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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 16.95%
Average: 1.69%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 3.39%

4 reviews, 35 user ratings

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Third Man, The
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Greg Muskewitz

5 stars

Hardboiled amateur detective case set in Vienna, picking up almost as quickly as the hack writer protagonist (“The Lone Rider of Santa Fe,” “Oklahoma Kid”) arrives in town to meet his buddy; too late for that, but just in enough time to attend his funeral.

As far as the international police (collectively Austrian, British, Russian and French) are concerned, it was an accident; but a porter’s account is enough to cause the writer to stir up the truth. Carol Reed’s film is richly textured in intrigue, suspense, and an authentic worldliness unexpected for something of its time. The details and set-up get the film up and going on concrete support, much unlike the stuff Joseph Cotton’s character would write, but on a scale that could so easily fall prey to the stylings of a potboiler. For one thing, The Third Man deals in discretions as a thematic device — not alone conducted by the vices of the characters and in their actions, but similarly through the mechanics of the plot. Reed, knowing that the film benefits from its unexpected developments, is able to keep the secrets, secret. That may mean, for example, that after the porter calls out to the writer for him to return in the evening to get more details when his own wife is gone, as he turns around certain to meet his death, Reed keeps the camera steady on his shocked face, allowing the audience’s panic to be emphasized by abstaining both from the on-screen appearance of the murderer and the absence of a death. (Another great set of scenes bookending the death of the porter has Cotton threatening him in order to get more information as a young Austrian boy searches for his ball, followed by the boy’s taunting songs towards the unsuspecting Cotton, who looks on in the crowd of Austrian bystanders, not understanding a word of it.) The direction remains swift throughout, stylized with Wellesian camera tilts, a suspenseful Ferris wheel ride and an adventurous chase in the un-zoned sewers. Granted, the film is more than half-a-century old and its secrets are well-known, but even with the foreknowledge of Orson Welles’ casting (and despite the search for the rumored third man in presence of the writer’s dead/murdered friend), one is never sure how and when it will come into play, and once it does, his performance (however brief) adds another whole dimension to the film. With Valli, Trevor Howard, Paul Hoerbiger and Ernst Deutsch.

[Ne plus ultra.]

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 12/21/03 10:49:54
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User Comments

5/27/18 Suzanne Effective look at postwar Europe and its survivors 4 stars
3/11/15 stanley welles an incredibly effective mood piece 5 stars
2/19/15 juno bastian top 50?????? no just no 1 stars
2/15/15 filmiw23 is this great movie? 1 stars
2/20/14 Charles Tatum A classic, but it's just so damn WEIRD! 4 stars
6/07/11 Silkworm Stunningly artistic groundbreaking genius 5 stars
9/06/10 Josie Cotton is a goddess Something evey fan of noir should see! 5 stars
6/01/10 User Name Orson Welles steals every shot he's in. 5 stars
1/13/10 Dr.Lao First rate thriller, but what the heck is with that silly zither music?!? 4 stars
1/26/08 proper amateur film critic brilliant mix of political thriller, wierd romance, gothic mystery and B&W romantic agony 5 stars
7/18/07 LsA one of the best ever examples of film noir, with incredible atmosphere and Orson Welles tow 5 stars
12/28/06 Agent Sands Not so much playing the film noir tune but using the same chords. 4 stars
12/17/06 Denise Post war film noir at its best! 5 stars
10/18/05 Terry Can't stop watching it. I have directors edition. 5 stars
9/22/05 Fritz One of my favorite movies. The zither is awesome too. 5 stars
9/08/05 paki_munda fantastic 5 stars
9/08/05 Anal Rampagr Monster Zither music is totally inappropriate, but otherwise interesting and moody. 4 stars
4/15/05 craig varney loved the suspense 5 stars
4/10/05 Vince One of the best ever 5 stars
11/25/04 Tony Excellent. 5 stars
10/13/04 E. A. Miller Wonderful symbolism, intended or not! 4 stars
9/09/04 Granta Interesting 4 stars
6/08/04 Dan Switzerland comment best quote ever in film 5 stars
11/28/03 john a master piece - involving and intense - the zither score is brilliant! 5 stars
8/12/03 Pinkline Jones I keep falling asleep five minutes into the film 3 stars
4/11/03 Jack Bourbon Lives up to its reputation of greatness. 5 stars
2/19/03 Terry Dean Best movie that I have seen 5 stars
1/26/02 Andrew Carden It Wasn't Good At Some Points, but It Was A Good Movie Overall. 4 stars
11/02/01 R.W. Welch Plot line has a couple weak spots, but several memorable scenes. 4 stars
5/21/01 Monster W. Kung Far from being better than Kane it's still a good thriller with exceptional cinematography. 4 stars
4/21/01 viking An intelligent thriller. I want to see it again !!! 5 stars
4/12/01 Blind Wojtek Untimate film noir; Maxi-atmospheric; Fabulous acting; totally memorable and re-watchable. 5 stars
3/28/01 Jesse L Sound track makes it. Great cinematography. 5 stars
3/20/01 Roger the Shrubber It may seem dated now, but its unconventional style makes this a noir classic. Very good. 5 stars
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  02-Feb-1950 (NR)
  DVD: 22-May-2007

  31-Aug-1949 (PG)

  N/A (PG)

Directed by
  Carol Reed

Written by
  Graham Greene

  Joseph Cotton
  Orson Welles
  Trevor Howard
  Alida Valli
  Bernard Lee
  Wilfrid Hyde-White

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