Post war Vienna is the setting of this story of intrigue and mystery. American pulp author Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton) comes to town on the invitation of his friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles) to find out his friend has been killed in an automobile collision. He looks into his friend’s death and finds out that the police have been looking into the case half heartedly because Holly’s friend has been linked to the black market. Maj. Calloway (Trevor Howard) is the point person in the investigation and tries to warn Holly off the case and warn him of the dangers of Vienna’s underworld. Holly meets some of Hary’s friends and one of them is stage actress Anna Schmidt (Valli) together they uncover the truth behind their friend’s death.
I now have a new definition of the noir style of film, when I think noir I now think of this film. This is an excellent example of the genre. The pacing and tension are elements that make this film outstanding. The dialog is also engaging even today, it does not lose itself in the lingo of the age it was made. I think this movie stands up well in its engagement of the viewer. I need to do more research on the film in its creation but it seems like it’s not tied down to any formula. I have a bit of a spoiler here so avert your eyes if you need to for this next sentence. I loved how the guy does not get the girl in the end. That ending made the movie seem real to me, they did not tie it up in a clean little bow and make everyone happy. It was a dark, gritty, rough and enjoyable story.
I liked many of the shot compositions in this film, when the tension as supposed to build the camera was set at an angle ever so slightly; the rooms in the shot were not exactly square. The uses of the same simple music played at different speeds made it almost feel like the soundtrack was in mocking contrast to the elements on screen. It was peppy as if to soften the images that were going on. I also enjoyed how we were exposed to different languages that kept the star and the audience in the dark about our surroundings.
My take way:
I have to watch the movies twice to really look at them. Roger Ebert screened Silence of the Lambs at the University of Colorado Boulder several years ago and showed it twice. I was reminded of how and why he did it that way. The first night we fell into the story, and the second night we could dissect the movie without getting lost. After watching a few of these films I have to start doing them in the above format just to get a good look at the movies. For this film I learned that really good stories do not have to have a happy ending to be really good. I wish Hollywood would remember this as well.
I watched this movie on DVD from Netflix.