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ORSON WELLES AND JOSEPH COTTEN SURVIVE 'THE THIRD MAN'

Title:THE THIRD MAN Year: 1949 Rating: *****

It's not really that big a deal that Orson Welles turns up over fifty-minutes into THE THIRD MAN, being that audiences awaited KING KONG for about the same period of time...

The term best describing Welles's Harry Lime is anticipated antagonist, and yet all his criminal activity is refuted by best friend Joseph Cotten as cheap novelette Western writer Holly Martins, and especially heartbroken stage-actress-girlfriend Alida Valli, who Cotten attempts subtly romancing... but can't compete with the ghost...

From THE THIRD MAN

Welles's Lime is supposedly dead, and since there was an extra person carrying the body, told by Lime's criminal cohorts added by a doomed witness, the character is both anticipated and titular... yet most of the exposition is from Trevor Howard as Major Calloway along with faithful sidekick (and future James Bond chief) Bernard Lee...

Polite loggerheads Cotten and Howard are the best things going during the first half... before Lime... then when he arrives, initially lurking in the kind of shadowy mystique Welles helped define in stylistic B&W classics from CITIZEN KANE to THE STRANGER to THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI, the MAN, with a quick, page-turning cadence throughout, kicks into both second and third gear...

Orson Welles in THE THIRD MAN

As English director Carol Reed makes THIRD all his own, with a classic zither score and dutch angles (the camera titled to provide an off-putting vibe), yet presenting a more standard than auteur approach, where the script and performances elevate the British crime thriller to heights exceeding every Welles' picture post KANE...

In fact it was THE THIRD MAN that gave Orson the comeback he couldn't garner himself, and his multi-collaborator Cotten landed a dream lead role that... despite technically playing a rather clumsy scribbler, asking questions to various eccentric characters around the postwar ruins of Vienna (split into four halves of bordering countries)... story-wise, Cotten could've been a pulp-inspired gumshoe...

Joseph Cotten in THE THIRD MAN

But he's a real human, and his overall vulnerability towards Valli's wistful stage actress Anna (with a dark, morose beauty of Ingrid Bergman and the denial-ability of Eva Braun) is more relatable than the usual gritty-noir male lead, while Welles himself makes ample use of his three strategic scenes...

Lime's desperate yet comfortable persona, already known to Cotten and the audience for a penicillin-stealing racket that killed innocent people, including children, still harbors an infectious, cinema-scoundrel's charm, making any horrible act seem not only necessary but commonplace...

Finale from THE THIRD MAN

Especially during Welles's most suspenseful and memorable scene with Cotten, high up on a carnival tramcar (where even an immense ferris wheel's far beneath), describing how anyone's expendable in an ironically blithe manner, proving he was an even more underrated actor than filmmaker...

Thanks to director Reed, who, backed by a tight Graham Green script and providing one of the greatest opening narrations himself, was keen enough to find gold in Welles the performer...

Carol Reed's THE THIRD MAN

And, despite an ongoing myth that Orson had a hand in directing or manipulating anything he appeared in, Reed needed no help, having already proven himself in countless motion pictures, including an even darker noir ODD MAN OUT... 

But it's the action-packed finale chase, through the murky underground sewers, that puts THE THIRD MAN above any British noir, before or after, with two legendary Americans helping provide the universal, timeless appeal. 

Alida Valli in THE THIRD MAN
Trevor Howard in THE THIRD MAN
Alida Valli in THE THIRD MAN
Joseph Cotten in THE THIRD MAN
Alida Valli in THE THIRD MAN with Joseph Cotten
 Orson Welles in THE THIRD MAN
Joseph Cotten in THE THIRD MAN
Trevor Howard in THE THIRD MAN
 Orson Welles in THE THIRD MAN
Bernard Lee in THE THIRD MAN
Carol Reed's zither credit for THE THIRD MAN
Prologue from THE THIRD MAN
Prologue from THE THIRD MAN
Prologue from THE THIRD MAN
Prologue from THE THIRD MAN
Prologue from THE THIRD MAN
Prologue from THE THIRD MAN
Carol Reed: "Of course a situation like that does tempt amateurs"
Carol Reed's THE THIRD MAN
Joseph Cotten THE THIRD MAN
Trevor Howard in THE THIRD MAN
Joseph Cotten THE THIRD MAN with Trevor Howard
Joseph Cotten THE THIRD MAN with Bernard Lee
Alida Valli in THE THIRD MAN
Alida Valli in THE THIRD MAN
Alida Valli in THE THIRD MAN
Alida Valli in THE THIRD MAN with Joseph Cotten
Alida Valli in THE THIRD MAN
Alida Valli in THE THIRD MAN with Joseph Cotten
Sewer search fromTHE THIRD MAN
Orson Welles in THE THIRD MAN
Joseph Cotten in THE THIRD MAN
Orson Welles in THE THIRD MAN
Joseph Cotten & Orson Welles in THE THIRD MAN
Joseph Cotten in THE THIRD MAN
Joseph Cotten in THE THIRD MAN
Joseph Cotten in THE THIRD MAN
Carol Reed's THE THIRD MAN
Joseph Cotten in THE THIRD MAN with Orson Welles
Joseph Cotten in THE THIRD MAN with Orson Welles
Carol Reed's THE THIRD MAN with Orson Welles
Joseph Cotten in THE THIRD MAN
Joseph Cotten in THE THIRD MAN
Criterion DVD for THE THIRD MAN
Orson Welles in THE THIRD MAN
Joseph Cotten in THE THIRD MAN
Poster for THE THIRD MAN
Poster for THE THIRD MAN
Poster art for THE THIRD MAN

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