I suggest you watch this, and then let The Third Man Theme run in the background while you read.
Destination: Vienna, Austria
Move: (Classic) The Third Man ,1949
Vienna at night near the Opera House glowed bright and cheerful as Ken and I made our way from an Easter weekend concert of Strauss in the flower-decked Musikverein to the famous Sacher Hotel coffee house and their whipped-cream delights (everything in Vienna comes “mit schlag.”
A different Vienna glowers at the viewer of the black and white movie, The Third Man. Shadows slice across empty squares and camera angles tilt everyone at suspicious angles. Suspicion. That’s the dominant theme of this classic film noir, written by Graham Greene and directed by Carol Reed.
Unlike many more contemporary movies where Toronto may pass for Cincinnati, or Los Angeles suburbs for a western prairie, an Iowa town or a southern farm, this film that is so anchored in Vienna was actually shot in Vienna. Interiors were done in a studio in England where scenery artists recreated the post-war decay of elaborate apartments and bureaucrat’s offices, and a mock sewer was built in London for some of Orson Welles’ appearances, but most of the film is on location.
And if you want to follow in the footsteps of Holley Martins (Joseph Cotton) as he tries to track down Harry Lime (Orson Welles), several companies in the city of Vienna invite you to do just that. You can watch the movie, take a walking tour AND go through a 10-room museum all dedicated to The Third Man at Die dritte Mann Tour. (site in English as well as German, as are tours). Or the Vienna Walks tour.
The high point is a tour of the sewers which provide some of the most dramatic footage in the film. If you are concerned about tramping around in underground sewer tunnels, it helps to know that a lot of the movie was shot in tunnels that carry the river underground rather than actually the sewers.
It is even possible, I have read, to ride the giant ferris wheel where Orson Wellesexits with the line he invented,
“Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 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 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock..”
Now if you have not seen the movie, this is not making much sense to you, but beyond telling you that the film is delicious and you will recognize the debt many later film makers owe to it, I am not going to tell you the plot and spoil the experience for you.
If, on the other hand, you are quite familiar with the film or with Vienna–obssessed even–then you’ll enjoy this site which shows you most of the Third Man locations.
But if you have never seen the film, I highly recommend it. And if you watch closely–you’ll see the Hotel Sacher, where Ken and I enjoyed our late-night dessert “mit schlag.”
We ate so much whipped cream in Austria (at least twice a day) that I figured I would gain ten pounds. However, we spent so much time walking (not running through sewers) that we came home slimmer than when we started.
If you want something to nibble on while you watch your DVD of The Third Man, I recommend this recipe for Ischl Tartlets. Thanks to You Tube for the video, and to Flickr/Creative Commons license for the final two photographs. The Musikverein photo is my own.
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Also read: Review of A Death in Vienna