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The Third Man(1949)
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.
For more about The Third Man and The Third Man Blu-ray release, see The Third Man Blu-ray Review
Starring: Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, Trevor Howard, Paul Hoerbiger, Bernard Lee
Director: Carol Reed
» See full cast & crew
The Third Man Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, September 18, 2010
Carol Reed's "The Third Man" (1949) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment. The supplemental features on the disc include an audio commentary with assistant director Guy Hamilton, Simon Callow and Angela Allen; interview and zither performance by Cornelia Mayer; audio interviews with Joseph Cotten and Graham Greene; interactive tour of Vienna, with commentaries by Dr. Brigitte Timmermann and tour guide Gerhard Strassgschwandtner; collection of early 1950s radio announcements; documentary feature; trailers; and more. The disc also arrives with a 20-page illustrated booklet. In English, with optional French, Spanish, German, and Dutch subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
A young American novelist, Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten, Portrait of Jennie, The Abominable Dr. Phibes), heads to Vienna looking for his friend, Harry Lime (Orson Welles, Citizen Kane). Once in the city, however, he learns that Lime has passed away. Shocked by the news, Martins starts asking questions - a lot of them. He is told a number of different stories that eventually lead him to believe that Lime was killed.
Determined to find out who is responsible for Lime's murder, Martins embarks on a treacherous journey amidst the unfriendly streets of Vienna. Eventually, he encounters the beautiful Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli, Eyes Without a Face, Lola), a Czech national with forged Austrian papers, who agrees to help him find his friend.
Based on a script by legendary novelist Graham Greene (Our Man In Havana), Carol Reed's The Third Man is a terrific hybrid of a film in which noir, neo-realism and Hollywood bravado are mixed to perfection. Set in post-war Vienna, the film is very much a dark caricature of sorts where the finesse, elegance and tradition of Old Europe are seen through the eyes of a naive but ambitious American looking for his missing friend.
Contrary to what many critics have claimed, the narrative is rather complicated. A giant mystery surrounding Welles' character is slowly peeled off, piece by piece. As a result, The Third Man quickly evolves into a guessing game of sorts in which every little detail must be scrutinized. As expected for a noir-film, there is also a dangerous femme fatale who becomes a prominent player as soon as the main protagonist reaches Austrian soil.
In addition to strong dark overtones, The Third Man also boasts a great deal of nihilism. For example, betrayal and impossible love are depicted by Reed with a sense of realism that feels uncannily contemporary. Not surprisingly, The Third Man works incredibly well not only as a non-stop adventure film, but also as a realistic depiction of a world struggling to recuperate after an enormous tragedy.
Even though The Third Man is a British film, its view on Old Europe is distinctively American. The clash of cultural ideologies, as witnessed through the interactions between Valli and Cotten, is particularly impressive. There are entire scenes where Reed focuses on the American whose alarming naivety produces some of the most hilarious yet disturbing sequences that compliment the mystery.
Anton Karas' soundtrack is beautiful. The mellow sounds produced by his zither gives The Third Man a very special flavor, one that blends with the dark vistas from Vienna's sewers exceptionally well. Naturally, the atmosphere The Third Man sustains is often cited as its greatest strength.
The Third Man Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Carol Reed's The Third Man arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment.
This high-definition transfer is inferior to the one Criterion used for their Blu-ray release of The Third Man, but it is certainly not disappointing. Generally speaking, fine object detail is quite pleasing, with selected close-ups looking very good. Compared to the Criterion release, contrast levels also appear toned down, particularity during some of the indoor scenes. Furthermore, mild noise corrections have been applied, but there is plenty of fine grain to be seen throughout the entire film. I also noticed traces of mild edge-enhancement, most of which pop up during the second half of the film. The color-scheme is pleasing - the blacks and grays look healthy while the variety of whites look mostly unmanipulated. Lastly, there are quite a few tiny flecks on this high-definition transfer, suggesting that it has been struck from a dated, unrestored source; however, there are no large cuts, stains, warps, or marks. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content. Please note that the disc's main menu can be set in one of the following languages: German, Spanish, French, Dutch, and English).
The Third Man Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are four audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (Mono), French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (Mono), German DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (Mono), and Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (Mono). For the record, Optimum Home Entertainment have provided optional French, Spanish, German, and Dutch subtitles for the main feature.
