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Craig Knowles

The Third Man

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I was watching the Third Man a few nights ago and I noticed something interesting in the ferris wheel sequence I hadn't picked up on before.


They use back-projection to depict the motion of the ferris wheel cabin, as Cotton and Welles travel up and around. The thing is, the wheel motion is strange.


Cotton and Welles get in at the bottom and then the background depicts the wheel travelling 180 degrees counter-clockwise, to the top position. At the top, when you'd expect it to travel another 180 degrees counter-clockwise, the wheel reverses direction (between shots) and travels 180 clockwise, back to its original starting point, where Cotton and Welles then get out.


I'm not sure why this was done, but I can't imagine it happening by accident. It seems either a plot point was cut out, where the wheel has to reverse direction at the top, or they only shot 180 of rotation for the background plate to save film, thinking they could project the background flipped later on, but then did not for some reason.


Anyone notice this before, or know anything about it?

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There are other curiosities in the scene, such as the fact that the side windows have no glass (Cotten wraps his arm around the window frame so that he can't be thrown out), yet when Welles opens the door up high there is a rush of sound from the outside. The issue is that the post production effects do not match the location realities, but they are in the end fairly minor quibbles to an otherwise great movie. I do recall there is a major story flaw where one character reveals that she has been informed of some information when there was no one who could have told her. The film gets away with it because we the audience have been informed, but it is certainly a cheat.


For motion shots that purposefully do not match, check out Bertolluchi's The Spider's Strategem. There is a tracking shot POV that purposefully goes the wrong direction, and then in the end of the movie we see the same shot now going in the correct direction. One of many ways that film plys with perceptions.

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Oh no, now you've done it.

I can't get that damn weird guitar soundtrack out of my mind!!!!!




That would be the zither, not a guitar.

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