Sunday, August 8, 2010

Film Review: The Third Man (1949) 60th Anniversary Newly Restored Print


The 60th Anniversary Newly Restored 35mm Print

RATED: Unrated
DIRECTOR: Carol Reed
CAST: Joseph Cotton, Orson Wells, Alida Valli, Trevor Howard, Bernard Lee

ANECDOTAL: Here in Tucson, Arizona we are lucky enough to have an amazing arthouse/repertoire theatre called The Loft. It hosts an event called Essential Cinema, a FREE monthly series of classic art films on the big screen, screened in glorious 35mm. So, having seen THE THIRD MAN several times on DVD I was excited to see this film on the big screen, the way it was meant to be seen.

SYNOPSIS: Holly Martins, an out of work pulp-western writer arrives in a post-WWII Vienna at the invite of an old friend, Harry Lime. Upon arriving he discovers Harry has been struck and killed by a vehicle outside his apartment under mysterious circumstances. After speaking with Harry’s friends and associates he comes to believe that a “third man” was involved.

PRINT: I had the pleasure of seeing the 60th Anniversary newly restored 35mm print of THE THRD MAN. The print was in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame, and mono audio. Seeing it projected onto the big screen was a revelation. I can’t say enough about taking any opportunity to see films as intended, on the silver screen.

“In Switzerland they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace. And what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”Harry Lime/Orson Welles

THE FILM: THE THIRD MAN, what can one say, it is one of the finest noir-thrillers of all-time, and that not just hyperbole, friend, that is FACT. Joseph Cotton (LADY FRANKENSTEIN, BARON BLOOD) portrays our pulp writer Holly Martins, the legendary Orson Welles (TOUCH OF EVIL, CITIZEN KANE) is the elusive Harry Lime, between the two is Anna Schmidt played by Alida Valli (SUSPIRIA, EYES WITHOUT A FACE). The film is populated by an amazing cast of colorful characters, notably British Major Calloway (Trevor Howard) and Harry’s porter Karl (Paul Hoerbiger). The dialogue, written by acclaimed British author Graham Greene, is spot on. In fact, I’ve seen THE THIRD MAN several times, and with each successive viewing it gets more comedic. The dialogue is snappy and clever, the cinematography is brilliant. Shot on location in a worn-torn Vienna, the cityscape is like another character, you just want to see more. A lot of the shots are at odd angles, giving the film an uneasy feel. The latter 3rd of the film takes place in the massive sewer tunnels of Vienna, and the hard lighting and deep shadows of the scenes make it feel like a German Expressionist nightmare. THE THIRD MAN boasts one of the best character introduction/reveals in film history, as well as an amazing monologue from Orson Welles, whom is said to have been a major pain in the ass. Longshots and a few sewer chase scenes were done with other actors as Welles was unable to be found during filming. After arriving on set in Vienna, two weeks late, Welles refused to film several of the sewer scenes in the actual sewer and a large set reconstructing the sewers had to be erected on a soundstage. This is a much storied film production, and the difficulties between the producers David O. Selznick and Alexander Korda, as well as director Carol Reed are legendary.

VERDICT: THE THIRD MAN is one of the best noir-thrillers you’ll likely ever see. If I was you, I’d grab the Criterion Collection DVD of this and “Restored to Orson Welles’ Vision” DVD of TOUCH OF EVIL, boasting an amazing Welles performance and settle in for a night of awesomeness. This is a MUST SEE, of course. ***** (5 out of 5 stars)