The Third Man- A must watch movie from Carol Reed.

“Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, and The Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

Harry Lime

The Third Man is a movie directed by Carol Reed. The movie was adapted from the novel written by Graham Greene which goes by the same name.

The movie is set in the post war Vienna which is divided in four zones and controlled by the allied forces, Russia, Britain, France & America.

Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) a pulp writer reaches Vienna on the invitation of his friend Harry Lime (OrsonWelles). On his arrival, Martins was told that Lime was killed in a road accident a short while ago.

Martins grew suspicious about the death since the eye witnesses gave different account of the incident. He take it upon himself to find out the truth even though that means an altercation with some people who claim to be Harry Lime’s friends and the British officer Calloway, played by Trevor Howard.

During the course of his investigation Martins meets with the lover of Lime, Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli), his accomplices Kurtz, Doctor Winkel and Popescu. Martins investigation unravels the truth which leads to a stunning and unexpected revelation.

The script written by Green is fantastic and has some memorable lines. The director has total control of the movie. Carrol Reed manages to capture the post war world perfectly. The cinematography by Robert Krasker is worth mentioning which took the film to another level. Some of the shots like the chase in the sewer will remain etched in your memory.

The music by Anton Karas, played on a Zither, is fantastic and adds to the beauty of the movie. It is an integral part to the movie and enhances the emotions of many scenes. in fact the “Third man Theme” went on to become one of the biggest hits of that era and still holds its sway on cinephiles.

Courtesy: You Tube

The last scene in the movie goes down as one of the best final shot in the annals of movie history. After the funeral Anna leaves the cemetery. Martins drives past her. Calloway reminds him that they have to hurry to catch the flight. But he cannot resist the urge to meet her. He asks Calloway to stop the jeep. He gets down and wait for her. It is a long shot now. It is winter and you can see trees which shed leaves lined up on both sides of the road. You can see the leaves still falling. The haunting Zither plays on…..Anna keeps walking. Miller awaits in anticipation. But she strides past ignoring him. Martins lights a cigarette and throws away the match in despair. Truly magnificent, indeed.

On the acting department, Joseph cotten shines as Holly Martins. He does not go overboard and essays a controlled performance. Orson welles, who is the central character, appears only in a few scenes but leaves an impression. The critics tout it as one of the best performances ever on celluloid, particularly his entry scene. But I prefer to give the credit to the director for envisaging and executing that scene to perfection. My only grudge is that the faces of the victims of contaminated Penicillin were never shown and that scene in the hospital was shot from the point of view of Martins. If their faces were shown it would have made a major impact on the viewers. Besides this Orson welles has the best lines in the movie, one about cuckoo clock (purportedly written by Welles himself) and another about “dots” which enhanced his performance.

But for me it is Alida Valli’s performance, although unsung, which has stood out. She is suave, stubborn, brittle all rolled into one. You can see the spark between Martins and Anna, but at the end she remained loyal to her love, Harry. It was not an easy role to perform, but she managed to pull it off.

The literary genius of Graham Greene has contributed much to the success of the movie, but you can see the stamp of a brilliant director all over the movie. It was Carol Reed who decided to change the climax scene as against the happy ending in the novel and it turned out to be a master stroke. The zither music which was a game changer was also Reed’s idea. All in all we have got a movie to cherish forever.

Just enjoy watching the movie!.

Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever?” he asks. “If I offered you 20,000 pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare? Free of income tax, old man. Free of income tax: the only way you can save money nowadays.”

Harry Lime


Date of Release: 01.09.1949 (UK)/02.02.1950(USA)