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The Third Man at 70

Old Un's Notes | September 2019


The Old Un celebrates this iconic piece of film noir cinema and its dedicated museum

The Old Un has got his zither out to commemorate the 70th anniversary of his favourite film, Carol Reed’s The Third Man. Its première was on 1st September 1949.

Tipped off by Oldie reader Mari Nicholson, the Old Un tracked down a small building hidden down a residential side street in the Margareten neighbourhood – the Third Man Museum.

The museum is a treasure trove of over 2,000 original film posters, costumes, pieces of sheet music, sound and film recordings, autographed photos, zithers, CDs, books, and recordings of that marvellous theme tune played by Anton Karas in the film.

It even has little Hansel’s cap and a still-functioning 1936 Ernemann 7b projector – used when the film was first shown in Vienna, and now used to play back a short film sequence. Part of the wonder of the movie was Carol Reed’s unusual, atmospheric shots of the Vienna sewers, and Orson Welles’s shadow jinking through the city streets. Reed shot scenes with such crazy ‘Dutch angles’ (ie non-horizontal ones) that the crew gave him a spirit level as a present.

The museum is the life work and consuming passion of its owners, collector and historian Gerhard Strassgschwandtner and his wife Karin Höfler. Being unsubsidised, they have to work to support their passion – so it’s open only on Saturdays, from 2pm to 6pm.

A few doors down from the museum is another building. This houses, among other things, Trevor Howard’s original script and the hallowed zither on which Karas wrote and recorded the theme tune. There are also many cover versions of the music, including one performed by the Beatles.

Altogether now: ‘Dum di dum di dum, di dum. Dum di dum di dum, di dum…’


This story was from September 2019 issue. Subscribe Now