I watched this film again recently and it confirmed my opinion that this is the greatest film I have ever seen. I have never seen a film where the elements of filmmaking work together so perfectly: script, cinematography, acting, music. It’s throughly entertaining but it has larger themes too: the desperation and corruption that war had created in Europe, the conflict between personal loyalty and public duty. It doesn’t give any pat answers and the ending strikes just the perfect note.
What struck me most about the film was its daring. Using an unknown musician playing an unknown instrument for the entire score was a big risk but Reed took and it worked beautifully. Shooting on location was a risk (particularly because Welles refused to shoot some of his scenes) but it worked. Tilting the camera in almost every other scene could easily have back-fired but it matches the mood of the film completely. The first two of these chocies were made by Reed against studio pressure.
There are so many memorable scenes that it’s hard to list them all: Harry Lime’s entrance, the ferris wheel and the sewer chase are of course classics. But also the scenes where the bystanders think Martins is the murderer and the scene with the balloon man towards the end. The scenes with Lime’s sidekicks are excellent; I particularly liked the icy exchange with the doctor. And of course the Crabbin scenes provide some great comic relief.
I could write a lot more but let me stop. What do you think of the Third Man?