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The Third Man (1949)

Film Capsule

The Third Man / Carol Reed / 1949 /

Active Ingredients: Eccentric and original style; Superb acting
Side Effects: Perhaps an overuse of canted angles

The mystery of a death that never happened and a tale of wartime horrors with no fighting, The Third Man is an offbeat noir that not only ignores the conventions of its era, but seems to be unaware of their existence. From the jaunty, anachronistic zither score to a barely-present main character, the film follows its own logic confidently and unwaveringly. The Third Man is remembered for its eccentricities, but it’s the remarkably solid core that keeps it all together.

The perpetually-overshadowed Joseph Cotton plays Holly Martins, a quintessential American writer of quintessentially crummy American dime novels. He’s a bit of a boar, an offscreen drunk and a fish-out-of-water with a nose for trouble. He has no business being in Vienna just as the ubiquitous…

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