Carol Reed

Sog., Scen.: Graham Greene. F.: Robert Krasker. M.: Oswald Hafenrichter. Scgf.: Vincent Korda, Dario Simoni. Mus.: Anton Karas. Int.: Joseph Cotten (Holly Martins), Alida Valli (Anna Schmidt), Orson Welles (Harry Lime), Trevor Howard (maggiore Calloway), Bernard Lee (sergente Paine), Paul Hoerbiger (Karl), Ernst Deutsch (barone Kurtz), Siegfried Breuer (Popescu), Erich Ponto (dottor Winkel), Wilfrid Hyde-White (Crabbit). Prod.: Alexander Korda, Carol Reed per London Film Productions · DCP. Bn.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

The Third Man is emblematic of a lost Europe, shattered by the Second World War, that looks for new landmarks along the roads of the Cold War. It is a novelistic vision of a devastated world. Although set in Berlin and not Vienna, that same world was simultaneously presented by Billy Wilder as satire in A Foreign Affair while Roberto Rossellini illustrated its despair in Germania anno zero.
On the surface, the Vienna where Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) arrives at the beginning of the film is distinctly divided in four Allied zones, but beneath its surface is a labyrinth of sewers forming a second geography of the city. In reality, Vienna is a cosmopolitan no man’s land, an ambivalent terrain in which tracks are lost and certainty confounded, the kingdom of betrayal and misunderstanding. Almost no one is who he says or seems to be. The dead are not dead, and medicine is a killer.
The film marked the triumph of writer Graham Greene, who used the story for film before publishing it as a novel. It was also an equal achievement for director of photography Robert Krasker, who adapted the expressionist aesthetics of film noir to British cinema, and especially for Carol Reed, who transitions effortlessly from the bizarre to the melancholic.
And then there is Orson Welles. Just two years before he had signed a contract with producer Alexander Korda for making and/or performing in three films. Several projects came up but all fell through until Korda offered Welles the part of Harry Lime, which co-producer David O. Selznick would have preferred to have been played by Noël Coward. It was a slim role (just ten days of shooting along the streets of Vienna and at a London studio), but Welles needed funding for his Othello and knew that Lime was crucial to the film, even if he only appears in the second part of it. Lime is the character that all the others talk about when he is not on the screen. His performance is, in fact, unforgettable as a cynical and miserable fallen angel. An ambiguous double that would haunt him for roughly a decade both on the radio and television. Reed’s film and Krasker’s images would become a source of visual inspiration for Welles, which can be seen in Mr. Arkadin, Touch of Evil and The Trial. And perhaps even in Marlene Dietrich’s celebrated last words on Quinlan in Touch of Evil: “He was some kind of a man… What does it matter what you say about people?”.

Jean-Pierre Berthomé

Copy From

Restored in 4K by Deluxe with the supervising of Studiocanal from intermediate film print, 2nd generation of nitrate film