Previously Criterion released the film in a single-disc special edition. In all honesty I never had any issues with that edition and always thought it was pretty solid. With this release theyíve carried over most (not all) of the supplements, and added a few hours worth of goodies. The original DVD was actually one of my favourites in the my DVD collection, but Criterion has most definitely topped it with this new two-disc release.
The first disc presents a few supplements.
Carried over from the original release is the four-and-half minute intro by Peter Bogdanovich. Also carried over from the original edition is "The Third Man Treatment", an audio track with actor Richard Clarke reading Graham Greene's treatment for the film (abridged for the DVD release, as stated at the beginning.) 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.
New for the release are two commentary tracks, both recorded exclusively for this release.
The first audio commentary has director Steven Soderbergh and writer/director Tony Gilroy (director of Michael Clayton, and screen writer for the Bourne films, The Cutting Edge 1 and 2, and, yes, Armageddon, amongst others) participating. I've only listened to a few of Soderbergh's commentaries (not including the ones for his own films) but have always enjoyed them (without him the one for Point Blank would have been incredibly dry) and also liked this one. The two mostly sit back in awe of the film, expressing how the film has influenced them in writing and/or directing, and pointing out and explaining why they love certain sequences, or how the film was shot (they both express how they admire the angle shots). Soderbergh has control over the track, though, offering lots of tid bits he's picked up from books or people he has met who have worked on the film, including clashes between Selznick and Reed. Soderbergh also, on occasion, likes to point out little bits here and there that were cut from the American release. Gilroy only offers influences really, but does make an observation about Winkle and Kurtz I actually never considered (nor Soderbergh apparently.) Quite informative and actually fairly amusing in places, anybody who has enjoyed Soderbergh's other commentaries, whether for his own films or for other films, will definitely want to check this one out.
The second commentary is a solo track featuring film scholar Dana Polan. While this one does have some interesting facts about the making of the film, this track looks more at the themes brought up in the film, and he begins by mentioning the film is a "hybrid film", caught between "different values, different identites, and different moralities." He touches on the American/Old World themes in the film, and offers a few anecdotes to the production, but only to offer up as backing to the themes he presents. I don't believe I've heard a commentary by Dana Polan before, but based on this one I would most surely listen to any other ones he has done.
On the second dual-layered disc you'll find a wealth of supplements. The category "The Third Man File" presents more features carried over from the original release involving some information on the film and some publicity materials. "Insider Information" is more-or-less carried over from the original DVD. On the original it was called "Production History" which was a stills gallery with text information that you could manually navigate through. Criterion has modified it a bit. Now it's an automated slide show and the text has been replaced with a voice over by Robb Webb. The photos from the previous release appear to be here along with other photos (including advertising material), though presented in a different order than what was on the original release. The voice over pretty much replicates the text notes, not exactly, but catches all the information presented in those notes and adds more. While all the information presented by the narration is also presented elsewhere on the disc this is a good 9-minute crash course on the film.
"U.S. vs. UK Version" has also been carried over and is the same feature, presenting a text intro explaining the differences and then the option to watch intros to both versions of the film, the American one with a voice-over by Joseph Cotten, and the UK version (the version presented as the main feature on the DVD) with voice-over by Carol Reed.
"Kind to Foreigners" is a new feature. The scenes in the film spoken in languages other than English weren't translated/subtitled to add confusion to the sequences. Here Criterion presents three scenes with English subtitle translations, the scenes being the sequence where Holly questions the porter about what he saw, the sequence where the old land lady is complaining about how the police are tearing up the place, and the scene where the police come to pick up Anna. While the scenes still conveyed what they had to without the translations I have to say it's great finally knowing what the old woman and porter are saying, and they do actually offer a little more to the scenes.
Also found here is the original American theatrical trailer. And another new feature is the UK press book, which is presented like a stills gallery, allowing you to flip through the contents (though still nowhere as cool as a similar presentation on The 39 Steps DVD where you could highlight sections to zoom in on.)
