The woman at the entrance seems delighted to see me. Having sold me a ticket, she rises from her seat and accompanies me to the first room of the museum, highlighted key exhibits.
The “Third Man Museum” in Vienna’s 4th District (Pressgasse 25) is one of the finest small museums in the city. Interested in the film? Want to know more about post-WW2 Viennese history? Want to see what obsession can achieve?
Look no further.
The first surprise about the Museum is its breadth. Part 1, comprising seven rooms, is packed with fascinating detail about The Third Man: clips, shooting locations (including the sewers and the Central Cemetery), and the stars of the classic 1948 film often described as the best movie ever (see my review at the link). I noted a fine quote from Orson Wells: “My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four… unless there are three other people”.
Film stills and publicity stills from Room 1
Part 2 focuses on the music of the film, including the famous “Third Man theme” played on the zither. A mighty 1930s cinema projector shows a loop of 2 minutes of the film – it is worth visiting the museum for this alone.
Original zither used by Anton Karas to record the “Third Man” theme
Part 3 comprises countless exhibits from pre- and post-war Austria. I found this a treasure trove of original documents, helping explain the rise of “Austrofascism” and the civil war of 1934, then focusing on the 1938 Anschluss, including the bogus plebiscite organised by Hitler; bomb damage to Vienna; photos of the first Soviet forces arriving in the city; and the activities of the occupying powers in the period in which the film is set. These rooms range wider than “The Third Man” and offer an idiosyncratic but always interesting take on Austrian history.
Exhibits from 1934-38
Exhibits about the Anschluss and plebiscite in 1938
Exhibits showing the grim conditions imposed on Jews attempting to leave Austria
Section on the British occupation zone in Vienna
Perhaps the best thing about the Third Man Museum is the personal touch. When I came in and someone started showing me round, I thought they must have mistaken me for a VIP. I then realised that this was the personal treatment given to every guest. The enterprise is the personal creation of Gerhard Strassgschwandtner and Karin Höfler, who with a team of helpers run the museum and are responsible for amassing all the exhibits. I found them knowledgeable, enthusiastic and pleasantly obsessive.
Gerhard Strassgschwandtner and Karin Höfler
The result is a gem: a treasure trove of material about not only the The Third Man but Vienna itself. It is only open from 1400-1800 on Saturday afternoons. But it’s worth the trip; you can always combine it with a visit to the Naschmarkt nearby; and you may meet Gerhard and Karin.
If you do, congratulate them on a great little museum.
P.S. If you want to read more about my views on The Third Man, see my blog with a rave review of the film. Or see my blog about some of the locations where the film was made. And welcome to Robertpimm.com.
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