I’d have to say that many of my earliest impressions of Vienna were formed by the classic film “The Third Man” with Orson Welles and Joseph Cotton. It involves a second-rate writer (Cotton) who goes to Vienna in 1949 to see his former friend Harry Lime (Welles), only to find that Lime was killed in a motor accident – or was he? Needless to say, Lime still lives and simply wanted to disappear because the police were getting too close to his dodgy pharmaceuticals racket . And that is where the story really begins!
If you go to this Youtube film clip, you can see one of the key scenes, set on the Riesenrad ferris wheel, and finishing with the classic Welles “cuckoo clock” quote.
The film was set in the war-torn Vienna of 1949, with many buildings still largely piles of rubble. At that time, the city was still divided into four zones (Russian, American, French, British), leading to the “four men in a jeep” scenes seen in the film.
Fondest memory: Oh yes, my heading photo for this tip! At the opening of the film, there is a series of marvellous evocative still photographs around Vienna. I was determined to reproduce one which always appealed to me, and that’s it. Taken at the front of the Rathaus, looking toward the Votive Church, the one major difference with time is that, in the area I have marked with a faint parallelogram outline at the top right, in 1949 there was a large sign saying “Entering American Sector”. Photo 2 is taken from the Reisenrad at the Prater.
If you’re a Vienna (or film) enthusiast, I can only recommend seeing the film – then trying to place the settings. You could, of course, take one of the walking tours which visit many of the sites.
How could any movie buff come to Vienna and not recall Carol Reed's classic thriller, ''The Third Man"? Any number of films have been shot in Vienna since Reed broke new ground by moving his film out of the studio and onto the the city's street but none have assumed the cult status of Reed's masterpiece or become an integral part of the city's persona. WWII had been over for four years when filming began and Vienna was still an occupied city, divided between the 4 allied powers. Whilst the city had not been totally destroyed by the war, there were more than enough damaged buildings and rubble-strewn streets still waiting to be restored for Reed to create the tension and suspense that pervades the film and virtually turn the city itself into a character in its own right.
For anyone who hasn't seen it, or those who want to see it whilst they are in the city, the film - redigitised and restored - the Burgkino (Opernring 19) screens the film at least a couple of times each week. Real fans can take a guided tour or find their own way around the various locations with a good map.
If you've seen the movie - or even you haven't, this is a great walking tour. The movie tells the story from the times of post World War II when Vienna was occupied by allied troops. The city was divided into four sectors. At this time the black market was booming. Orson Welles' character (Harry Lime) was supposedly killed in a car accident under suspicious circumstances.
The big selling point of the tour is going down in the sewers - as Harry Lime did in the movie. There are entrances to the sewer system are all around Vienna, hidden by Litfaß columns. You climb down the cramped, spiral staircase and find yourself in the sewers. You spend about twenty minutes down there and don't really walk a lot in the sewers. The guide will talk about the scenes that were shot there and have pictures to show.
After you leave the sewers, you walk around Vienna as the guide stops and explains various buildings that were featured in the movie. You will also learn about some of the movie blunders that'll make you next viewing of the movie more interesting.
The tour ends at Molly Darcy's Irish Pub to hear some of the music from the film.
The tour is roughly 2 1/2 hours (mine ran 3 hours) and cost €16. Wear comfortable shoes so you don't slip and bring a flashlight (they will have some but there may not be enough for everyone).
For more information on "The Third Man"
To book the tour
"The 3rd Man" (1949) was filmed in Vienna - see the sewers and cemetery. This film is always shown at the Burg Kino, one of the cinema that shows films in English/original language.
The film is about an american author Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) who arrived in Vienna to meet old friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles). On arrival he finds Harry was just killed in an accident and attends his funeral. The police were happy that his death was an accident but Martins begins to investigate the accident and found out things that lead him to a shocking discovery that will eventually challenge his values and friendship.
Fondest memory: Classic British thriller movie like Hollywood seldom used to make. The film is constantly dark and shadowy. The city of Vienna is shown as both beautiful and in ruins. The final confrontation in the sewers of Vienna is excellent.