Episode 217 – The Third Man (1949)

Hello there, young ‘uns! Us folk here at Max, Mike; Movies got us a brand spanking new series, by cracky! And this time we’re doing PROPER movies, GOOD movies, made the RIGHT way, the way they USED TO MAKE ‘EM before all this new-fangled nonsense showed up. Yup, just like everyone secretly wants but no one will admit, we’re doing a whole series on black-and-white movies! Technicolor, Eastmancolor, Ansco Color . . . phooey! In our day, we only had black, white, and grey and we LIKED it like that! And you’re gonna see why, as we start off with that classic “The Third Man,” starring Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles. And they do it all without using that whole fancy chunk of the visible light spectrum you kids think is the bee’s knees. But don’t think we’re just old fogeys who aren’t up on the latest gimcracks and gizmos! These movies are TALKIES! That’s right, pretty much all of them have actual sound . . . not that we needed that in my day; if you wanted to watch a movie at home, you had to hire a professional pipe organ player to hitch his rig to a team of oxen, haul it over to your house, knock down the back wall, and play while you watched the movie. And we LIKED it like that! So tune in and see what movies are supposed to be like when you don’t need to use the cones in your eyes, by gum!

Poll question: what is your favorite black-and-white movie? When does color just not matter because black-and-white is all you need?

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5 thoughts on “Episode 217 – The Third Man (1949)”

  1. This is á fantastic film and I was surprised that everyone isn’t familiar with it. I have always hung with film nuts and this film stands above so many others. I think it wasn’t/isn’t on tv so much because what Harry Lyme does is really disturbing and out and out evil, yet his charisma does bring á sympathy I don’t think advertisers want to associate with. I have to agree with Max, the zither music was a bit much at times.

    Does colour ever matter? I love silent so I think sound might have been a bad idea and colour is another step too far! Third man is á masterful showcase of how great black and white is. Recently, the lighthouse was also just an amazing black and white film and colour would have taken away from the impact of the story. Young Frankenstein is a great example of how black and white can add a sense of time and place in a very funny movie. So many of my favourite movies are in black and white it’s hard to really pick one!

  2. I think color matters, but it’s become a given in films and rarely do filmmakers really seem to do much with it other than set up palettes. More and more it seems that art made with limitations seems to come out better than that made without. Maybe it’s just me. As for sound, though, there I think we disagree. I like my sound! Give me talkies any day! Thanks, Vince, both for listening and commenting!

    1. I was being a little facetious but I do think the limits of older films helped early artists be more creative and are the building blocks of some of the better films made today. Silent films are actually still around in the form of short animated films mostly, so many are without dialog and use visuals and sound in the form of music over dialog. So it’s not just you! Working within limits def has some advantages!

  3. Thanks, Vince, for reminding me that Young Frankenstein is in black and white! It’s such a, uh, colorful film that I often forget that about it.

    Which actually makes me curious–back when everything was black and white (and grey, can’t forget grey), did you find yourself mentally filling in the colors? That’s what I do, but I don’t know if that’s simply a product of my Technicolor-saturated brain.

    As for my favorite movie that happens to be in black and white, I adore Roman Holiday. It’s not an especially deep cut, but there’s a lot of charm to it, and I’m very glad that the filmmakers resisted the urge to make the ending anything other than what it is. Even this many decades later, it’s still the best travel advertisement for Rome I’ve ever seen.

    1. Hey Ned
      I never or rarely think of black and white films in colour, but I grew up with back and white films, photography, ink illustration so colour always seemed like something “added”. I didn’t have TV until I was older and even that was black and white! I do like colour inserts in some films like “ portrait of Dorian Grey” when you see the painting the first time, it’s a full colour insert and then again at the end… so effective!

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