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Third Man, The (reissue)


Stars: Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles, Valli, Trevor Howard, Bernard Lee, Wilfrid Hyde White

Director: Carol Reed

Hack writer Holly Martins (Cotten) arrives in post-war Vienna to be told that his friend Harry Lime (Welles) has been killed in a street accident, and that he was mixed up in the city's drug-dealing rackets.

Holly meets Anna (Valli), Lime's mistress, a frightened lady with forged papers, and begins to suspect all is not as it first appears...

This masterly thriller contains Welles' last great 1940s' role, as Lime, master-criminal at large in a post-war city of fairs and ruins, shapes and shadows.

They seek him here, they seek him there. Welles' Harry Lime is presumed dead, but there can be few film buffs now who don't know that he turns out to be alive, smiling sardonically, but ultimately pursued through the sewers of the city by Cotten, Howard, Lee and Anton Karas' insistent zither music, which hooked itself into the minds of the world and wouldn't come loose.

There's impeccable performances, brilliant individual scenes, devastating photography by Robert Krasker (deservedly winning an Academy Award), a crackling script by Graham Greene and inspired direction by Reed, whose every cinematic trick works. Not to be missed: one of the greats.

David Quinlan

UK 1949. UK Distributor: StudioCanal (originally British Lion). Black and white.
104 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 26 Jun 2015