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The Third Man

Year: 1949
Production Co: London Film Productions
Director: Carol Reed
Producer: Carol Reed
Writer: Graham Green
Cast: Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles, Trevor Howard, Valli, Bernard Lee
This was Orson Welles at the same stage of his career Quentin Tarantino is now. He'd made his world-beating splash in the world of movies could write his own ticket as film's most famous dead man walking, Harry Lime.

The Third Man was a classic Hitchcock tale before there was one. A good friend of Lime's, Holly (Welles' co-star in Citizen Kane, Joseph Cottens) arrives in postwar Vienna to stay with his friend, only to learn he was killed in a hit and run only days before.

The local constabulary, led by smarmy Calloway (Howard) have closed the book on the case, none too concerned at the death of a penicillin smuggler causing untold misery among the young war victims he's swindling.

Carved up into four and led by the victorious powers of the war, Vienna is rife with black marketeers, and Calloway and his off-sider Paine (A pre-'M' Bernard Lee) have far more to worry about than a small time swindler like Lime.

But Holly isn't convinced and decides to follow a trail of witnesses and whispered reports - many of them terrified - all giving conflicting accounts of Lime's death. He falls in with Lime's lover, stage actress Anna (Valli), crossing Calloway at every turn until finally the latter adopts a begrudged respect for his dedication.

One of those films frequently topping Best Movies Ever lists, you might not think so, seeing instead just a rollicking good mystery.

But the camerawork and design is ahead of its time, and it contains one of the most enigmatic and understated yet most powerful reveals in movie history with a simple shadowy alcove, a switched on light and an enigmatic smile across a darkened square.

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