Monday, May 14, 2012

The Third Man (1949)



“Go home Martins, like a sensible chap. You don't know what you're mixing in, get the next plane.” 

            The Third Man is considered to be one of the quintessential Noirs to see. When I read a synopsis of the film it sounded very interesting. And how could a film go wrong when the stars include Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles? The Third Man is a well made film but there were some things that I was not too thrilled with that kept it from being a really good film for me.
            Holly Martins (Cotton) is a writer who has fallen on hard times. His best friend Harry Lime (Welles) is living in Austria after World War II and has written to Holly saying he may have a job for him. On the day Holly arrives he finds out his best friend has been killed in an automobile accident. Holly cannot understand how his friend just died in a simple auto accident the whole thing seems suspicious to him. When he goes to look into his friend’s death he is told to go home by British Major Calloway who knew Harry in some capacity.
            Holly goes to the apartment building Harry was living in. He questions Harry’s porter who was a witness to the accident. The porter tells Holly that there were three men around Harry when he died. This information does not mix with what Holly has been told up to then. He was told by another of Harry’s friends that there were only two people around him when he died, his doctor was just on the other side of the street and that Harry’s own driver was the one who hit him. Now Holly is on a mission to find the other witness, this third man.
            The deeper into Harry’s death Holly explores the more he finds out his friend is someone he barely knows. Calloway tells Holly that Harry was a notorious racketeer selling stolen penicillin and selling it on the black market. The penicillin Harry has been selling is killing people not helping them. Until faced with all the evidence Holly cannot believe that his friend who he always thought was so nice and charming and wonderful is a thief whose product is killing and hurting innocent people.
            In between this is Harry’s girlfriend Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli). Anna was in love with Harry. She knew what he was doing but never said anything. Holly has been dropping in on Anna and asking her about his friend. He also wants to help her with her fake passport that Harry made her, the international police got a hold of it and now she is in a bit of trouble. One night he goes to her house and sees a cat. She says the cat was only friendly to Harry.
            While walking back to his hotel Holly sees the cat cuddling up to figure in the doorway. The light of the moon shifts and Holly sees the face of his old friend. He gives chase to the figure but as quickly as he had seen Harry the man is gone. Holly goes to Calloway who does not believe him at first until they find a passageway leading to the sewers of Vienna.
            Alright so my explanation of the plot is not too great. For some reason I cannot fully explain I could not get into this film. I did not have any expectations for this film all I went into it with was that it is considered one of the best Noirs ever made and it had a good story. The story is good I liked the mystery but there was just something about the film I was not too crazy about. The one thing I will say I did not like was the music. I thought the music ruined what could have been amazing dramatic scenes. When the music came on to me it almost felt like I was watching a comedy not a dramatic mystery.
            The best aspects of this film were the direction by Carol Reed and the cinematography. Reed made some of the best camera angles and shots I have ever seen in films before. I was in awe of them. The cinematography is incredible especially the scene where Holly first sees Harry and when he chases his friend around dark corners of the streets. The chase, too, at the end was incredibly lit. The ending was great it fit the story so well and was so wonderfully filmed. 
            The cast was very good. Joseph Cotton there can be nothing bad said about him I have yet to see him give a bad performance. He could play any kind of character and just be amazing. Alida Valli was gorgeous and did such great job as Anna. Orson Welles was barely in the film and I am not too crazy about him but I will say he played his part perfectly.
            The Third Man is a film I was not too crazy about but I am glad I sat through it. It is a film that every film buff should see at least once.