“The Third Man” (1949)

Here’s how we came to watch The Third Man again. First, my husband G. Grod re-read The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler. Then we watched the film adaptation of that book by Robert Altman. Then I insisted on watching The Third Man, because I suspected the endings were similar.

Narrator: Oh, I was going to tell you, wait, I was going to tell you about Holly Martins, an American. Came all the way here to visit a friend of his. The name was Lime, Harry Lime. Now Martins was broke and Lime had offered him, some sort, I don’t know, some sort of job. Anyway, there he was, poor chap. Happy as a lark and without a cent.

The pleasures of The Third Man are myriad. There’s Joseph Cotton as the ugly American, Trevor Howard as the constabulary, Alida Valli as the femme fatale, and Orson Welles as the dead friend of Cotton, Harry Lime. Add to those amazing black and white shadowed images, evocative zither music, the cuckoo clock speech, the sewer chase and a bitter coda that is indeed referenced not only in Long Goodbye but in many more films, including one of G. Grod’s favorites, Miller’s Crossing. (Aliens? We just watched that, and I can’t think of the reference. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?)

We own the 50th anniversary Criterion Collection edition; it has a lovingly restored print as well as great extras. But in 2007 those double-dipping rat bastages at Criterion put out a two-disc Criterion edition that features a commentary by Steven Soderbergh and Tony Gilroy, screenwriter of the Bourne movies. I think I’m going to need that one, too. Hey, I own six editions of Bronte’s Jane Eyre, why not two of The Third Man?

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