HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
 
Newest Reviews
Nobody
Prisoners of the Ghostland
Duel to the Death
Mandibles
Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands
Yakuza Princess
Djinn, The
New Order
Triggered
Claw
Original Cast Album: Company
Martyrs Lane
Paper Tigers, The
Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, The
Hall
ParaPod: A Very British Ghost Hunt, The
Collini Case, The
Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard
Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch, The
Superhost
Plan A
When I'm a Moth
Tigers Are Not Afraid
Misha and the Wolves
Yellow Cat
Shorta
Knocking
Bloodthirsty
When the Screaming Starts
Sweetie, You Won't Believe It
Lions Love
Demonic
Night Drive
Luca
Prospect
Toll, The
Last Bus, The
Purple Sea
Pebble and the Boy, The
Mosquito State
   
 
Newest Articles
The Guns of Nutty Joan: Johnny Guitar on Blu-ray
Intercourse Between Two Worlds: Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me/The Missing Pieces on Blu-ray
Enjoy the Silents: Early Universal Vol. 1 on Blu-ray
Masterful: The Servant on Blu-ray
70s Sitcom Dads: Bless This House and Father Dear Father on Blu-ray
Going Under: Deep Cover on Blu-ray
Child's Play: Children's Film Foundation Bumper Box Vol. 3 on DVD
Poetry and Motion: Great Noises That Fill the Air on DVD
Too Much to Bear: Prophecy on Blu-ray
Truth Kills: Blow Out on Blu-ray
A Monument to All the Bullshit in the World: 1970s Disaster Movies
Take Care with Peanuts: Interview with Melissa Menta (SVP of Marketing)
Silent is Golden: Futtocks End... and Other Short Stories on Blu-ray
Winner on Losers: West 11 on Blu-ray
Freewheelin' - Bob Dylan: Odds and Ends on Digital
Never Sleep: The Night of the Hunter on Blu-ray
Sherlock vs Ripper: Murder by Decree on Blu-ray
That Ol' Black Magic: Encounter of the Spooky Kind on Blu-ray
She's Evil! She's Brilliant! Basic Instinct on Blu-ray
Hong Kong Dreamin': World of Wong Kar Wai on Blu-ray
Buckle Your Swash: The Devil-Ship Pirates on Blu-ray
Way of the Exploding Fist: One Armed Boxer on Blu-ray
A Lot of Growing Up to Do: Fast Times at Ridgemont High on Blu-ray
Oh My Godard: Masculin Feminin on Blu-ray
Let Us Play: Play for Today Volume 2 on Blu-ray
   
 
  Third Man, The
Year: 1949
Director: Carol Reed
Stars: Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, Trevor Howard, Ernst Deutsch, Siegfried Breuer, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Bernard Lee
Genre: Thriller, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  9 (from 5 votes)
Review: " I never knew the old Vienna before the war. With its Strauss music, its glamour and easy charm."

And so begins Carol Reed's The Third Man. Produced by Alexander Korda and David O. Selznick, with a wonderful screenplay written by Graham Greene, based on his own novel. The Third Man really begins and ends with a funeral, each followed by an emotional walk down a tree-lined avenue.

Pulp western writer Holly Martins (Cotten) arrives in Vienna with the promise of employment, courtesy of an old friend named Harry Lime (Welles). Shortly after arriving, Martins witnesses a burial ("A fellow called Lime."), and sets out to discover how his friend died. After several encounters with Harry's lover - Anna - (played by Alida Valli) and dogged cop Major Calloway (Howard), Martins learns of the circumstances behind Lime's death and the identities of two of the three men who carried him, barely alive, from a road accident. Who is the mysterious 'Third Man'?

