Thursday, January 14, 2010

#20 The Third Man: Death is at the bottom of everything

1949. dir. Carol Reed, starring Joseph Cotten, Valli, Orson Welles.

Seen it before? No.

Meh. Joseph Cotten was great, and I liked this mysterious "Valli" woman; she was kind of like the Carrie-Anne Moss of her day. But four things ruined this movie for me:

1. One of the many things that I hated about Sweet Home Alabama is that the poster ruined the ending. Shit, the title ruined the ending. Well, for this movie, the Netflix description said "Orson Welles plays Harry Lime", and that is a key plot point. You don't find out he's still alive until 45 minutes in.

2. The Hays Code. From about 1930 until the late 1950's, these were the rules for making movies, and they were pretty restrictive. Basically, crime couldn't pay. You couldn't have the villain get away with anything. Hence you sort of knew how it was going to end pretty early.

3. The movie relies on a bait-and-switch with bodies - i.e. they bury one person with the pretense that it is somebody else. This is tricky to pull off; you have to have some way of justifying why the authorities (who tend to do pesky things like PERFORM AUTOPSIES) wouldn't catch on. They don't bother justifying it at all here. Felt like a cheat.

4. The zither music. Sounded like the music for some light-hearted Jacques Tati-esqe movie and not what was supposed to be a serious film noir.

Position on the list: 62
Picture quality: It looked like shit smeared on English muffins. Great job, Netflix On Demand. (Actually it was probably Comcast's fault. either way.)

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