Review: The Third Man (1949)


Orson Welles is your daddy and don’t you ever forget that!

Screenplay By: Graham Greene, Carol Reed & Orson Welles
Directed By: Carol Reed

There is a preeminent theory that when reviewing movies the reviewer must show restraint and write a review of the highest order. The theory is that movies are high art and need to be treated as such. I say phooey to that theory. I can and do give movies the highest and utmost respect when they are deserving and am intelligently scathing of them when they are deserving of that treatment. But, there comes a time when a movie needs to be labeled and addressed simply, or an actor’s performance needs to be explained in hyperbole. Movies are fun, reviewing them should be fun as well, and that is why I feel the need to tell you that The Third Man was awesome and Orson Welles, as Harry Lime, owns your fucking soul. Yeah, I just swore, get over it. This is my blog, not a newspaper, so deal with the language people. Back to Orson Welles and why he would have sex with your wife while you watched and you would cheer him on while holding pom-poms. He is barely in The Third Man, yet he steals every scene he is in and drops dime store philosophy on your head and you believe every second of it. I mean, dude starts talking about cuckoo clocks and Leonardo da Vinci and you’re all “Oh, I so want to sex you right up now, Mr. Welles.” Now, this is from a heterosexual so I can only imagine how the homosexual crowd responded to his sheer awesomeness.

Now that my gregarious Orson Welles love fest has ended, we will get on with the rest of The Third Man and why it is the second best noir film I’ve ever seen (I’d only rate Sunset Blvd. higher.) To go along with Mr. Welles’ tremendous performance you have the perfectly weak willed lead of Joseph Cotten as Holly Martins. He isn’t a strong man and that is what allows for him to be tossed to and fro by everyone he meets in a land that is far beyond his ability to comprehend. Contrasting his meekness is the strong closed off character of Anna as portrayed by Alida Valli. She only loves Harry and she will only ever love Harry, but her European world weariness is not something that Holly is ready to deal with nor will he ever understand it. The rest of the cast is populated by a great group of actors that melt into their roles and provide it with the real world flavor that all great noirs must have.

The best part of The Third Man may in fact be its brilliant look and cinematography as well as the excellent choice of filming all the scenes a little bit off kilter. The bombed out ruins of Vienna serve as a great reminder of what has come before, and how we as Americans can’t really ever understand the war on the same level as the Europeans. Those ruins also provide the perfect backdrop for a society that has become so corrupt that it doesn’t even realize how corrupt it is. All of this is framed in brilliant fashion with angle after angle being just a little bit out of frame or focus. We see every scene on an angle, because this world is out of whack with our own and we must know that. There’s also a lovely bit of claustrophobia in the sewers to mirror the walls closing in on Harry.

The Third Man is suspense to the fullest, a movie full of characters we love, guys we root for, dames we want and a villain that we love and admire despite his dastardly nature. If you are thinking about taking a dive into Orson Welles as an actor or noirs as a film genre then The Third Man needs to be a film that you include in your choices. Heck, like I said, it’s an awesome movie and needs to be seen by everyone, just like any awesome movie should be!



Bill Thompson

4 responses to “Review: The Third Man (1949)

  1. Pingback: Man, I Love Films – LAMBCAST #76: THE THIRD MAN

  2. Pingback: This Week In Cinema: April 29-May 05, 2012 | Bill's Movie Emporium

  3. Pingback: Postulating & Pontificating: Top 5 Male Performances, 1940s Style! | Bill's Movie Emporium

  4. Pingback: The Large Association of Movie Blogs | Movie of the Month/LAMBcast #76: The Third Man

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