Director Carol Reed had just done The Third Man, one of the best British films ever made, when this movie was shot and released. It wasn’t based on a Graham Greene story, but The Man Between certainly has that feel. Instead, the source was Susanne in Berlin, a novel by Walter Ebert that is long since out of print.
James Mason plays a character very similar to Harry Lyme: Ivo, a kidnapper and smuggler moving between East and West Germany who has a shady, possible Nazi past. He grabs people in the West and takes them to the East for cash. His boss wants him to pull off one last job, but this time he kidnaps the wrong girl—Susanne Mallison, a British visitor whose brother has a married a German. During the process of trying to get back to the West, Ivo and Susanne get romantically involved.It all ends tragically, as one might expect.
The Man Between is certainly inferior to The Third Man, and had a poor reception amongst critics at the time. Since his most recent film had ben both a massive hit and a critical success, it ws seen as something of a step back for Reed. However, it features a strong performance from James Mason, for whom it was his second collaboration with te director. The first half is fairly standard fare for a movie of that time, although it was filmed on location in West Berlin. It doesn’t have quite the mysterious atmosphere of its predecessor, but functions well as a post-war thriller.
Interestingly, the original treatment for The Third Man had a kidnapping subplot, which was later dropped from the film but remained in Greene’s later novella. No doubt these similarties made Reed warm to the material for this film. Germany, Year Zero, another picture made in Berlin just after the war, uses some of the same locations to better effect (Chaplin called that one the most beautiful Italian film he had ever seen, and the two would make a fantastic double bill).
Obviously, several pickup shots were done later at Shepperton, and there is some rear projection that doesn’t work. However, the wild angles Reed employed in The Third Man are in evidence throghout the escape sequences in thesecond half, giving additional proof that the canard about Orson Welles being the uncredited director of The Third Man is without basis (although of course Welles was an influence). As one of the last noir-ish films Reed ever made—the genre he is now best remembered for and for good reason—it holds up well.
This new Studio Canal version is a 2K restoration, and features a 50-minute documentary on Carol Reed, an audio interview with James Mason from the BFI archives, and an interview with Claire Bloom—who is, surprisingly, still living.