Saturday, 31 March 2018

The Third Man: That’s got Tone … 

31st March, 2018.

Yes … 

As I open the text portion, here?   With just the word, ‘yes,’ accompanied but those three little dots that tell you there’s a significant … … pause.

Well, you have to get little Pinteresque, once you’ve turned fifty.

At any rate: I’ve had some time off ill, with what boils down to a trapped facial nerve.

Makes eating cornflakes fun.

At any rate?

Tonights marks a Saturday night where I’m not getting an early night … AND have had some time off.

AND finished a box set: The Man in the High Castle’s second season, if you’re interested.

And … ?

“And?” I hear you say?

And I sat down with a movie: so you know.

Something I’ve been meaning to watch for a while: the Carol Reed film that is … 

The Third Man


It’s Nineteen-forty-nine: and The Third Man opens with a voiceover about (then) modern Vienna: a city being reconstructed after the mess of World War 2, riddled with more black markets than WW2 era Casablanca: and more dodgy deals than Gibson’s take on Chiba City.

Into this mess?   Comes Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton), a pulp writer invited to Vienna by an old friend, Harry Lime (Orson Welles): who’s offered the skint novelist a job.

Getting off the train?   Martins heads for Harry’s apartment: only to find that — hours beforehand — Harry has been killed in a car crash.

That’s only the start.

Martins meets at least two old friends of Harry’s: both of whom swear their were the only two people to see him die.

And the porter of Harry’s building?   Who says there were three people around the body.

Throw Harry’s grieving girlfriend, Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli) into the mix, Martins starts feeling a little fraught … 

That’s before being introduced to Major Calloway (Trevor Howard)* and Sergeant Paine (Bernard Lee) to the British Army’s Military Police: the men responsible, in part, for policing the rat-pit that is Vienna.

And before Martins finds out his old friend Harry … is pretty active for a corpse … 


Now … 

“Good” … ?

“Well,” I hear you ask, “was The Third Man any good, Paul?”

I’m not sure I could tell you.

I do know this: there’s arguments doing the rounds that tell us The Third Man is possibly the best British film ever made.

I don’t know if I’d agree: or be able to put forward an alternative.


I think The Third Man is one of those films that you have to see: to judge its worth for yourself.

I don’t know if The Third Man is a good film.

But DO think the off-beam camera angles, the murky personalities confusing the bejeebers out of the innocent abroad central character, a city that’s no better than an especially seedy patch of hell, an ending of downbeat subtlety?

Make The Third Man worth watching at least once.

The Third Man isn’t necessarily good.   But does have a tone of its own.
The Third Man

*        I have to admit, Howard’s performance as Calloway put me in mind of Terry Pratchett’s flawed hero cop, Sam Vimes.   Calloway is distinctly upper class: but shares Vimes’ concern not with a dead crook, but with those the crook has wrong.   Vimes is angered not by a conspiracy against the ruler of the city: but arrests the perpetrators as they’ve killed innocent children in the process.   Calloway?   Is concerned not by a dead racketeer … but by the children hurt and damaged by the watered down penicillin the racketeer has sold.

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