The Third Man
The Third Man (1949) is a film noir directed by Carol Reed. The screenplay was written by novelist Graham Greene, based on his novel of the same name.
The story is set in a bomb-damaged Vienna, just after the Second World War, and is told from the point of view of a mildly successful pulp author, Holly Martins, who is searching for his schoolfriend Harry Lime who had invited him to visit.
At the beginning of the film, Martins discovers that his old friend Harry Lime, whom he had not seen in several years, has been killed in an accident under mysterious circumstances just prior to Martins' arrival in Vienna. He finds that there was more to Lime than he knew and that he was accused of being a black market racketeer, trafficking in poor quality penicillin. Martins is told that Lime was struck by a truck while crossing a street. On several accounts, two of Lime's friends carried Lime's body off the street after the accident. All eyewitnesses to the accident happen to be friends or associates of Lime. Martins' investigation leads to another eyewitness not associated with Lime who claims that there was a third man who helped carry Lime's body. It is this "third man", Joseph Harbin, that the title of the film (which is essentially an elaborate MacGuffin) refers to. Some see Harry Lime as the "third man" because they could as well have used the accident to kill Harbin, but none of both interpretations can be deducted without doubt.
The US version of The Third Man emphasizes Martins' point of view much more strongly than the cut that was shown in British cinemas. This probably served to reduce the strongly anti-American tone of the original. Most noticeably, the opening monologue, spoken by Reed himself in the original, was re-recorded by Joseph Cotten.
The atmospheric use of black and white cinematography (by Robert Krasker), harsh lighting and distorted camera angles, combined with the unique musical theme and excellent performances from the cast, all serve to convey the atmosphere of post-War Vienna, creating the tension inherent in the story, and making this one of Reed's best-loved films.
" Orson Welles stars as Harry Lime, and Joseph Cotten plays his childhood friend, Holly Martins, in this all-time classic thriller scripted by Graham Greene and directed by Carol Reed. Martins searches for Lime through the seedy underworld of postwar Vienna and gets caught up in a web of love, deception, racketeering, and murder. The Third Man's stunning cinematography, twisting plot, and unforgettable zither score are immortalized in Criterion's pristine special edition, following the 50th Anniversary theatrical re-release." From description of The Third Man (50th Anniversary Edition) - Criterion Collection DVD.