23Mar21: “The Third Man”

Darn that kitty boy! Blocking the closed captions. “Andy! The Third Man is one of my top all time favorite movies! Brilliant use of close ups and camera angles to built tension and suspense! No end of plot twists. Joseph Cotton, for blinking sake, as Holly Martins! And Orson Wells, what can I say, as Harry Lime, opportunist and black marketeer in penicillin in the morass of post war Vienna…. Oh, you are just a kitty. You can’t understand.” 

Hee!Hee! Andy moved just in time for me to catch a caption error – or was it a caption writer’s joke or way of adding suspense for the caption reading audience?? -where German is translated into… German! Fortunately for me, with my considerably crappy 1st Year College German for help, “passiert” happens to be in the classic line in my Conversational German second lesson: “Wenn es regnet, passiert des meistens”. I get it. Hee! Hee! I get it! So much of the dialogue is in German spoken with a Viennesse accent, I guess, that I have difficulty following most of it. That adds another layer of suspense. Each time I watch the movie, more of it unveils, revealing just a fraction more of the plot that Holly Martins and I don’t yet know – “Don’t go there, Holly Martins! Don’t do that!” As for Andy…

…he moved to the ottoman, where I could use the closed captions but where he missed the kitty cat scene in Anna Schmidt’s apartment. Holly Martins, drunk, reaches down to Anna’s unnamed cat. The cat refuses to react to a string Holly Martins tempts it with. Anna reveals that Harry Lime is the only person other than she that the cat likes, the reason it won’t play with Holly Martins…. Oh! A new detail I’ve missed in past! Shortly after, the cat will reveal Harry Lime’s hiding place in the shadows, letting Holly Martins know his old friend is still alive. Wow! Thanks, Andrew! I think you deserve a chin “scritch” for helping me see new things in the cat scene.


Watching The Third Man again for the umpteenth time was my treat for doing little to nothing for my weekend. I never tire of this brilliant film. As a former US Army motion picture photographer, the camera work is impressive to me in the way it advances the story. It is a very visual film. In past, I was more involved with the German dialogue, trying to follow most of it, even if I got little: “Bitte, langsam sprechen!” That helped in early 1970 in Germany, but actors in this film speak in “24-frame-per-second” Deutsch. Little relief, then, though the little bits and pieces fill in, well, little bits and pieces of the plot I’ve missed before.   

19 thoughts on “23Mar21: “The Third Man”

  1. Alas, I have never seen The Third Man. Watching it with German subtitles would not be my cuppa tea. We did live in Germany for several years when I was a kid and actually lived with a German family. Dad was in the Canadian army and we were posted there. I spoke German fluently because of playing with the German kids. When I got back to Canada, people laughed at me when my mom would have me speak German. How I wish now that she could have got me into a school with a German language course but this was way back in the 50’s and the options were limited.


    • The closed captions were in English. When German was spoken, no captions were shown, though it noted a foreign language was being spoken.

      When I was stationed in then-West Germany, I occasionally was on photo jobs where we crossed paths with British, Canadian, and French installations.

    • I learned it at the University of Nebraska in the late 1960’s. I was a lousy language student, preserving the myth that Americans can’t learn a foreign language. LOL!

    • Yes, I enjoy movies on several levels, so I often watch them more than once when they are rebroadcast or I have the DVD.

    • I watched it the first time to get a sense of the plot. That was a trick! Each time I watch it, though, what I noticed in past forms the background to add new details to. I’ve always been a cinema fan.

  2. third man is a fab thing, we love it. sometimes subtitles can be confusing… I learnt that in the 80’s as I watched Flashdance ….at the end I turned into an expert of misheard lyrics hahahahaha

    • The captioning can confuse, for sure1 If I hadn’t taken the shot at just the very moment this “passiert” business flashed by, I would have – and have – missed it. Got a chuckle out of it anyway. I suppose I missed it before because it was part of a German dialogue that I was able to follow well enough to mostly understand what it contributed to the plot.

  3. “The Third Man” is one of my favorite films too! Not only for the striking photography, but for a story about the nature of evil and friendship. And shame on Andy for sitting in front of the closed captions! I use headphones now, but I still keep the captions on just in case my ears didn’t catch something in the dialog. Every once in awhile though, Sunny will jump in front of the screen and block the picture. I try to shoo her away gently, but she’s either oblivious to the movie or she thinks I’m kidding around! So sometimes I have to use a little persuasion, as Harry Lime might put it. (Actually I just pick her up and put her on my lap, which she doesn’t always like, but at least I can watch the movie.) I hope Andy lets you watch your movies in peace!

    • I hope she appreciates the cat scene at Anna’s apartment, then the important role Anna’s cat plays when she reveals Harry Lime’s hiding place! Meow!

      It’s fun learning other bloggers I follow and who follow me like this classic and brilliant film!

      • p.s. I use the captions partially the way you do and partially because I have hearing loss. Between the two uses, I can enjoy movies a lot.

        Of course, when the dialogue’s in another language, it’s critical!

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