Saturday, November 21, 2015

AFI Top 100, #57: "The Third Man" (1949)

Movie Stats:
Released 1949 (UK)
British, in English (lots of German, much of it non-translated, and a little Russian, non-translated)
Director - Carol Reed
Stars - Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, Trevor Howard

Plot Summary:
When down-on-his-luck pulp writer Holly Martins (Cotten) is offered a job in post-WWII Vienna by his long-time friend Harry Lime (Welles), he arrives to find Lime dead and himself embroiled in a mystery. Valli co-stars as Lime’s lover, Anna Schmidt, and Howard as Major Calloway, a police commander in the British sector of Vienna (Austria was occupied by Allied forces for 10 years after the war).

Non-graphic violence (very minor).

Bad Stuff:
In the beginning, I thought Martins was a lot to take. He spent a lot of time running around, acting like a loud, blustery American. It was annoying. (Luckily he got better.)

While I enjoyed the zither music that made up the majority of the soundtrack, it didn’t match the tenor of the film. The music is upbeat, chipper, and playful. The movie is not.

The action sequences are laughably terrible, but that’s rather typical for the time period.

Good Stuff:
I loved Major Calloway. He was so very, very British. His dry sense of humor, and witty put-downs, made me laugh every single time.

I thought it made some fairly profound observations on human relationships, in particular: just because someone you love has done something terrible, that doesn’t mean that you stop loving them. I enjoyed watching Martins struggle with his feelings.

Some scenes are incredibly well done, almost perfect. In particular, whenever [SPOILER] Martins and Lime [SPOILER] were on-screen together, it was electric.

The Verdict:
I figured out the mystery pretty early, but I’m not sure if that’s because it was obvious, because I was astute, or because I may have, at some point, heard someone blab the truth. It’s probably #3. Honestly, it’s hard to stay spoiler-free about a movie when it’s 66 years old. Anyway, because I figured it out early, it was difficult for me to really get into the mystery aspect, but there was still a lot that I enjoyed about it. The performances were all-around pretty good. The story was fairly solid (although, given the resolution of the mystery, I’m not sure why Lime invited Martins to Vienna to begin with). I liked the exploration of relationships, and I especially liked that it didn’t “go there” when it came to an obvious chance for romance.

I give it 4 stars.


Patricia said...

I have not seen this movie, and it's not even on my radar.

balyien said...

On one forum I frequent, people refer to this movie a lot as a favorite, so it's been on my mental list to watch eventually. It was nice to finally get around to it. Don't think I've ever seen an Orson Welles film before.