The Third Man (1949) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Damien of Flashback/Backslide. Thanks for all the reviews, Damien! 🙂 Now let’s see what he thinks of The Third Man, IMDB rank 72 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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The Third Man

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Roger Ebert described film noir as the “most American film genre” but not all the Golden Age classics were American-made. British director Carol Reed created one of the most famous British noirs in 1949. The Third Man stars Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles, two stars from Citizen Kane, and highlights some of the differences between British and American noirs. Using old noir guidelines as a map may lead you astray as the film follows its own course. Set in Allied-occupied Vienna, Cotten stars as Holly Martins, an American pulp fiction writer who travels to Vienna to work for his old friend Harry Lime. Soon Martins finds Lime was killed in an accident just a few days prior to his arrival and learns some unflattering facts about his friend. Sensing foul play, Martins begins an investigation along with Lime’s love interest Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli).

At the center of The Third Man‘s plot is a mystery and plot twist that feels very predictable, especially if you look at the roster of cast members before the film begins. But like many American noirs, the film centers on characters; the choices they make and their consequences. Martins struggles to reconcile memories of his friend with the Lime described by Major Calloway (Trevor Howard). Both Martins and Schmidt must choose to support Lime’s racket or aid Calloway’s efforts to undo Lime’s plots. The decisions ultimately feel inevitable but Cottens and Valli’s performances sell the character’s struggles.

Unlike the more detective-based American noirs, The Third Man does not involve on-screen characters outmaneuvering each other. The characters with all the answers to the film’s mystery are secondary with limited screen time, leaving the main cast confused and off-balance. This makes for a “softer” protagonist, more lost and confused than the hard-boiled leads of American films. What the film does have in common with other noir classics is the dark atmosphere and visual techniques of the genre. Dutch angles and harsh lighting are used throughout, almost too often. These techniques helps create uneasiness and tension but their use can feel artificial. At times we watch a character enter a cafe in a standard angle then take a seat at a booth. The camera adjusts to show the sitting character and suddenly a Dutch angle is used. Sudden shifts like this happen throughout and do more to draw attention to the camera-work than set a tone. To the film’s credit, these transitions may have been more novel in 1949, although some contemporary reviews chastised the dizzying views. Others were more appreciative. A New York Times review written in 1950 celebrated the camerawork:

For into this strangely off-beat story of a young American visitor’s attempts to get to the bottom of the mystery of a friend’s dubious “death” in Vienna’s streets, Mr. Reed has brilliantly packaged the whole bag of his cinematic tricks, his whole range of inventive genius for making the camera expound. His eminent gifts for compressing a wealth of suggestion in single shots, for building up agonized tension and popping surprises are fully exercised. His devilishly mischievous humor also runs lightly through the film, touching the darker depressions with little glints of the gay or macabre.

-Bosley Crowther, The New York Times, February 3, 1950.

I’m making a note to myself to include “glints of the gay or macabre” in a future review. Crowther goes on to compliment the film’s music which features a zither “pulsing” in the background. I must admit, the music of the film grew tiresome quickly. Again this may be due to my modern ears reacting against a 60-year-old stylistic choice but the repetitive score underpinning moments big and small added more distraction than suspense or melancholy.

Ultimately, my appreciation for the film is dulled by my more modern eyes and ears yet the film still tells a captivating story brought to life by effective acting. Watching Orson Welles in his earlier years is always a treat and his brief scenes alone make the film worth a view. The film’s finale in the sewers of Vienna are also particularly effective. Rewatching the film with an eye for camera technique and Reed’s style might make for a more worthwhile viewing.

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Rating: 9/10

Classic Film Scale Rating: 7/10

Bottomline: A well-crafted yet dated mystery, The Third Man‘s well-developed characters, “bag of [noir] cinematic tricks”, and elaborate sewer finale make the film worthy of the praise it has received over the decades.

Thanks for reading!

Flashback/Backslide

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The Green Mile (1999) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Zoe of The Sporadic Chronicles Of A Beginner Blogger. Zoe is loving this IMDB project – she’s already reviewed The Departed (which you can read HERE) and she’s planning on doing more! (And may have done another one already…) 😉 Thanks so much for the reviews, Zoe!

