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Man Between, The (1953)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Man Between, The (1953)
DirectorCarol Reed
Production CompanyBritish Lion Film Corporation
 London Film Productions
ProducerCarol Reed
ScreenplayHarry Kurnitz
Based on the story byWalter Ebert
Director of PhotographyDesmond Dickinson

Cast: James Mason (Ivo Kern); Claire Bloom (Susanne Mallison); Hildegard Neff (Bettina); Geoffrey Toone (Martin); Aribert Waescher (Halendar); Ernst Schroeder (Olaf Kastner)

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A young British woman visits her newly married brother in post-war Berlin and falls for a man with a dubious past.

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The Man Between met with a rather poor critical reception upon its initial release in 1953. Most critics complained that it was a backward step for director Carol Reed, too similar in theme and treatment to his hugely successful The Third Man (1949), with James Mason's Ivo Kern character too reminiscent of Orson Welles' Harry Lime. It is certainly true that at times it does resemble a cross between that film and Odd Man Out (1947), Reed and Mason's previous story of a man on the run.

Intriguingly, it appears that Reed may well have been inspired by unused elements from The Third Man, as well as his earlier film, The Fallen Idol (1948). The latter was originally based on Graham Greene's short story, 'The Basement Room', about a boy who ends up betraying his father figure. This was completely overturned in the finished script, but Reed does use it at the end of The Man Between, when the boy on the bicycle (Dieter Krause) inadvertently betrays Ivo's presence to the border authorities. The snowy finale also recalls Odd Man Out, especially when a dog runs towards Mason's body. The kidnap plot seems to have attracted Reed, as it was an element in Greene's original treatment for The Third Man, in which the Russians kidnap Anna. It wasn't used in the finished film, but survived in Greene's 1950 published version, which he dedicated to Reed.

The Man Between is a film of two uneven halves, both literally and figuratively. The early stages of the film, set (and filmed) in West Berlin, are admittedly rather pedestrian, and the location photography in these scenes is frequently flat and routine. However, the second part of the film, beginning with Susanne's abduction, is much more effective, and it is here that the film suddenly leaps into high gear as the locale switches to East Berlin. The long escape sequence at the end, although clearly patterned after Odd Man Out, is shot with Reed's customary flair and panache. Equally good are the suspenseful sequences where Susanne is kidnapped and then held prisoner.

Mason gives a fine performance as a disillusioned idealist, embodying in the film Reed's recurring interest in romance as an elusive and frequently destructive force. Hildegarde Kneff stands out as the mysterious Bettina, while Claire Bloom's natural intelligence makes for an appealing and intrepid heroine in the film's latter stages.

Sergio Angelini

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Video Clips
1. Ivo's secret (3:35)
2. The escape (6:01)
Production stills
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Divided City, The (1959)
Fallen Idol, The (1948)
Odd Man Out (1947)
Third Man, The (1949)
Addison, John (1920-1998)
Dickinson, Desmond (1903-1986)
Reed, Carol (1906-1976)