Though Ron Oliver's direction isn't flashy, it's very appropriate for a noir flick set in Albany. Like Richard Stevenson's books--on the pages of which Donald Strachey was conceived--this film is about character and concept and the tension between these two dramatic elements. Stevenson was one of the first writers to infuse the pragmatic, ultra-masculine private eye genre with an unabashedly gay aesthetic. A perfect synthesis of these two influences, Third Man Out gives us a detective who shares waltzes and moonlight martinis with his hubby, drives a banged up Toyota Tercel and can lay bad guys flat with an unsparing right hook.
Third Man's production values are outstanding for a cable film. Keeping Richard Stevenson's Albany setting was a smart move by Here! network, as so many well intentioned films go astray when they aim for glitzy settings and end up with cheap Canadian photocopies.
The only flaws worth citing were: a couple of actor Sebastian Spence's scenes (during which he portrays Donald Strachey's husband as a cross between C3PO and Uncle Arthur from Bewitched) and a heavy-handed score (with good feature songs that are sandbagged by some very obtrusive "tension and suspense" instrumentals).
What most delighted me about Third Man was the thrill of watching a genuine and polished noir flick which was, in every respect, thoroughly but naturally queer. While Third Man isn't Brokeback Mountain, it is a milestone in its own right. It's a well executed, enjoyable film about a hard-boiled detective who wears bad ties and breaks out in a blushing grin when his boyfriend kisses him on the cheek.