July 27, 1999
For my money, the greatest movie ever made is The Third Man, first released 50 years ago and now re-released with restored footage (11 minutes had been cut from the U.S. version). Usually praised as a "classic thriller," it's much more than that: it's a study of evil that bears repeated viewings.
Rarely has a film been blessed by such a perfect combination of direction (Carol Reed), script (Graham Greene), cinematography (Robert Krasker), music (Anton Karas), and excellent casting, right down to the creepy minor characters.
An American pulp-fiction writer named Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) comes to occupied Vienna just after World War II to take a job writing for an old pal's "medical charity." But upon arrival, he learns that his pal, Harry Lime, has just been run over by his own chauffeur. Holly attends Harry's funeral and talks to witnesses, whose conflicting accounts of a "third man" at the death scene lead him to believe that Harry was murdered. When a cynical British military policeman, a Major Calloway (Trevor Howard), tells him that Harry was "about the worst racketeer who ever made a dirty living in this city," Holly angrily resolves to find "the third man," solve the murder, and shame Calloway by clearing Harry's name.