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January 12, 2012
“Victims? Don't be melodramatic. Look down there. Tell me. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare?"
That was Orson Welles, as Harry Lime, on the Wiener Riesenrad, the famed Vienna ferrris wheel, justifying killing a few of those dots, in the 1949 British film noir, "The Third Man," directed by Carol Reed and starring Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, and Trevor Howard.
With the Academy Awards looming next month on the 26th, I thought I’d feature some overlooked films.
Outside of winning for Robert Krasker's cinematography, it was completely shut out.
Not even nominated for the fantastic zither theme music, composed by Anton Karas who Carol Reed discovered playing in a wine bar.
The superb not nominated screenplay was written by novelist Graham Greene, who subsequently published the novella of the same name, which he had originally written as a preparation for the script.
Well, you know the plot.
American pulp Western writer Holly Martins arrives in Post-World War II Vienna to look up his old pal Harry, where he learns that Lime's racket was stealing penicillin from military hospitals, diluting it, and selling it on the black market, leading to many deaths.
Even though the not nominated Orson Welles is only on screen 15 minutes, every minute he's on is mesmerizing:
“...In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace — and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."
In 1999 the British Film Institute selected the film that wasn't even "good" enough to be nominated for best picture, as the best British film of the 20th century.
Throw in an affair of the heart that keeps you guessing right to the novel ending and you have what Roger Ebert wrote, "Of all the movies that I have seen, this one most completely embodies the romance of going to the movies."