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Date TimeSeptember 25, 2019
VoiceBlustering, conceited, charming – Orson Welles is still spellbinding in Carol Reed’s compelling parable of guilt, now rereleased 70 years on
The Third Man review – torn between heaven and hell, a classic noir
‘You used to believe in God!” That’s the devastating accusation – or reminder – hurled at the sinister fugitive Harry Lime by his old pal Holly Martins in this movie’s famous scene, high up on Vienna’s Riesenrad ferris wheel. For a fraction of a second, the memory disconcerts the smooth-talking rogue, until he resumes his cynical and specious charm: his legendary speech about Switzerland’s renowned peace producing only the cuckoo clock is part of Lime’s emotional regrouping, the defiant restating of his amorality. The Third Man – written for the screen by Graham Greene and directed by Carol Reed – is now rereleased for its 70th anniversary. Greene’s script looks less and less secular to me as the years go by.
Martins, an American pulp writer of westerns played by Joseph Cotten, has arrived in postwar Vienna, a city shattered by the fighting and divided into American, British, Russian and French zones. He has been promised a job by Lime – whose existence in the film is nothing more than a rumour, until he emerges from the shadows: Orson Welles, giving an extraordinarily charismatic late-breaking cameo turn of the sort that even Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now couldn’t match.

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