Released in 1949, The Third Man tells the story of a prolific writer of Westerns who travels to Vienna, Austria to see what has happened to his friend, Harry Lime. Harry has had an accident - or has he?
Written by Graeme Greene (Our Man in Havana), directed by Carol Reed and starring Joseph Cotten, Trevor Howard and Orson Welles, The Third Man is a classic of the post-war, film noir genre. The chiaoscuro lighting (half light, half dark) gives the film its threatening tone and expresses the darker sides of all the characters involved. The music, by Anton Kras, keeps viewers on the edge of their seats even when there is nothing of any consequence happening.
The film is also remarkable for its setting and backgrounds. It was one of the few post-war, Anglo-saxon flicks that showed war-torn Europe. The site of Vienna, riddled with bullets, crumbling around the characters' ears and trying desperately to rebuild itself after the fall of the Reich lends the film an even more melancholic feel. The film is also famous for the sequence filmed in the beautiful 19th Century sewers under Vienna - which leads to the film's nail-biting climax.
The film won an Oscar for its photography and nominations for editing and for Carol Reed as Director.
In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had 500 years of democracy and peace - and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock.
Anybody who is visiting Vienna and knows this terrific movie should plan in an extra half-day to visit some of the original places where some of the scenes were shot. It's really interesting to see the familiar surroundings in real life, and also a terrific opportunity to explore Vienna's development from the bombed-out hell-hole that it was when the movie was made to the wonderfully (and expensively) restored city it is today.
The trouble is that even though located close together, the locations aren't easy to find. However, there are several tours on offer, and they even take you down to the subterranean canals underneath the city. A lot of interesting information is provided, and you get to go to places you couldn't get to under your own steam.
To get on a tour (there are several competitors), just go to the tourist information centre close to St Stephen's Cathedral. However, you should plan ahead since the tours seem to be booked out early on; also, they don't come cheap! The most intriguing location is the one where the famous door scene was shot which showed Orson Welles stepping out of the shadows of the entrance where he is discovered by Joseph Cotton. The original buildings are still there, left untouched. It's one of those places you wouldn't expect to find in Vienna.
If you want to see the film while in Vienna, head to the cinema on Burging. They have an English version of the film that they show most weekends and occasionally during the week.