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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Video introduction by writer-director Peter Bogdanovich
  • Two audio commentaries: one by filmmaker Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Tony Gilroy, and one by by film scholar Dana Polan
  • Shadowing "The Third Man"/ (2005), a ninety-minute feature documentary on the making of the film
  • Abridged recording of Graham Greene's treatment, read by actor Richard Clarke
  • "Graham Greene: The Hunted Man," an hour-long, 1968 episode of the BBC's Omnibus series, featuring a rare interview with the novelist
  • Who Was the Third Man? (2000), a thirty-minute Austrian documentary featuring interviews with cast and crew
  • The Third Man on the radio: the 1951 "A Ticket to Tangiers" episode of The Lives of Harry Lime series, written and performed by Orson Welles, and the 1951 Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of The Third Man
  • Illustrated production history with rare behind-the-scenes photos, original UK press book, and U.S. trailer
  • Actor Joseph Cotten's alternate opening voice-over narration for the U.S. version
  • Archival footage of postwar Vienna
  • A look at the untranslated foreign dialogue in the film

The Third Man

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

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

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

Release Date: December 16, 2008
Review Date: May 20, 2009

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SYNOPSIS

Pulp novelist Holly Martins travels to shadowy, postwar Vienna, only to find himself investigating the mysterious death of an old friend, black-market opportunist Harry Lime--and thus begins this legendary tale of love, deception, and murder. Thanks to brilliant performances by Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, and Orson Welles; Anton Karas's evocative zither score; Graham Greene's razor-sharp dialogue; and Robert Krasker's dramatic use of light and shadow, The Third Man, directed by the inimitable Carol Reed, only grows in stature as the years pass.

Forum members rate this film 9/10

 

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

For one of their first Blu-ray releases Criterion brings us Carol Reedís The Third Man in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this dual-layer disc. The picture is presented in 1080p. Unlike Criterionís 2-disc DVD re-release (which this Blu-ray is more or less a port of) the transfer has not been picture boxed.

Other than the lack of picture boxing I believe the same high-def source transfer used on that DVD re-issue has been used here; they look pretty similar to me. The Blu-ray improves in all areas one would expect, though, number one being sharpness and detail, which has greatly improved here, as shown by the filmís more visible grain. Artifacts arenít an issue at all and it looks smooth overall. Contrast looks to have been boosted at times, which I donít remember being an issue on either DVD release, but overall blacks and whites are quite strong, with great gray levels.

The source print has a few issues, but overall itís been cleaned up quite a bit. It can pulsate and there are a few marks, but the clean-up looks to have been rather vigorous, a little better than what Criterion did for the original single-disc DVD release.

Itís a lovely looking transfer, one of the best ones Iíve come across for an older film in high-def. Iím happy Criterion didnít give in to that DNR nonsense and left the filmís grain, keeping the sharpness and detail intact, and keeping the ďfilmĒ experience.

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed 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 Blu-ray disc presents a lossless mono track over the DVDís Dolby Digital mono tracks. Between Criterionís two DVD releases (the original 1999 release and the 2007 re-issue) I couldnít really distinguish a difference, and in all honesty I couldnít distinguish much of a difference here. Volume and range is a little better but not by much. While the zither score still sounds great it can still get harsh when it reaches highs, and thereís still some noticeable background noise. Voices sound very good still, and the overall quality it is good. In the end itís a fine track but not a huge upgrade over the previous DVD releases.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

This Blu-ray ports the supplements from the 2-disc DVD re-issue, which itself ported supplements from Criterionís original single-disc release. Iíve always loved the single-disc release, considering it one of my favourite DVDs, yet the two-disc release was able to top it astonishingly. For the supplement section of this review I copied most of it from my DVD review since the supplements are the same.

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. 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.

The remaining supplements are found in the pop-out menu under ďSupplementsĒ naturally. The Blu-ray drops the categories found on the DVD and lists everything in this menu.

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 but on the 2-disc re-issue, 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 original single-disc DVD release displayed a graphic of a radio on screen while the program played. Lame I guess, but creative. This release, like the re-issued DVD, 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.

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 had modified it a bit for the re-issue and use the same presentation here. 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 also appeared on the original DVD, ported to the 2-disc reissue, and is the same here, 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 to this and the 2-disc DVD. 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. Original UK Press Book is presented like a stills gallery, allowing you to flip through the contents (though still nowhere as cool as a similar presentation on Criterionís The 39 Steps DVD where you could highlight sections to zoom in on.)

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 both Criterion DVD release. The Third Man's Vienna was added to the 2-disc re-issue. 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.

Next up, Graham Green: The Hunted Man was nice new addition to the 2-disc 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.

The one exclusive feature is one common to all of Criterionís Blu-ray releases, the Timeline. You can open it from the pop-up menu or by pressing the RED button on your remote. This is a timeline that shows your current position in the film, and like pop-up menus for most Blu-ray releases it appears over the film as it plays. It lists the index chapters for the film, the commentary tracks, and the treatment, and you can also switch to the commentary track from here. You also have the ability to ďbookmarkĒ scenes by pressing the GREEN button and return to them by selecting them on the timeline. You can also delete bookmarks by pressing the BLUE button. This is pretty common on Blu-ray (also common on HD DVD) so itís nothing new, but Iíve always liked Criterionís presentation.

Similar to the 2-disc DVD re-issue, the Blu-ray is still missing features that were on the single-disc DVD edition, though it shouldnít be a huge concern. 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. Forgetting that, though, the set of supplements on here are all wonderful, and managed to improve upon a DVD I was already impressed with.

10/10

CLOSING

Iím happy Criterion has chosen one of my favourite films to mark their Blu-ray debut. It looks wonderful and should have film enthusiasts ecstatic. And like the two-disc DVD the supplements are all fantastic. A definite recommendation.


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