film's plot has Holly searching for the truth about his friend, while trying to stave off a city detective, Major Calloway (Trevor Howard) who tries to persuade Holly to leave Vienna.

The film's story is okay. But what makes "The Third Man" really interesting is the B&W cinematography, by Robert Krasker. Unlike most films, camera movement here is restricted, so as to draw attention to each frame's geometry. Typically in this film, a frame is tilted at an angle so that both vertical and horizontal points of reference are off-kilter. Frame images thus become a series of diagonal straight lines and curves. Further, very high-contrast lighting, especially in outdoor scenes at night, creates a bizarre, almost nightmarish look and feel, and are suggestive of German Expressionism.

All of which results in a visual disorientation for viewers that parallels Holly's disorientation both in the streets of Vienna and in his understanding of the circumstances surrounding Lime's absence. In most outdoor scenes there's a conspicuous lack of crowds, a lack of hubbub one would expect in a bustling city. Instead, only a few secondary characters appear in night scenes. This sparseness in characters on the streets conveys the impression that hidden eyes are watching Holly, ready to pounce at any moment from out of dark shadows.

"Everybody ought to (be) careful in a city like this", says one character to Holly, as an implied threat. Soon, a man who wants to give Holly some valuable information is murdered.

The script's dialogue is quite impressive, with some interesting lines and points of view. Some of the dialogue is in German, which enhances authenticity.

The film's acting and editing are very, very good. Adding a slightly romantic, and at times melancholy, tone to this dark film is the music of the "zither", an instrument similar to a guitar, but sounding quite different.

My one complaint about this film is that it's hard to keep tabs on some of the background characters. Trying to connect names with faces can be difficult, resulting in some confusion.

"The Third Man" tells an interestingly bleak story, set in a bleak, desolate urban environment, rendered truly mesmerizing by the creatively surreal B&W cinematography.


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