When I think of film noir, ‘The Third Man’ is always the first film that comes to mind. It’s the only film with a score that can get stuck in my head all day long, and it’s one played on an instrument that most members of film audiences had never heard before at the time of its release: the zither.
In fact, the music from this song was so popular that it went to number one on the Billboard charts. Anton Karas was the musician behind the enchanting score of the film, a musician at a Viennese bar discovered by Carol Reed. But of course the music isn’t the only thing that makes this film a must-see, and it’s upbeat and lighthearted tempo clashes with the dark tones of the film (although it somehow blends together perfectly in the end).
Joseph Cotten gives one of his best performances as the lead in the film, an author named Holly Martins who visits Vienna in search of an old friend, Harry Lime. However, he learns that his old friend has been killed in an accident, which he starts to doubt was an accident at all. So he, of course, starts searching for the truth about what happened to Harry.
Every bit of the film was executed to perfection by director Carol Reed, despite having some difficulty with one of the film’s other well-known cast members, Orson Welles. Apparently he was so hard to get and keep on set that many shots in the film that he was supposed to be in had to be improvised. This, however, had the ‘Jaws’ effect; that is, the shots ended up being more visually interesting and creative because of the lack of Welles’ presence, and it made anytime he had screen time in the film more powerful.
It’s hard not to believe that genius Welles didn’t have some say about what went on in the film, because Carol Reed never did a more masterful work. The cinematography creates a film noir dreamland; the music is perfectly placed throughout the film; the female love interest isn’t stereotypical; and Welles’ speech is one of the most shocking and real I’ve ever heard in a film.
For being the best film noir movie I’ve ever seen, as well as one of the best in general, this dark masterpiece definitely deserves a spot on my list of the 100 Best Movies of All Time. Watch it, and I think you’ll agree.