THE THIRD MAN [1949] review

October 14, 2011 · Print This Article

I find myself all of a sudden on a film noir marathon as THE THIRD MAN is my third of the genre in as many weeks.  Directed by Orson Welles and set in Vienna after the war, the movie almost never sits still as the relentless Holly Martins investigates the murder of his old friend whom he just flew in from America to visit in Vienna.

Even though the image quality is maybe 30% of today’s films, the viewing experience of a movie like THE THIRD MAN is so much richer and involving of multiple senses.  Echoing footsteps are nearly characters themselves, along with tall shadows.  It is a very organic, tangible film.  I feel like I should wipe the grit off my own shoes after watching it.

Martins arrives just in time for the funeral of his friend and is immediately most unwelcome in Vienna.  Everyone is telling him to get right back on a plane.  He is a writer of western and suspense novels, which both helps him get the money to stay and provide the inquisitiveness to start asking if his friend’s death really was accidental.

His dead friend’s girl helps Martins question all the people present at the time of the guy’s death, who all happened to be friends of the dead man.

Throughout all this Martins’ relationship with the local British major in charge of the police ranges from hostile to merely suspicious, to understanding.

They mystery is very intriguing and the climatic chase seen in the maze of sewers under the streets of Vienna is very tense.

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