Austria plans musical of classic film The Third Man

Shot from The Third Man
Image caption The racketeer Harry Lime loomed large in The Third Man

The classic Oscar-winning film The Third Man is to be made into a musical in Vienna.

A major Austrian production company, Vereinigte Buehnen Wien (VBW), says it has secured the rights to make the first musical version of the cult film, set in Vienna just after World War II.

The novelist Graham Greene wrote the screenplay for the 1949 film, which features haunting zither music.

American movie star Orson Welles played the sinister racketeer Harry Lime.

The German-language musical is expected to be premiered in 2016.

The black-and-white film, directed by Carol Reed, shows a stark post-war Vienna, bomb-damaged and occupied by Allied forces.

Harry Lime meets his end in a Vienna sewer after scenes filled with suspense and intrigue.

The musical will be developed, produced and premiered in Vienna.

VBW's spokesperson, Katja Goebel, says there was huge competition to secure the rights, which are owned by Studio Canal and the Graham Greene Estate.

She says the creative team has not yet been decided, but adapting the piece will be a challenge.

"We don't have to make a copy of the film - we have to make a great work for a new audience," she says.

"For sure, there will be many fans of The Third Man who will come, but we will have to bring a new audience to the stage. That will be the great excitement, to make The Third Man live further, in another way."

Unlike the musical The Sound of Music, which has only recently started to become popular in Austria, The Third Man is better known here and is shown every week at one of Vienna's central cinemas.

The plans have been welcomed by Vienna's City Councillor for Culture, Andreas Mailath-Pokorny. "Vienna has history and there are countless stories about it worth telling," he says. "One of them is certainly The Third Man."

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