I watched “The Third Man” (1949) last night but was disappointed. In fairness to the movie, in my pre-conceived notions, I was looking for an excellent performance by Alida Valli [“Noi vivi” and “Addio Kira” (1942), a.k.a. “We the Living”], unfortunately her character just was not up to my expectations. In fairness to me, I had seen her give an interesting performance in “The Paradine Case” (1942), when I did not make the connection between her and “We the Living.”
Over all the best performance in the film was by Trevor Howard as Major Calloway, a British officer investigating deaths and injuries caused by black market penicillin. Joseph Cotton [“Love Letters” (1945)] played Holly Martins, an American in Vienna investigating the murder of his friend. His performance was often good, but inconsistent characterization of his role in the script made me wish at times that he would fly home so the movie could be over. Orsen Welles plays a potentially vivid character, who is let down by his dialogue. My favorite surprise of the movie was seeing Wilfred Hyde-White [Col. Pickering in “My Fair Lady” (1964)], while his character had little to say I do so enjoy his voice.
As a thriller, it has an excellent twist which at the time might have been very surprising, but almost 60 years later we have seen it before in subsequent works. However, it was still well done.
This should have been a silent movie because it is visually stunning, which would be why it won an Oscar for Best Cinematography – Black & White, and was nominated for Best Director and Best Film Editing. If there was a category for it, it should have been nominated for best chase scene in a sewer (not a pun). The setting of post war Vienna is breathtaking, beautiful art and buildings next to rubble still remaining from the war. Even the actors visual portrayals are excellent. Perhaps I should watch it again with the sound off.
By now it is clear, that my complaint about the movie is the dialogue because I have referenced it frequently enough. There were moments when one of the characters would say something interesting but it was never enough. When these came I would think right there is where this story will really get interesting but the words stopped to abruptly ending before anything significant could be communicated.
If I had not had high expectations going into the film, I might have thought it wonderful. The visuals and the plot are the best aspects of this film. As a valuable take away, it was a reminder to me (for application to Iraq) of post war difficulties.