The Third Man

Director: Carol Reed
Year Released: 1949
Rating: 3.5

A hack writer with a drinking problem (Joseph Cotten) goes to Vienna to find old pal Harry Lime (Orson Welles), but it turns out Lime's dead and the circumstances surrounding his death are suspicious and the locals can't get their story straight. The flaws are relatively minor - the obnoxious Dutch angles, the slightly plodding script - compared to its strengths, as this is an unforgettably atmospheric image of post-War Vienna, divided into quarters and filled with whispers and lies. It's also something of an anti-buddy picture, with Cotten, after learning about Lime's devious scheme of watering down penicillin for children, turning on Lime instead of staying friends to the bitter end - perversely, this makes Cotten look like a coward and Welles like a victim, a true noir twist. Welles' first appearance, accompanied by a cat sitting on his wingtips, is one of the most ingenious scenes (and one of the greatest introductions) in the movies.