The English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track is very good. The dialog is clean, crisp, clean, and very easy to follow. There are no balance issues with Anton Karas' music score either. I also did not hear any pops, cracks, excessive hissings, or audio dropouts to report in this review. I must point out, however, that the English LPCM 1.0 track from the Criterion release is slightly better balanced (high-frequencies).
The Third Man Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Original trailer 1 - in English, not subtitled. (3 min, 1080p).
Original trailer 2 - in English, not subtitled. (2 min, 1080p).
Shadowing the Third Man - a long, very informative documentary film focusing on the production history of The Third Man, the secret of its success, the allure of post-war Vienna, etc. The film contains an abundance of archival footage as well as numerous interviews and excerpts from Graham Greene's novel. In English, not subtitled. (90 min, PAL).
The Third Man on the Radio - a collection of early 1950s radio announcements for The Third Man as heard on "The Lives of Harry Lime" show. Written and read by Orson Welles. (29 min, 480/60i).
The Third Man Interactive Vienna Tour - a fantastic, very original tour of the old Vienna seen in The Third Man and compared to modern Vienna. With comments and very helpful information by Dr. Brigitte Timmermann and tour guide Gerhard Strassgschwandtner. In English, not subtitled.
Josefsplatz (4 min, 1080i).
Third Man Museum (4 min, 1080i).
Karlsplatz (4 min, 1080i).
Sacher Hotel (6 min, 1080i).
Am Hof (6 min, 1080i).
Maria am Gestade (5 min, 1080i).
Molkerbastei (4 min, 1080i).
Stephansdom (3 min, 1080i).
Hoher Markt (3 min, 1080i).
Morzinplatz (4 min, 1080i).
Ruprechtskirche (3 min, 1080i).
Prater (4 min, 1080i).
Stadtpark (4 min, 1080i).
Zentralfriedhof (5 min, 1080i).
Stills Gallery - a collection of on-location stills from the production of The Third Man. (3 min, 1080p).
Guardian NFT interviews with:
-- Joseph Cotten - an audio only interview, courtesy of BFI National Archive/Guardian News & Media Ltd, from 1987. This is a very long and very informative interview in which the famous actor who played Holly Martins recalls his work with Carol Reed, the production history of The Third Man, its success, etc. In English, not subtitled. (48 min).
-- Graham Greene - an audio only interview, courtesy of BFI National Archive/Guardian News & Media Ltd, from 1984. In this interview the famous writer discusses how the screenplay for The Third Man came to exist. In English, not subtitled. (9 min).
Joseph Cotten's alternate opening voiceover narration - in English, not subtitled. (2 min, PAL).
Interview and zither performance by Cornelia Mayer - a wonderful performance of the Harry Lime theme & Cafe Mozart Waltz by Mrs. Mayer. In English, not subtitled. (5 min, 1080i).
Commentary - an audio commentary with assistant director Guy Hamilton, Simon Callow and Angela Allen (2nd unit continuity). This is a relaxed, very informative commentary with an abundance of technical information about the production history of The Third Man, the technical and logistical obstacles the cast and crew had to overcome, the film's fascinating story, etc. The commentary does not appear on the Criterion Blu-ray release of The Third Man. In English, not subtitled.
Booklet - a 20-page illustrated booklet containing an essay by Charles Drazin (Mr. Drazin is a film historian and biographer. His books include Korda: Britain's Only Movie Mogul, The Finest Years: British Cinema of the 1940s and In Search of The Third Man. He lectures on Cinema at Queen Mary, University of London).
The Third Man Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Optimum Home Entertainment have put together a fine package for Carol Reed's The Third Man. The high-definition transfer used for this Blu-ray release is inferior to the one used by Criterion for their Blu-ray release of this beloved film, but it is far from being disappointing. The disc also contains a wealth of excellent supplemental features. So, if you could still track down a copy of Criterion's Blu-ray release of The Third Man, and more importantly can afford it, get it. If you cannot, this Blu-ray release is a very decent budget alternative. RECOMMENDED.
The Third Man Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Studio Canal September Wave Detailed - August 13, 2010
Confirming earlier reports, Optimum Home Entertainment has announced seven titles for Blu-ray release in the UK on September 13 as part of the Studio Canal Collection: Breathless (À bout de soufflé, Jean-Luc Godard, 1960); Le cercle rouge (Jean-Pierre Melville, ...
The Third Man Blu-ray Screenshots
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