Director: Carol Reed
Running Time: 104 mins
Release Date: July 20th 2015 (UK)
As you might have guessed, a lot of my friends are film fans. However, I was genuinely surprised how few of them had seen The Third Man. Everyone had heard of it, knew Orson Welles was in it and quite a few knew cuckoo clocks were involved somehow, but hardly any had seen it all the way through.
That’s a shame, as it’s a great film. The wonderful Joseph Cotten (who should be considered one of the screen’s greatest actors but normally gets overlooked) plays pulp novelist Holly Martins, who arrives in Vienna to start a new job that’s been offered to him by his old friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles). He finds a city that in the post-war era is still in crisis and where the black market is flourishing.
Holly is shocked to hear that Harry was recently killed in a traffic accident, but as he talks to more and more people, he starts to realise that something funny is going on. He determines to figure out what really happened to Harry, heading into the darker parts of a fractured Vienna to do so. However, perhaps more important than Harry’s fate is who he really was – devil or angel?
While American film noir was largely created by European transplants such as Bill Wilder and Fritz Lang, The Third Man was a largely British production that looked at many of the same themes but from a slightly different perspective, of a nation that had lived through the direct effects of war on the populace. It’s entertaining and surprisingly impish, with Cotten on fine form in the somewhat thankless role of Holly Martin. Although the film is often remembered for Orson Welles short, scenery-chewing turn as Harry Lime, it’s actually Cotten who holds the whole thing together.
The movie is full of great moments and memorable scenes, has a great, shadow-filled visual style and uses sound in a wonderful way, from the famed zither-music score to the use of things such as footsteps. While it’s always looked and sounded good, that side of the movie is really brought out in this new restoration. The whole movie has recently been remastered in 4K, but even when downscaled to 1080p HD, the results are great, really bringing out the depths of its shadows and how it uses dark and light to create a wonderfully mysterious atmosphere.
There has never been an excuse for my friends not to have seen the film – the fact it so often appears in lists of the greatest movies of all time should have been enough for them to give it a chance– and now they have even less of an excuse. It really is a wonderfully movie, and unlike many older movies it feels surprisingly modern. The Third Man retains its intrigue and suspense while never forgetting to be entertaining.
It also doesn’t hurt that the new Blu-ray edition includes loads of good special features.
Overall Verdict: The Third Man truly is a great movie – one of Britain’s best – which is looking excellent in this newly restored HD edition.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac
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