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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Video introduction by writer-director Peter Bogdanovich
  • Abridged recording of Graham Greene's treatment, read by actor Richard Clarke The Third Man on the radio: (1) the 1951 "A Ticket to Tangiers" episode of The Lives of Harry Lime series, written and performed by Orson Welles; and (2) the 1951 Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of The Third Man
  • Joseph Cotten's alternate opening voiceover narration for the U.S. version
  • Archival footage of composer Anton Karas and the film's famous sewer location
  • A collection of rare behind-the-scenes photos, with a brief production history
  • Original and re-release theatrical trailers
  • Restoration demonstration

The Third Man

1999 Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Carol Reed
Starring: Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, Trevor Howard, Ernst Deutsch, Paul Hoerbiger, Erich Ponto, Siegfried Breuer, Bernard Lee, Wilfred Hyde-White
1949 | 104 Minutes | Licensor: Studio Canal

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #64 | Out of print
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: November 30, 1999
Review Date: July 11, 2009

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SYNOPSIS

Orson Welles stars as Harry Lime, and Joseph Cotten plays his childhood friend, Holly Martins, in this all-time classic thriller scripted by Graham Greene and directed by Carol Reed. Martins searches for Lime through the seedy underworld of postwar Vienna and gets caught up in a web of love, deception, racketeering, and murder. The Third Man's stunning cinematography, twisting plot, and unforgettable zither score are immortalized in Criterion's pristine special edition, following the 50th Anniversary theatrical re-release.

Forum members rate this film 9/10

 

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PICTURE

Criterionís original DVD for The Third Man again presents the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this dual-layer disc.

The one advantage this DVD has over the 2-disc remaster the picture has not been window boxed, a process that puts a black border around the entire image (apparently this is for CRT televisions, which can cut off the edges of the picture.) Other than that aspect the transfer found on here is weaker. Itís certainly quite a bit softer lacking some of the fine definition of the newer DVD. It also contains more noticeable artifacts and noise causing the picture to look a little fuzzier. The print is slightly worse shape, though the restoration is still very impressive for an early Criterion DVD. Contrast is sort of off and gray levels are fairly weak. Darker scenes can also come off too black.

At the time I was more than happy with it considering all I had before was some cheapy video cassette I had picked up at Wal-Mart shamefully enough. The new DVD improves drastically on this one as does (of course) the Blu-ray version.

6/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The film comes with an adequate Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track that has been nicely restored. Thereís a slight hiss present but itís not intrusive. Quality is decent with strong voices and the filmís zither score does come off fairly sharp itself. Not mind blowing but adequate.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

This DVD marked the filmís 50th anniversary and for the time I always thought it was a rather solid special edition, but itís been greatly improved upon with the new 2-disc edition thatís now available. It should be noted that most of the features found on here have been carried over to the new DVD/Blu-ray, but will point out the couple that didnít make it.

Part of something called the "Director's Introduction Series", a short lived label where directorís introduce some of their favourite films, this disc contains a brief introduction by Peter Bogdanovich. Lasting only 5 minutes, Bogdanovich just explains to the viewers why The Third Man is a great movie. Not something that one has to view.

In place of a commentary there is an audio recording of Graham Greene's script treatment read by actor Richard Clarke. It's interesting to listen to, most notably for a few differences. The track has also been synched up to what is going on during the film for the most part and has been abridged to accomplish this, as it mentions at the beginning. Also carried over is a text segment for Greene's preface, touching on why he ended up writing a publication (despite the fact it was only meant to be a film) and even touches on his initial disagreement with Reed on the ending.

My favorite part of the disc is this next bit. It's a section devoted to radio content. We get a radio version of The Third Man from the Lux Radio Theater and we also get an episode from "The Lives of Harry Lime" featuring Orson Welles himself. This episode is called "A Ticket to Tangiers" and shows Harry before he becomes the scum sucker of the earth we know him as in the film. He actually has a conscience in this but he still has that sly charm that helped in the film. I found it rather funny how Harry, in the movie, had no problem killing children but here has a real problem with transporting heroin. Oh well. People change I guess. The presentation is rather nice, with the radio programs playing over the image of an older radio. While these supplements were carried over to the new DVD/Blu-ray their presentations are a little duller, playing over menus and lacking the on screen index.

There is a comparison between the American version and the UK version (the UK version is the one used for the main feature). Here you are displayed the one key difference, the alternate openings. The original opening had a cynical Carol Reed kind of pushing the black market while the American version has Holly Martins narrate the opening with a few slight changes, making Holly look more heroic than he actually is.

Another feature I really liked (and I always loved how Criterion goes out of their way to enhance our enjoyment of the movies they release) was the archival footage provided. There is film of the sewer locations used in the movie showing the sewer police make their rounds looking for racketeers and smugglers, who used the sewers to move between the different sections of Vienna. Another piece of news reel is the footage of Anton Karas playing his zither in a restaurant to a group of onlookers.

There are a few production notes on the disc with photos from the set. The presentation here presents notes with photos that you navigate through using your remote. The new DVD differs by presenting it as a narrated slide show. You then get a Restoration Demonstration, showing some before and after comparisons, and two theatrical trailers, one for the original release and another for the 50th Anniversary re-release. The new DVD/Blu-ray is missing both the restoration demonstration (which makes sense since itís a new transfer) and the Rialto rerelease trailer, which I admittedly found a little bizarre to be left off. Also missing from the new releases is the essay on the film by Michael Wilmington, which is found in the small insert.

Itís a nice release, though I remember wishing a making-of or something of that sort was included. The new DVD does top this one, though, including just about everything here plus a couple of new commentaries, a long making-of, some other documentaries and a larger booklet. While the supplements here are nice itís been topped.

7/10

CLOSING

A nice DVD at the time itís been bested by Criterionís DVD re-issue and the Blu-ray. I would recommend either of those over this one, even if you can find it used fairly cheap. The new DVD and Blu-ray not only contains more supplements but a stronger transfer.


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