Set in post- World War II Vienna, this movie is "a portrait of postwar corruption and the death of idealism" (Michael Wilmington, in the DVD insert). Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton) comes to Vienna at the request of his old friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles). He arrives to find that Harry has been killed in a questionable automobile accident. A police inspector (Trevor Howard) informs Holly that his friend Harry had been involved in racketeering and maybe deserved to die.

Trying to clear the name of his friend, Holly discovers the depth of his friend's evilness--Harry was not a petty thief; he was involved in stealing penicillin from military bases and then selling diluted (and thus ineffective) doses to hospitals. The police inspector convinces Holly to turn on his friend (Harry was not the victim of the automobile accident--another of his cruel deeds!) who is finally killed by Holly in the sewers of Vienna. Of course there is Harry's girlfriend (Alida Valli) who rebuffs Holly and remains true till the end to Harry.


A classic film noir thriller. Graham Greene, the author of this "treatment" says that it "was never written to be read but only to be seen." Roger Ebert says it is one of the ten best films of all time. The film also features the famous "Harry Lime Theme" played on a zither.


Winner of the Palme d'or, Cannes Film Festival (1949)

Primary Source

DVD, The Criterion Collection, 1999