Criterion's special edition DVD includes a videotaped introduction by Peter Bogdanovich who recalls a conversation with Welles who exclaimed; "Black and white is the actors friend. Name me a great performance in colour, I defy you!"After witnessing the truly sublime acting on view here, I know exactly what he meant. Practically everyone who has seen this film will mention Welles' name before any other cast members, and it has to be said that precious few actors have made such a lasting impression with such limited screen time. It's just past the hour mark before we clap eyes on Harry Lime, giving us ample time to savour some wonderful performances: Ernst Deutsch and Siegfried Breuer (playing Kurtz and Popescu - two of Limes' alleged body-carriers) representing two of Vienna's four 'league of nations' zones; Howard in fine form as Lime's determined pursuer, and Wilfred Hyde-White as the good-hearted socialite who unwittingly arranges a disasterous address by Martins to an audience of bookworms. The latter provides one of several humorous moments, but this is essentially a tragic tale of love, loss and regret with a question of morality values which affects cast and audience. Foremost amongst the excellent cast are Cotten and Alida Valli (known simply as 'Valli' in those days) who exhibit a chemistry that one rarely encounters in cinema. Cotten is terrific, torn between loyalty to his lifelong friend and a public duty to ensnare a shadowy figure who is responsible for the death and mental decay of young children. It's an award-worthy performance that is equalled, nay bettered, by Valli who makes full use of some of the best dialogue in a film brimming with more quotable lines than the entire works of one Q. Tarantino. Those familiar with Valli via Dario Argento and Mario Bava really should acqaint themselves with this film, and witness one of the most beautiful screen actresses at her absolute best.

And so, we move on to Orson Welles, who first appears after Anna's cat succeeds where the police have failed (a much better feline turn than the sorry moggy in Truffaut's La Nuite Americaine - reviewed elsewhere on this site). Lime's fear-stricken flight into the Venice sewers makes for a thrilling climax, but his best scene has to be that marvellous conversation with Martins on the Prater wheel: "Switzerland? Brotherly love, 500 years of democracy and peace and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock!" Welles delivers most of his priceless lines in a manner halfway between roguish and charming, but it's not enough to seduce most of us into hoping he evades the law. Even Martins takes a backward step when he learns his friend of long standing had diluted penicillin and sold it as a treatment for meningitis: make that two steps when Lime amplifies his reprehensible attitude towards human life during their penultimate encounter ("Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever?"). Lime's character was trumpeted as 'The ultimate anti-hero' in the original American trailer, but 'cold hearted bastard' is far nearer the mark: first-time viewers will be able to decide for themselves as they draw closer to seeing if Martins does co-operate with the police or sit back and let friendship hold sway over pure evil.

Criterion's DVD includes a section devoted to showing just a few of the 22,000 digital repairs which transformed a battered print into a sparkling version fit for the 50th anniversary re-release. Often, this sort of before-and-after comparison can be something of a sham (find the roughest looking version, etc) but Criterion really have done a fine job. Granted, this restored print does occasionally look less than pristine - inevitable, given its age - but this is the best looking home video version by a country mile and is guaranteed to delight everyone; particularly new admirers who will be stunned by Robert Krasker's brilliant photography.

The rest of the supplementary material provides plenty of icing on the cake: Graham Greene's original treatment (accompanying the film on a second audio track); 2 radio plays - 'A Twist To Tangiers', and 'Lux Radio Theatre Presents The Third Man' with Cotten joined by Evelyn Key; 2 rather disappointing theatrical trailers; production info and archival footage of Anton Karas performing his famous zither theme in a Vieannese cafe. There's also the alternate opening voiceover narration by Joseph Cotten - an interesting addition but Reed's original version wins hands down.

This really is a disc that does justice to a film that won the Palm D'or at Cannes and still appears near the top of critics' 'Best Films Of All Time' lists. "It wasn't the German gin", just an all-time classic getting the acclaim it deserves.

[A new 4K resolution Blu-ray has been released by Studio Canal, leaving the film looking the greatest it ever has for home viewing.]
Reviewer: Steve Langton

 

This review has been viewed 6732 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Darren Jones
Enoch Sneed
Andrew Pragasam
  Desbris M
  Paul Tuersley
  Chris Garbutt
  Sdfadf Rtfgsdf
   

 

Last Updated: