The Third Man is regarded as one of the many classics of Film Noir. It was directed by Carol Reed and written by Graham Greene and stars Joseph Cotton, Alida Valli, Trevor Howard and Orson Welles. The music score was composed by Anton Karas and the cinematography was done by Robert Krasker. Originally release on August 31st, 1949, the film was noted for it’s murder mystery and pained romance riddled with suspense, as well as it’s iconic Noir cinematography of Vienna.
The original trailer was very much styled to it’s time. The early 1950s way of film and television is highly contrasting to today’s way of presentation. For starters, the use of explicit narration in the form of both voice (the narrator) and text (the taglines) are consistent throughout the original trailer. This was common with many films at the time, as it gave the viewer immediate context and information on the film and helped bring attention to the characters. The trailer’s syntax and layout is also vastly different from today’s modern form. The title of the film is introduced at the start, as well as some big names and credits. It’s a more orderly and traditional style of arrangement that’s takes the viewer on quite a chronological walkthrough for most of the first half. Later on, the trailer begins to cut more frequently and the order of storytelling is shifted around a lot more in order to build up excitement and curiosity in the viewer, much like today’s film trailers.
The trailer’s audio is also consistent throughout. There is only one track used, almost as if to try and set the tone for the film. The suitability of the track is up to debate – on the one hand, it’s relatively charming and decadent arrangement may seem fitting for the time it was being shown in, but perhaps not truly reflective of the film’s more dark moods and tone thus could be believed to be unfitting or misleading. On the other hand, it could be seen as purposefully misleading and contrasting to the darker side in favour of the charm and charisma that the leads carry.
Many graphics are used in the 1949 film trailer and at times, it almost seem to become dependent on them in capturing the style and aesthetic of the feature to the audience. The iconic ‘Third Man’ graphic is used at the beginning of the trailer as well as at the end of the trailer where it’s animated in. The heavy use of graphics compared to today’s films is definitely influenced by the fashion of trailers at the time – notably so. The tagline text are also placed under a what seems to be a mandolin graphic, quite fitting for the film’s setting and a very 1950s thing to do.
The Third Man also recently had a 4K restoration adaptation of it – and there’s a new trailer too that has been released in 2015. What’s fascinating, is the stark contrast in presentation compared to it’s 1949 predecessor. Baring in mind that the trailer itself is aware that it’s a restoration of a classic Noir film, the way it displays itself has clearly been altered to appeal to a more present-day audience. For starters, the trailer has taken out many of the old characteristics of ’50s trailers to replace with more current trends.
There is no voice-over narrator giving exposition. Instead, the trailer just relies on the audio directly from the film footage. The only separate narration that is present is through some very short, sans-serif text in white that is either against a plain black background, or skewed at a perspective to match the shot that’s showing almost as a sort of homage to the Noir cinematography.
There are many reasons why the editors have opted for this kind of approach. The 2015 style of trailers have long evolved from the 1950s – everything has become much more minimalist and compressed in favour of subtly. Times and tastes have changed vastly, and the urge for simplicity and shortness has been cultivated from life’s much faster pacing. People demand more saturated content and consider decorations in things like extra graphics and long narration to be dawdling and off-putting. Hence why the new trailer has cut-down the timing on things like credits and on-screen text to only brief appearances. It allows more focus on the film itself and doesn’t come across as a potential waste of time in the audience’s mind.
The cuts and edits of the film’s narrative is more extreme too. Again, in favour of enthralling the audience into a guessing game of what the film’s story exactly is, keeping them on their toes throughout. The title of the film is shown at the end rather than the beginning as a sort of finale reveal as to which film it is. Although, hiding this information could also be because the viewers are expected to know what Film Noir it is just from the footage at the start too.
The audio is also wildly reduced to almost nothing but occasional cues at the beginning as a way of leading the viewers in. The lack of audio makes the viewers question more on what it is they’re seeing until the familiar track of the original 1949 trailer comes back for it’s reprise.