Wednesday, October 31, 2018

"The Third Man" for Halloween


Every Halloween there is a retelling of Orson Welles’ all-too-realistic radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds” eighty years ago. Welles succeeded in startling America with the dramatic account of Martians landing in New Jersey.  Then only twenty-three-years old, he went on to an illustrious movie career.

His portrayal of Charles Foster Kane in “Citizen Kane” is probably his biggest success; indeed, this film is often regarded as the greatest in the nation’s history.  But I always associate Welles with “The Third Man.” His character in that 1949 British film, Harry Lime, is a black marketeer in destitute post-war Vienna.  Welles’  performance, along with the bumbling character played by Joseph Cotton--who had top billing--adds up to a gripping story.   The bleakness is enhanced by both the black-and-white format and the eerie zither music which is played throughout.

Some time ago when I was in Vienna, I saw some of the highlights of the old city, including St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Danube, and even the Hotel Sacher, where the great chocolate tortes are served.  But I wanted to feel the city that Harry Lime inhabited, including the Ferris wheel at the Prater park. 

While “The War of the Worlds” has become a Halloween radio classic, the adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel is a haunting visual experience for this or any day.

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