A blog about movies and the Sturbridge area, including The Brookfields, Brimfield, Charlton, Holland, Wales, and Spencer as well as adjacent towns.

Friday, February 20, 2009

EZTakes Movie Review-The Third Man

There is a movie site called EZTakes where you can download movies of different genres that you don't usually get to see. You can see the movie reviews I do for them here.

Below is my EZTakes review of one of my favorite films, The Third Man.

Vienna After Dark - “The Third Man” - (2 Comments)

By Richard Murphy ~ November 24th, 2008. Filed under: Blogger Reviews, Film Noir, Staff Favorites. Print Print Email This Post Email This Post

Growing up in the fifties, tv was black and white. Our family was probably the last to get color. I thought it would be nirvana when we got to see everything in different hues. As one gets older, it is hoped, tastes become more sophisticated. So it is that one realizes, monochromatic cinema oft has its own charm. After viewing The Third Man, you will realize it would have been poorer in color.

The story is set in post war Vienna. The imperial city of the Hapsburg emperors is a bombed out shell. Poverty is rife and a black market in many commodities is how business is done.

The plot is simple enough. American pulp western author, Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), in a spot of poverty is invited to Vienna to do some writing for his friend, Harry Lyme (Orson Welles). Martins arrives just in time for his pal's funeral. Lyme has been run over. British military policeman, Major Calloway (Trevor Howard) tells Holly to go home as he is out of his league. Martins is out of his league and should have taken the advice. Had he done the smart thing, there would have been no movie.

Martins foolishly sticks around and if only due to the Woody Allen dictum, "Eighty Percent of success is showing up," learns everything.

One of the things he learns is that Harry had a love interest. Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli) is a refugee wanted by one of the international powers. Martins falls for her. It would have been difficult not to love the vulnerability of such a beautiful woman. Valli would later be linked, distantly, to the scandal that led to the movie, La Dolce Vita. She had an interesting life on and off camera.

Along the way are adventures of the type Holly might have wrote about in his books, albeit in a different setting. They are not the events a man who spent his life behind a typewriter might expect to experience. In the famous scene at the Riesenrad, Vienna's giant ferris wheel, our author gets to look evil in the eye. Like the devil in The Brothers Karamazov, or the snake in the garden of eden, he's a charming fellow. Still, he is evil and Martins knows it, though it will take him more to come to terms with it. The chase scene in subterranean Vienna brings out sympathy even for the beaten antagonist.

The Third Man was named the best British Film of the Twentieth Century. This could bring a chuckle. Unlike French film, Brit cinema has had to live in the shadow of the other English speaking film industry that always had the money to raid England of its stars. The Third Man had great actors but not superstars. The Brits turned table on the Americans by using a couple of solid Yank actors.

Orson Welles of Citizen Caine fame is well known. As good an actor as he was, he was not all that bankable which may be why the British cinema could employ him. Though Welles did steal some scenes, Joseph Cotten was your man. A solid professional and not unattractive, he was in the second, if not third tier of actors. His brooding personality was perfect as Holly Martins. No end of actors would have given much to be leading man in this film, after the fact.

Of the English actors, they are all good, but Trevor Howard is great. Of course this is the movie that solidified his reputation in film. He would forever play the dry, stiff upper lip functionary and no one would ever tire of him. As Major Calloway, he would play it to the hilt.

The music for the film was spare, but effective. No hefty John Williams score, it is simply the zither played in the background by Anton Karas. He was discovered in a Viennese wine bar by Trevor Howard and the director, Carol Reed, who fell in love with his music. It is the right haunting sound.

The age of great film noir may be over. There are not many actors now who can do it justice. The closest I've seen anyone come in recent years is Billy Bob Thornton in The Man Who Wasn't There. Even that was set several decades before it was made. Maybe our era can't handle it. No matter, if you want to see a blockbuster, hit the multiplex. If you want to see a movie, watch The Third Man.

Click here to download The Third

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