Perfect backdrop for chilling movie

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 October, 2007, 12:00am

With its brilliant screenplay penned by British novelist Graham Greene, stellar acting performances from a cast led by Orson Welles, and groundbreaking cinematography, The Third Man is routinely cited at, or near, the top of lists covering the 'greatest films of all time'. And it certainly remains the most famous film ever to have used Vienna as its setting and backdrop.

The Third Man has, since its release in 1949, captivated generations of film-lovers with its chilling film noir treatment of Vienna, and its bold exploration of the way the city looked and felt immediately after the war.

The convoluted and tragic nature of Austria's war experience meant that the film was never as big a hit in Austria as it was elsewhere. Nevertheless, Vienna's Burgkino cinema screens the film three times a week, and a small museum devoted to the film opened two years ago.

It displays artefacts such as the actual zither, authenticated by the cigarette burns, that was played in the hypnotic opening credits.

One of the film's most famous exchanges takes place between Harry Lime (Orson Welles) and down-on-his-luck writer Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton) on the Riesenrad, the Ferris wheel at the entrance of the city's Prater amusement park.

The Riesenrad, a Vienna icon, was one of the first Ferris wheels to be erected anywhere in the world, going up in 1897 to celebrate Emperor Franz Josef I's golden jubilee celebrations.

Many other famous Vienna landmarks can be seen in the film, including the Zentralfriedhof, or Central Cemetery, which appears in the final moments of the film.

This locale is the final resting place of Beethoven and scores of other notable European historical figures.

Vienna appeared in another hugely successful transatlantic movie 38 years later, the 1987 James Bond film The Living Daylights.