The Third Man
Zach Davis

Directed by: Carol Reed

Starring: Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, Trevor Howard, Bernard Lee

I have never before been so bored by a movie, then in an instant, thrown to the edge of my seat—an experience I’ll relate to a rollercoaster.  Unfortunately for The Third Man most of the movie isn't even on the rollercoaster.  It's standing in line waiting to get on the ride.  As dazzling a finale as it employs, it’s just too boring to even think of sitting through again.

A struggling pulp novelist Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) arrives in post-war Vienna at the invitation of his friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles).  Lime has promised Holly a steady job and a fresh start in Vienna.  Soon after getting to Vienna, Holly learns that Harry has been killed.  He was hit by a car while crossing the street.  At Harry’s funeral, Holly meets the British Sgt. Paine (Bernard Lee) and his superior Major Calloway (Trevor Howard).  Holly also goes on to meet Harry’s girlfriend Anna (Alida Valli) who soon gets raided by the police and charged with having a fake passport.

After learning more about the circumstances of Harry's passing, something doesn’t add up to Holly.  He begins to believe that Harry’s death was no accident and begins to investigate the matter.  As Holly investigates Harry’s death, things get strange.  The thing that seems strangest of all is that the reports from witnesses differ on the number of people with Harry at the time of the accident.  Although he originally believed there were only two individuals there at the scene, Holly is now under the impression that there was a mysterious third man.

It seems all the work and imagination for this movie went into the last scene in which there is a chase through an underground network of sewers.  The scene is utterly amazing.  It’s no wonder this film took home the Academy Award in cinematography.  The final scene, with echo and shadow that ooze with a Hitchcockian suspense (funnily enough coming from another British director in Reed), simply will engross any and all viewers.

Despite a great climax, the rest of The Third Man is terrible.  The characters are poorly developed and, for the most part, one-dimensional.  The only character with any depth is Harry, but that’s because we come to learn more about his character through other characters and his interactions with them.  This is the reason that Orson Welles is the only actor worth mentioning.

Holly is much too naïve about a city divided in Vienna.  I could not suspend my disbelief that he would continue an investigation of this kind while fully understanding the risks involved.  He seems too weak and naïve to push forward for such an old friend.

Grab some cocktails and make sure to have plenty of strength for The Third Man.  This snooze fest is hard to get through.  If you somehow make it to the end, then the cocktails should add to the enjoyment of one of Hollywood’s most classic scenes.