Reviewer's Rating 5 out of 5   User Rating 5 out of 5
The Third Man (1949)

Moviemaking becomes mythmaking in The Third Man, an iconic film noir that's still fresh despite being familiar. Joseph Cotten stars as Holly Martins, an American in Vienna searching the city's black market for the killer of his best friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles). The waltzing zither theme tune can't disguise the darkness in this thriller's heart as it trawls through the city's sewers (both literally and otherwise). Voted best British film by the BFI, it's a bona fide classic.

Reed fought long and hard against his American producers to shoot on location in bombed out Vienna - and the results were worth the scrap. Capitalising on the strangeness of the rubble-strewn city, he uses the cobbled streets and dark alleys as a backdrop to the intrigue. Strangle camera angles and long shadows give sinister atmosphere and capture the moral murkiness of Greene's screenplay.


Orson Welles appears late, looming out of a dark doorway. He goes on to steal the show as Harry Lime, a cherub-faced villain selling watered down penicillin on the black market with easy defiance. A thrilling scene set high up in a Ferris wheel lets Lime deliver a self-justifying speech (reputedly penned on the hoof by Welles himself): "In Switzerland they had 500 years of brotherly love and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock." Debate still rages over who deserves the credit for The Third Man: Reed, Greene, Welles or zither scorer Anton Karas. But whoever the master, there's no doubting that fact that this is a masterpiece.

End Credits

Director: Carol Reed

Writer: Graham Greene

Stars: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Trevor Howard, Bernard Lee

Genre: Thriller

Length: 93 minutes

Original: 1949

Cinema: 11 August 2006

Country: UK/USA

Cinema Search

Where can I see this film?

New Releases