I recently watched the highly acclaimed 1949 film, The Third Man, starring Joseph Cotton, Orson Wells, and a beautiful Italian actress named Alida Valli. The film was completely disconcerting, not because of Orson Welles malignant character nor the creepy lighting, but because I could swear that the theme music, played solely on the zither, is also the background music for SpongeBob SquarePants.
The problem, of course, is that the music is used to raise and lower the tension in the movie, and, since I saw SpongeBob SquarePants first, I expected the shadowy figure in the raincoat to be a long-nosed, yellow sponge whenever the music really got going. Much like Joseph Cotton in the movie, the more I tried to unravel the mystery, the more disturbing were the facts that I uncovered. First, this fairly annoying zither version spent 11 weeks (11 weeks!) at number one on the Billboard Best Seller in Stores chart in 1950. It was so popular that it spawned several cover versions, which combined have sold an estimated 40 million copies (40 million!) Thirty seconds of this song is kind of interesting; listening to it throughout an hour and 48 minute movie is more than kind of irritating, and I think it is the genesis of the phrase, “My last nerve has been plucked.” Guy Lombardo had a very popular version that featured a guitar instead of a zither that I’m quite sure is the version used in SpongeBob SquarePants.
Second, and what was truly disturbing, was discovering that the Wikipedia article on SpongeBob SquarePants covers seven different aspects of the show and runs about as long as the article on the Normandy Landings. Somebody needs to step out of the shadows and adjust our social sense of balance.
The Third Man won several contemporary awards and is now considered a classic mystery. It didn’t do much for me, but that may be because I kept expecting Harry Lime, the villain of the piece who remains unseen for the first two-thirds of the movie, to look a lot like Squidward once he finally appeared. Instead, he looked a lot like Orson Welles.
In any case, below is the Guy Lombardo version of “The Third Man Theme.” What do you think?