The biggest supplement on the set, other than the commentaries, is the 2005 documentary "Shadowing The Third Man". This 92-minute feature is presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 and has actually been enhanced for widescreen televisions (the only feature that is presented in widescreen). Narrated by John Hurt, the film goes over not only the production history of the film, but also touches briefly on the atmosphere after the war and Vienna itself, getting present day shots of the locations used in the film. It contains some newer interviews, Guy Hamilton taking up most of these, and also includes archival footage of Graham Greene and Orson Welles (Carol Reed is heard on audio segments.) The documentary covers its subject rather well, including some amusing anecdotes (Welles initially refused to leave his hotel room until Hamilton promised a magic show for him) and bits about Selznick and Reed going heads on with one another about how the film should work. My only complaint is that the documentary uses a lot of footage from the film. I wouldn't be surprised if 30-minutes of the documentary is clips from the film, sometimes stylistically projected onto the wall of a building or another setting from the film. This is probably just a personal thing, as I've seen the movie numerous times so know the sequences inside and out, but I was more concerned about the making of the film and felt these moments brought the documentary to a stand-still. Other than that one peeve, it's an excellent doc and worth checking out.
We then get another documentary, not on the original DVD release, entitled "Who Was the Third Man?" running about 29-minutes. It was made for Austrian and German TV in 2000 and marked the 50th anniversary. In German with English subtitles it's a nice little add on to the longer documentary. While it covers some of the same material as that documentary and the commentaries it gives a more Austrian perspective, limiting the interviews to the Austrian cast and crew. It also gives some back information about what was going on in Vienna after the war, and even shows the film's affect today (there are apparently guided tours through the sewers where scenes were shot, something I wasn't aware of.) Kudos to Criterion for digging this one up.
Next is "The Third Man on the Radio", which presents two radio presentations that were also on the previous release. Presented here are "A Ticket to Tangiers" from "The Lives of Harry Lime", and the Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of "The Third Man". While the feature is the same the presentation is different. The previous release displayed a graphic of a radio on screen while the program played. Lame I guess, but creative. This release simply displays the menu with text. I didn't listen to the programs again, though recall neither being great (I recall Lime, played by Welles, in the "Ticket" episode was very different from the one in the film) but are still nice additions for historical reasons and just a general curiosity. One note, on the original release, the radio program for "The Third Man" was indexed. While this release still seems to have the same chapter stops (by clicking the "Next/Skip" button on your remote) there is no on-screen index. "Ticket..." runs about a half hour and "The Third Man" runs over an hour.
Next up, "Graham Green: The Hunted Man" is nice new addition to the set. This hour long program features an audio recorded interview with Greene that plays over footage, mixed in with a few other interviews. The segment goes over his work, his life, and does touch on The Third Man. I don't think I've ever seen or heard any footage involving Greene himself so I was quite pleased with this and it's worth a look.
Another section called "From the Archives" presents 3 supplements. "Anton Karas at London's Empress Club" is archive footage of Karas performing segments from his soundtrack from the film at the Empress Club in London (just what the title says) running shy of 3-minutes. "In the Underworld of Vienna" is a segment covering the sewer police (Canal Brigade) in Vienna as they patrol the sewers looking for smugglers and thieves. This segment lasts a minute and 45 seconds. Those two were also found on the previous Criterion release. "The Third Man's Vienna" is a new addition. This is a slide show, presenting notes and photographs covering Vienna after the war, as well as its influence on Greene and the film. There's some decent photos and some great copies of propaganda posters in here. It's a small but worthwhile bit to look at.
Lastly there is a 28-page booklet. Half of it is photos but there's three decent essays on the film and Greene by Luc Sante, Charles Drazin (who helped Criterion put together the "Production History/Insider Information" supplement on both versions of the DVD), and Philip Kerr. Surprisingly Criterion did not move over the essay by Michael Wilmington found in the insert of the original release.
And along with that essay some other things didn't make it from the original release, though some may not be too concerned. The "Production History" segment was changed as I mentioned, but probably for the better. The Restoration Demonstration on the original is missing, but since this is a whole new transfer that one was probably obsolete (though still fascinating to watch.) And the Rialto re-release trailer is missing as well. I also could not find the Easter Egg that was on the original DVD, involving the paintings influenced by the film. Though they could be on here and I just didn't come across them. 10/10