Joseph Cotten plays a naive young American visting Vienna immediately after WW2. On arrival in the shattered city, he discovers that the friend who invited him has just died in a car accident. But the bystanders' accounts of exactly how it happened differ disturbingly... Cotten starts to investigate his friend's death, hampered by a number of people who are very keen for him to leave, including an exquisitely sardonic police officer (Trevor Howard) and a dodgy baron (Ernst Deutsch).
The screenplay by Graham Greene is unapologetically Hollywood. It's less bright and witty than Greene's Our Man in Havana (possibly because it was written for screen rather than adapted from a book). To be blunt, it's a scientifically inaccurate shocker with formulaic love-interest and villainy programmed in, but the stars - particularly Trevor Howard and Orson Welles - are magnetic. And the portrait of post-war Vienna, with its rubble, its desperate citizens, well-meaning aid workers and creepy black marketeers, is subtly done and very haunting. And there's a spectacular chase sequence through the sewers that is possibly the first of its kind in cinema. Altogether, entirely worth the price of admission.