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The Third Man

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Album Review

Director Carol Reed's 1949 film noir The Third Man, based on a screenplay by novelist Graham Greene and starring Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles, makes many critics' lists of the best movies of all time. Not the least of the film's attributes is the score, which consists entirely of zither music improvised by Anton Karas. Karas' playing, and the zither itself, has an old-world charm that provides a perfect contrast to a mystery set among the intrigues of postwar Vienna, and just after the movie's American premiere, his recording of the main tune, actually called "The Harry Lime Theme" after Welles' character but titled "The Third Man Theme" on record, became a massive pop hit, with five charting cover versions. London Records, which issued the single, didn't get around to putting out an album version, The Third Man Theme, until 1956, and then only one side consisted of Karas' playing. It would be 54 years later that Reynold da Silva's Silva Screen Records, a label devoted to faithful, newly made recordings of soundtrack music, created this reconstruction of the score by having Gareth Williams go through the DVD version of the film with a computer and create a transcription of Karas' performance, then having that played by zither musician Gertrud Huber. Not only that, da Silva has obtained a few choice excerpts from the witty dialogue of the film to drop in here and there. Huber, not surprisingly, seems a bit more deliberate and less spontaneous than Karas, but she captures the style of his work well. The relatively short score is appended with orchestral versions of the main tunes, "The Harry Lime Theme" and "The Café Mozart Waltz," reliably played by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Nic Raine, Silva Screen's usual performers.

The Third Man, Gertrud Huber
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