The Third Man - WTF?

Ok, first of all, I do not fall into the category of the type of person who’s favourite movie list consists of anything with Julia Roberts or Ben Affelck. As you can see I don’t even know how to spell his name. My favourite movie of all time is Rashomon.

Anyway, I’ve been seeing and hearing about the movie The Third Man for years - seeing it popping up on top 10 lists everywhere (sometimes as #1), and don’t ask me why, but I never got around to watching it until this week and … WTF? What’s supposed to be so great about it? It wasn’t bad in any sense, although the first 40 minutes or so did drag a bit, but why is this movie so highly praised? The most enjoyable part for me was the sewer chase, but I doubt that is the reason why this movie is so beloved. I’m sure there are some Third Man loving dopers on here, so defend this movie!

It has Atmosphere.

The movie is just not for you. For many other people, its one of their favorites. Their are a lot of “classic” films and its ridiculous to expect that you’ll enjoy them all. Carol Reed, the director, also made the acclaimed Odd Man Out, starring James Mason. I didn’t like that movie at all and actually fell asleep for a bit of it. If you want, go to imdb and check out user or external reviews for the film (especially Roger Ebert’s review in his Great Movies series) to get a general idea about why its so loved.

Myself, I love:

-the dialogue (especially Orson Welles’ speech on the carousel)

-the cinematography (especially that wonderful shot at the end where Joseph Cotten stand and watches Valli walk by as leaves rustle and fly about)

-the great ideas in the film overall (having Cotten speak in front of the group literary group who are way too highbrow for him, having a scene on a carousel, a chase in the sewers, the scene revealing Welles)

-the music (the theme is pretty unforgetable, and how often do you get zither music in the movies?)

-the acting (Welles is at his charismatic best and Cotten has arguably his best role)

But if it didn’t come together for you, then I don’t know how likely anything will change your mind. Maybe revisting the film in a couple weeks/months is a good idea.

And don’t forget Valli, the actress who played Welles’ girlfriend. Very subtle and understated. I’m really glad she got that role, she played it perfectly. No histrionics, not overly dramatic, just matter of fact, pragmatic – probably like millions of refugees or people without a country (or without a country they wanted to return to) at the end of the war. This is how it is, life sucks.

And here I was thinking this was going to be about comedy Cricket Match broadcasts.

I get a crick in my neck from watching that movie, from those loony camera angles. And I think it’s much over-rated. And that damn zither music gets in your head and doesn’t get out.

Bum-da-bum da-bum, bum da-bum

There have been some earlier threads on this:Orson Welles’ THE THIRD MAN
“The Third Man”… a great movie, but…

Aha! So, you admit to watching it repeatedly, even though you have issues with it. See, it sucks you back in. :slight_smile:

(Unless you mis-typed “got.”)

You doubt my grammar?

I’ve watched it twice in the last 40 years, and I got a crick in my neck both times. I thought, perhaps, it might be better than it remembered, but it wasn’t.

I do have a CD of the zither music (laughingly called a soundtrack.)

I rather agree with the OP. I had heard about it, ironically, from “Beatiful Creatures” and am rather a Welles and a film noir fan, but this movie didn’t do much for me at all.

The reasons why this is a great film:-the grainey balck and white film, this adds to the mysterious look .
-the camera angles, particulary the faces of the characters…they really look creepy!
-the great dialogue between Holly and Harry Lime, that monologue about the cukoo clock was classic!
-the darkness of post-War Nienna…everything looked foreboding
And, the zither music! Plus Carroll Reed had a great sense of timing…recall the opeining scene at the cemetary…and the film ends at the cemetary (as the real Harry Lime is buried). Holly begins and ends his adventure in the sa,me way, but he misses out on love. The final scene where he gets out of the jeep (and misses his plane) is heart-wrenching…he loves Harry’s GF, but never reaches her.
I think it is a great film…and someday I’ll go to Vienna and retrace it!

I suggest watching another time or two; for me the first viewing was dry, the second was enthusiastic, and the third was transcendant.

Also, if you like Rashomon, which I do to, please please PLEASE check out the films of Mizoguchi. He makes Kurosawa look like Ron Howard. Seriously. Ugetsu, then Street of Shame, then Sansho the Bailiff, then all of them.

The Third Man was a movie I had to watch for a class in college. Previous to that, I never wanted to watch B&W movies because I felt that they not only looked too dated, but the plot, character and stories were all too far removed from me in my modern state.

*Third Man *really changed that. It’s still shot and directed like an old movie, and I wanted to start a campaign to destroy everything zither related afterwards, but I thought the story and characters were outstanding. It surprised me, and since most “modern” movies fail to do that, I really appreciated The Third Man’s depth and complexity.

I was really shocked to find out that Harry Lime was the criminal Calloway made him out to be. What’s worse, he was completely amoral about it – the speech he gave on the Ferris wheel still sticks with me today. “Counting the dots that stop moving” is something that seems to be a pastime that never goes out of style.

So stylistically, I still think most movies made past the 70’s are superior, but for story, character and meaning The Third Man is definitely one of my faves.


What exactly does this mean? :dubious:

Just the style… Longer takes, the timing of cuts, method of acting, editing… There’s a definite difference in the styles of movies made during the 40’s and 50’s versus those made past the 70’s or so, at least in American cinema. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not in favor of MTV-fifty-cuts-per-minute moviemaking, but modern movies have a much more natural flow for me. Older movies tend to linger on close-ups, or spend too much time establish that a person is walking from point A to point B, etc., and depend too much on etablishing shots during conversations. A lot of that has to do with the limits of equipment and the styles of the times, but I do think that the language of film has gotten more refined over time. (Not that you could tell from 90% of the crap out there.)

What can I say? I was a film student who risked lynching on a regular basis for not thinking Citizen Kane was the best movie ever made. :slight_smile: