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YMMV / The Third Man

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  • Award Snub: Although the film took home a much-deserved Oscar win for Cinematography (as well as nominations for Director and Editing), neither Orson Welles' performance nor the iconic zither score were nominated.
  • Awesome Music: Anton Karas' zither-based score, most notably the title theme (which went on to spend 11 weeks at #1 on the Billboard chart).
  • Complete Monster: In this post-World War II Film Noir, Harry Lime is an amoral man who fakes his death in order to escape the consequences of his misdeeds. Taking advantage of the scarcity of antibiotics, Lime steals penicillin from hospitals and dilutes it before selling it to the highest bidder on the black market. Several patients die from the now-lethal medication; those that survive, a majority being children, are subject to illnesses. When Holly Martins confronts him, Lime attempts to kill him, only to relent when informed that the authorities knew that his death was faked. A chilling sociopath who views everyone around him as a pawn to exploit, Lime is willing to sentence several people to a painful death, as long as he benefits.
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  • Director Displacement: In the years after its release, Orson Welles was sometimes held to have erroneously directed parts or whole of this film, a fact which he denied every time it was brought up, clarifying that he only contributed to the "cuckoo-clock" speech. The reason for the confusion is that, even aside from playing the title character and having the best lines and scenes, The Third Man is visually very much inspired by Citizen Kane and The Lady from Shanghai, and its Chiaroscuro laden black-and-white cinematography is quite Wellesian. The story with its theme of broken friendships and betrayals is common to Welles' movies as well. The major difference is the extensive location shooting in real-life post-war Vienna, which was inspired by Italian Neorealism and something that Welles wasn't known for at that time or afterwards, on account of the fact that it was really expensive and way beyond Welles' low-budget resources.
  • Draco in Leather Pants:
    • Harry Lime turned out to be so popular that he got his own Radio Drama series (The Lives of Harry Lime) starring Orson Welles himself. In the series, which was obviously set prior to the events of the film, Lime was more of a Lovable Rogue than a Magnificent Bastard. And besides, Evil Is Sexy when it's Orson Welles.
    • Even more so in the 1950s television adaptation, where Michael "Klaatu" Rennie played him as an urbane English hero! The spin-offs tended to make Lime Lighter and Softer.
    • Welles' Mr. Arkadin was a spin-off of the radio show and recast Lime as a slimeball Expy called Guy Van Stratten with himself in the title role precisely because Welles wanted to take apart the Lime character whose fandom he found unhealthy.
  • Evil Is Sexy: You got a charming sociopath played by Orson Welles in his prime. Of course people are into him.
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  • Heartwarming Moments: Of the meta variety. Graham Greene and Carol Reed battled over how the film should end. Decades later, Greene admitted, "Carol Reed was right... he made a magnificent ending."
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Eric Pohlmann, who plays a waiter, later appears as The Dragon in the James Bond/film noir parody Carry On Spying, as the Fat Man, which debatably is a character reference to this movie, albeit In Name Only.
  • Homegrown Hero: Zig-zagged, as the American protagonist being out of luck in post-war Vienna is very much a deconstruction of this trope - with the British deuteragonist however, not nearly so much.
  • It Was His Sled:
    • Come on, even the posters spoil it.
    • The ending is justifiably famous, but it averts this trope since it doesn't spoil anything involving the main plot, and you can't fully appreciate it without seeing the rest of the film.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Harry Lime is a racketeer selling black market penicillin in post-war Vienna, completely untroubled by pangs of conscience. Calling his friend Holly Martins to Vienna, Harry fakes his own death to throw suspicion off himself, manipulating his old girlfriend Anna, as well as Holly and the police while he remains off the radar. Constantly staying a step ahead of everyone, Harry continuously attempts to put himself back in the good graces of those he's abandoned, which keeps working thanks to his charm and pleasant demeanor. Never at a loss for a smile, Harry won't hesitate to play a situation to his benefit, no matter what.
  • Misaimed Fandom: There are people who root for Lime.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Lime faked his death to avoid being accused of selling watered-down penicillin that resulted in mass death and illness.
  • Older Than They Think:
    • Only not that much older. The "cuckoo clock" speech quoted at the top is the most famous line from the movie. What most people don't realize (even though it's lampshaded) is that Harry Lime is actually quoting someone. "As the fella says..." Who's the "fella"? Winston Churchill. (Yeah, not one of Churchill's more inspiring quotes.)
    • For younger fans, Harry Lime and his popularity reminds them of no one less than Darth Vader from Star Wars. A villain who is cool, who gets the audience to root for him and sympathize with him, who is also a Fallen Hero who comes to blows with his best friend, and who despite his death spawns a spin-off franchise dealing with his origins. That's true for both Lime and later Vader, complete with a spin-off radio show and a number of novels, which are prequels dealing with his adventures before The Third Man showing how he went from the relatively decent man Holly Martins remembered to the scoundrel we see in the movie. Lime also tries to get Holly to join him by preaching his own amoral philosophy much like Vader does to Luke. The fact that Welles was one of Lucas' first choices for Vader's voice is likely not an accident, and Lucas probably wanted to tap into Welles' ability to make evil characters interesting and fun to watch.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Orson Welles appears onscreen for less than 10 minutes; nonetheless, he is the most remembered part of this film. Welles was conscious of this and later explained in an interview with Peter Bogdanovich that it was an old theatre convention, citing "Mr. Wu" where most of the plot revolves around describing Mr. Wu and then Mr. Wu makes a grand entry and the audience says, "Mr. Wu gives a great performance!".
  • Poor Man's Substitute: Alida Valli is very reminiscent of Ingrid Bergman in this film, to the point that some people mistakenly think Bergman played Anna. Not accidental: David O. Selznick signed her to a contract specifically because he thought she was the next Bergman. Of course eventually she became recognized as a very good actress in Italian films, and a very good character actress in her later career.
  • Signature Scene:
    • Harry Lime's intro and The Reveal that he is alive, complete with spotlight (rather light from window) illuminating him in the dark streets, with his impish "caught me" smirk.
    • The Ferris wheel scene where Harry Lime talks to Holly Martins.
    • The final shot of the film with Alida Valli walking past Holly Martins. This visual motif became widely copied and homaged over the decades.
  • Suspiciously Similar Song: A lot of people have pointed out that the Third Man Theme sounds a lot like the music featured in SpongeBob SquarePants.
  • Tear Jerker: The children's hospital.
  • The Woobie: Anna Schmidt is so sad and pathetic that even the sad and pathetic Holly Martins can't stop himself from falling in love with her. It's noteworthy that her theme is the only piece of music in the movie that ISN'T Soundtrack Dissonance. It's full on SAD.

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