Now let’s see what she has to say about The Green Mile, IMDB rank 65 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list HERE. See the full list & links to all the films that have been reviewed HERE.

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Here’s another entry for Table 9 Mutant’s IMDB Top 250 challenge. I have been having so much fun with this, revisiting some movies, checking them all for her, some of them I have been meaning to look into again for so long, and now I finally have the driving factor. This is a movie that I hold most dear, who lived up to every inch of the book, proving that you can, in fact, adapt a book successfully if you just know what you are doing.

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“On the day of my judgment, when I stand before God, and He asks me why did I kill one of his true miracles, what am I gonna say? That it was my job?”
– Paul Edgecomb

The Green Mile is an absolutely stunning tale of the supernatural, faith, the strange things, horror, hope, miracles and all sorts of things. Naturally, when it begins, you don’t really know what is coming. I mean Stephen King is renowned for horrors, but what some people forget is that he is an exceptionally talented author who has more skills than just to terrify the pants off of you. From his strange mind he brought us an account, one that makes you smile, one that makes you sad, one that evokes anger and pity all at once. John Coffey is portrayed by Michael Clarke Duncan (R.I.P.), and I think he was superbly cast to play the giant that was accused of the disgusting slayings of two young girls. He is a monster of a man, not the most intelligent person in the world, but shy, wholesome and well-mannered, very incongruent to the hulking monstrosity his physical exterior represents.

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“People hurt the ones they love. That’s how it is all around the world.” – John Coffey

Coffey’s character can only grow on you, and if it does not, then there is something fundamentally flawed in you. He was pure innocence in a world of cruelty, anger and hatred, and even though he was wronged, he did not take it out on anyone once. I loved the relationship he developed with the guards Paul Edgecombe (Tom Hanks), Brutus “Brutal” Howell (David Morse), Dean Stanton (Barry Pepper) and Harry Terwilliger (James DeMunn). It was great to see how they interacted with this man on death row. Then there was Tom Hanks, again pulling together a great drama role right here as Paul, the man who had to get to the bottom of whatever was going on, who was drawn in and fascinated by Coffey, a peaceful and pure human being. Naturally not everyone was going to be so nice, and Dough Hutchison did a fine job as Percy Wetmore… in other words, I really did just want to climb over somewhere and kill him. He was inhumane, he was cruel and he deserved so much more than a big, fat slap. He was revolting and evil to the core, and was intent on throwing his weight around and bullying everyone no end. People like that sicken me, and he was incredibly convincing, always selfish, putting himself ahead and being resentful at every available opportunity.

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“Try it! You’ll be on the bread lines before the week is out!” – Percy Whetmore

Sam Rockwell was simply brilliant as “Wild Bill” Wharton, and impressed me with his portrayal of the malicious and wicked man. He was undeniably cracked and never once let you forget about it. He was the very embodiment of what I expected from King’s character. I also enjoyed David Morse, whom I find to be an underappreciated actor. He lent dignity and morals to Brutus and gave him real flesh and character. The movie’s pacing was gradual though never boring, but you must not expect something gushing action in every scene, never relenting or letting you breathe. This is a film designed to make you chew over it, think about it and make decisions based on that.

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“All I wanted me was a little cornbread, motherfuckers! All I wanted me was a little cornbread!” – William “Wild Bill” Wharton

I enjoyed how the film was set in the thirties, and the appearance of the prison, the uniforms, the way of life… things was done so much differently. Coffey’s gift being discovered was a thing of beauty. Paul had been suffering for a while with a severe bladder infection, and in a moment of fear and pain, Coffey had healed him, fixed the problems. Such is the nature that shows that Coffey is special, that he is amazing and that he should not be where he is, though he is there now and will have to make the best of it. The guards all become rather protective of Coffey and develop a respect and friendship with him, though not everything is destined to go that way. Paul’s relentless need to get to the bottom of what really happened is touching, and it shows you how one person can change your perception in life as well as how you go about it.

I honestly believe The Green Mile is a classic, and most definitely something that everyone should see at least once in their lives. Frank Darabont again gave another striking vision of a King novel, something I am starting to feel only he fully grasps.

I just can’t see God putting a gift like that in the hands of a man who would kill a child. – Paul Edgecomb