The Third Man

A classic noir with an overwrought aspiration to a Hitchcockian flair, it still manages ot be enjoyable. The seperation of the innocent protagonist from the seedy underworld by the tilted camera angles opposed to the level camera was a bit jarring, but it became less annoying as Cotten’s frame became tilted too.

I enjoyed Cotten’s previous outing as Uncle Charlie in Shadow Of A Doubt a bit more than here. I also like The Lady From Shanghai more overall. The early promise of the script ebbed a bit in the middle, though the final scenes were brilliant.

The zither score was quite odd. It clearly influenced The Sting, but here as in that film it seemed to push the happenings to self parody in it’s bouncy punctuation of the serious happenings of the film.

Dooby doo, be-dooby doo (poot poot poot)
Dooby doo, be-dobby doo

I find watching this movie always gives me a crick in the neck – the weird “artsy” angles at which everything is photo’d.

But that damn zither score gets in your head and never gets out.

I never saw The Third Man as Hitchcockian. It’s much darker than anything by Hitch. The tilted camera doesn’t bother me at all. In fact I think it helps a lot.

Shadow of a Doubt was never one of Hitch’s better movies in my opinion so I liked Cotten more in this one. I didn’t think the script let up for a second. That great, paranoid atmosphere is omnipresent throughout the film.

Sure the zither score is odd but it is such a nice counterpoint to everything that is going on. It is hollow sounding and completly devoid of happiness even as it is cheery. It is this lack of true feeling that stops it from becoming a parody.

Also, I find odd that you don’t mention most of the elements that make this film a great one. There’s this wonderfully weird Vienna, all the Orson Wells scenes, the great dialogue, the carachters, the lighting, the everything!

There aren’t many movies as memorable as this. I’ve seen it only twice and just by mentioning it you’ve flooded my mind with memories of scenes and dialogue.

One last thing. I don’t know as much about movies, specially old movies, as you seem to but this one seems very much ahead of its time to me, not to mention unique.

Darker than Notorious or The Birds?

The paranoid atmosphere was present for me right up until we learned that Lime was dealing in… penicillin?

It came right back in the sewers, though.

Shadow Of A Doubt was Hitch’s favorite, and I am fond od it, though it isn’t Vertigo, certainly. I just thought that Reed was trying to be Hitch with all the tilted cameras and whatnot.
It was ahead of it’s time, but I think that Chinatown and Vertigo did it better. It is a very enjoyable and interesting experience, though.

…and of course it has the greatest final shot of any movie in history.

No, that would be The Lady From Shanghai.


I like Orson’s “Cuckoo Clock” speech.

[Homer]Mmmm… fascist overtones…[/Homer]

But that was what was beautiful about it! In a literal historical sense it was a PURE 1946 moment, when penicillin was only just beginning to be available for civilians, especially in Europe, and was mostly available on the black market. Then the symbolism of Lime as the giver of life! Cotten’s character was empty and dead when he entered Vienna. Meeting Anna and being swept up in the mystery that Lime has become brings Martins back to life.

Penicillin is a much more effective symbol in postwar Vienna than heroin, for instance, would have been.

Indeed. The whole movie is amazing. Love every minute. Well, maybe The Conversation has the best final shot. But it’s between those two.

About the penicilin: that’s what’s so great about it! You stop and say to yourself “what’s the big deal? So he sold penicilin, great for him” and that’s what Cotten thinks too.

But then you meet Lime and see what a big bastard he is ( dots, income tax? the guy is a maniac!). And then you see the children’s hospital where his victims are.

You and I and Cotten are forced to realize the guy is not only a bastard but trully evil. By making it penicilin and not other drugs or guns or prostitutes the growth of our understanding of Lime’s fucked up morals is gradual (and historically consistent) and not too abrupt. Our point of view is kept closer to Cotten’s this way.

I’m not too familiar with Hitch’s british works ( working on it, give me some time) but I’m hardpressed to see many similarities between his american movies and The Third Man.

The Third Man is much darker than The Birds. For one it’s world is much more realistic and its worldview much more surreal. In The Birds nature rebels against man but man is not necessarily evil. In The Third Man there is no need for nature to attack because we do the job much better ourselves.

