The 1941 movie Casablanca was remade in 1949 as The 3rd Man; it’s a sequel. Gasp! All you movie buffs can get up off the floor now. They changed the names of the characters and the places, but the story is so similar it surprised me when the professional movie critics on Turner Classic Movies didn’t bring it up. It was so obvious, even the name of the bar was Casanova, a subtle tilt toward Casablanca. Even the hat and coat Ilsa wore in Casablanca would fit perfectly on Anna in The 3rd Man. In both movies we have a wimpy-tough guy hero, the same cool-morally challenged cop, the same evil-intellectual moralizing, the same-old the hero not getting the girl at the end, etc., etc.
They are both great movies but The 3rd Man has more polish, more atmosphere, more realism, more cute asides and much more humor. Ilsa is beautiful and vulnerable and utterly dedicated to the corrupt cause of Henreid, spun up to be acceptable because it’s anti-German. Anna is just as stupidly enamored of Harry Lime, even though he is criminally dealing in drugs. He is such a smooth lying psychopath he would have done well in politics and so he claims. His reasoning is so consistent and logical it could be used in a philosophy class for clear thinking, but he is absolutely depraved.
It’s the humor that really sets The 3rd Man to the top rung for entertainment. A real tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, comical-comical. Anna is bewildered all the time and mostly morose throughout, except when she is reminiscing about Lime or faking comedy on stage.
The whole of The 3rd Man is a mass of asides and distractions and most viewers would think it’s about the criminals associated with Harry Lime, and surely this gets the most publicity because of the slimy black chase scene in the sewers of Vienna. But from the beginning to the end both of these movies are about passport papers and how to escape evil political systems. They are consistently about beautiful innocent women being taken advantage of by unscrupulous criminals and challenged authorities. The MacGuffins in both movies are the quasi legal passport papers which represent life or death to their possessors.
The seemingly friendly police chiefs in both movies seem to have absolute and arbitrary control over these documents and thus over these women.
Not only is her passport held but her love letters from Harry, which the Sergeant assures her will be returned after they are photographed and carefully inspected. Everyone, is giving her a thorough inspection.
There is never a hint she had done anything wrong, only falling for the wrong guy and wanting to live a free life. The actual evil genius behind all the evil drug dealing, prostitution and murders is the owner of the Casanova bar, but we see or hear very little of him. We never are told why the man in Harry Lime’s coffin (the 3rd man) was murdered but it was apparently an inside the organization disclosure type of thing. Because later he murders the janitor who heard and saw just a little too much, and he tries to kill the protagonist, Holly, who is going to write a novel about his operations.
Lime falls into the police trap, lured by Holly, but escapes into a chase scene through the sewers of Vienna. It was great scene but it went on about four times toooo long. If anything could have been lengthened a little in this movie it would have been the ferris wheel talkathon with Lime. There were other moral issues about the movie that could have taken a few more up and down spins. And there should have been scenes showing why everyone liked Harry Lime so very much and trusted him far too much. The way he is portrayed we only see him as an absolutely unlovable psychopath and we want to throw him out the open door of the ferris wheel ourselves.
In conclusion, the big difference between Casablanca and The 3rd Man is that almost everyone comes to a bad end in the peacetime remake; whereas in the original, set at the start of the biggest slaughter in history, the sympathetic characters all go off to a glorious future. As usual Hollywood has reality backwards. The reversal of reality seems more interesting because it is counterintuitive. The true evil of it all is that Hollywood programs billions of movie viewers into inappropriately responding zombies.