Next to Citizen
Kane, The Third Man has been the most analyzed, written about,
and talked about of all of Cotten's films. It is indeed a gem.
Cotten plays Holly Martins, a second-rate writer (his novels have titles like "The Lone Rider of Santa Fe" and "Death at Double-X Ranch") who's been invited to post-War Vienna by his long-time friend, Harry Lime (Orson Welles). But when Holly arrives he finds that his friend has been killed in a street accident and Holly is just in time for the funeral.
Upset and confused, the hapless Holly begins asking questions about this so-called accident, and finds himself increasingly in trouble. Harry's unsavory 'friends' are first evasive, then threatening; Harry's girl, Anna (Alida Valli) is in mourning, unable and unwilling to help.
Exasperated British police officer Major Calloway (Trevor Howard) gives up his attempts to get the stubborn Holly to leave Vienna and presents all the information he has gathered on Harry Lime - and Holly learns that his boyhood pal was one of the most dangerous criminals and black-marketeers the troubled city has ever seen.
Disillusioned, Holly is prepared to return home to the U.S. when a chance encounter changes everything - Harry Lime could still be alive and well, and Holly Martins is the only one who can bring him to justice.
In director Carol Reed's hands, "The Third Man" is a cinematic jewel - the slanted camera angles, the dimly lit wet streets filled with shadows, the tense, fast pace peppered with humor, and perhaps most evocative of all, the compelling zither music of Anton Karas - all combine to make an infinitely enthralling film.
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