In Reeds movie people are either ignorant and vulnerable or evil. That’s it. The only exception I can think of is the police captain and even he was fooled by Lime. Our protagonist is an alcoholic who doesn’t know who his friend really is. Love is not a benefic force. I’m quoting from memory so be patient: “Love! What is so grand about love? We both loved Harry and what good did it do to him?” The world is tilted at unsual angles and falling apart. Vienna is left in a worse condition than Hitchcock’s little town in The Birds.

I like Shadow of a doubt but it seems so rushed. We have no time to digest what is going on before something new happens. We don’t get a chance to see what uncle Charlie is like being normal before he is pressured into action again. Little Charlie rushes from loving her uncle to despising him. The family life is hinted at but not shown. There are places where you feel too much was cut at the editting room to make the picture shorter ( like when Charlie is laughing with her friend the census man at one shot and accusing him of being a detective on the next. How did she find out?).

It annoys me so much because I like the picture and think it could have been one of Hitch’s best. All of the film that exists is great but I feel like there’s 20 minutes missing.

My old GF, Edith, who was a film producer and editor creditted TTM with the best shot on film – but it wasn’t the closing scene she raved about. Her favorite was near the end of the movie during the chase in the sewers. The frame shows a sewer grate as seen from the wet street pavement. Harry’s fingers thrust up through the grating trying to lift it in his desperate attempt to escape; shots ring out; the fingers try to stay clenched but fail. They slide back down, out of view.

I think the movie is great, but Anna bores me throughout. TTM is a guy movie, though you wouldn’t know it at first viewing.

I love it too. If you think it is different today, imagine the effect it had on the viewing public of its time.

A little side note here. It was one of the first films to successfully be spun off into a television series.

Of course, the series had nothing to do with the film other than the title, the theme music and the characters’ names. In fact, Harry Lime was a very thin good guy.


If we’re comparing Orson Welles playing scum, I think his character in TOUCH OF EVIL is way scummier.

“A classic noir with an overwrought aspiration to a Hitchcockian flair, it still manages ot be enjoyable”
I started a thread on the Third Man a while back. I think it’s the best movie I have ever seen. I have seen about 20 Hitchcock films and none of them approach it in quality. For one thing many of Hitch’s films are marred by hokey endings; Third Man has one of the greatest endings in movie history. It has a greater historical and political resonance than any Hitch as well. It captures a place and time as few other films I have seen. As mentioned above the pencillin racket is part of that.

Personally I loved the zither score and odd angles and they are part of the reason why I rate the film so highly. Both of them were huge risks and gave them the audience something they were not used to but they also give the film a unique look and sound. The films also has some of the best bit perfomances ever, especially Lime’s three henchmen: each one sinister in his own fashion.

Here is my thread on the film btw:

I still point to Shadow Of A Doubt.

Orson Welles’ evil character was much mire developed, and much more dislikable in Touch Of Evil. Lime seems almost like a cardboard cutout to me. It seems like he is introduced and suddenly he is an evil bastard. What was he before? We have little way of knowing.

Infidel. None are better than Vertigo.

Yes, I am a native english speaker, but I haven’t had enough coffee. The sewer grate scene rules. I am lukewarm about Valli’s exit.

Come to think of it, The last scene in Vertigo is the best, IMO.

"Orson Welles’ evil character was much mire developed, and much more dislikable in Touch Of Evil. Lime seems almost like a cardboard cutout to me. It seems like he is introduced and suddenly he is an evil bastard. What was he before? We have little way of knowing."e
I think Lime is very different from the Welles character in Touch of Evil; he is not so much evil as totally ammoral; he doesn’t care about people one way or another if it gets in the way of what he wants. To say that he is not as dislikeable is to miss the point; he is not meant to be dislikeable at all. After all one of the big themes of the film is the conflict between the personal attachment that the Cotten and Valli characters feel towards him and their public duty to bring a dangerous criminal to justice. This conflict is meaningful precisely because Lime is so charming and charismatic.

“Come to think of it, The last scene in Vertigo is the best, IMO.”
Wow, we really have different tastes! I thought the Vertigo ending was one of his weakest. I enjoyed the film well enough but its masterpiece status eludes me as with the rest of Hitch’s “classics”.