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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.
For more about The Third Man and the The Third Man Blu-ray release, see the The Third Man Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on November 27, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
Starring: Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, Trevor Howard, Bernard Lee, Paul Hoerbiger
Director: Carol Reed
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The Third Man Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, November 27, 2008
One of the greatest film-noir movies ever made, Carol Reed's "The Third Man" (1949) follows the deeds of an American writer who arrives in post-war Vienna looking for his friend. Beautifully-lensed and filled with suspense, the picture offers a disturbing portrait of a world ruled by injustice, rotten political ideologies, and nihilism. Courtesy of Criterion. Region-A "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 its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Carol Reed's The Third Man arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
I could not wait to get my hands on this disc. I was excited to see Wong Kar-Wai's Chungking Express in 1080p but, for a number of reasons, I was waiting to see how Criterion will treat their B&W films. Suffice to say, I have some terrific news that will surely warm plenty of hearts.
First of all, the big news is that The Third Man is not picture-boxed. Those of you who have followed Criterion's output on SDVD closely know that there have been a number of issues related to their window-boxing practice, which have left perfectionists hoping for more. Put all those hopes aside - your wish has been granted. The Third Man arrives in a handsome 1080p transfer lacking the tiny little lines seen on the SDVD version. As a result, not only does this transfer look mighty impressive on a large HDTV set but, blown through a digital projector, it convincingly overshadows the image quality the SDVD set boasts. Here the blacks are rich and lush, the whites are sharp, and the actual color-scheme significantly more nuanced than that seen on the SDVD. Furthermore, contrast is absolutely superb. The fine film grain The Third Man reveals is perfectly intact and I could not help but admire how impressive the picture quality is. Folks, this isn't the rant of a film snob who has been suddenly exposed to a marvelous discovery, no, this is the evaluation of someone who has seen four different releases of The Third Man and each time he found that there was something of substantial importance missing.
Furthermore, those of you who own the old Criterion SDVD know that there were some scratches, dirt, and debris that were eliminated on the reissue disc. Last night, when I started watching the Blu-ray disc, the first thing that made an impression on me was the superb quality of the print. Yes, the SDVD reissue of the The Third Man also had the scratches, dirt, and specks eliminated but when you look at the Blu-ray release, with the terrific black and white gradation I addressed before, I am convinced you will see a completely different film. Finally, I also noticed that the Blu-ray transfer appears to have eliminated a substantial amount of the background flickering I've seen on the SDVD disc. To sum it all up, this is an outstanding release which has absolutely no flaws whatsoever! For the record, the packaging is exactly the same as the one Criterion used for Chungking Express. (Note: This is a Region-A encoded Blu-ray disc which you will not be able to playback on your Region-B only hardware. You will need Region-Free hardware in order to view its content).
The Third Man Blu-ray, Audio Quality
On this Blu-ray disc you will find exactly what the majority of us were hoping to hear - an uncompressed English mono track. I really do not have any critical thoughts pertaining to this audio track. The dialog is crystal clear and very easy to follow, there aren't any inconsistencies that I could detect, and overall it really shows that serious restoration efforts have gone into securing a deserving audio presentation. Of course, I am certain, the big question many of you are pondering is: Is there a difference between the SDVD mono track and the uncompressed mono track the Blu-ray version boasts. Yes, there is. I was listening very carefully last night and I could convincingly state that not only is the uncompressed mono track clearer, but - and I hope this makes sense to the audiophiles - it is also a lot more stable. I would like to point you to a particular scene from The Third Man which I found to be quite revealing of the discrepancies between the two tracks. If you could, listen to the dialog between the main protagonists right after they approach the home of the doorman who has been murdered. Pay attention to the lines they exchange, and listen to the cries of the kid with the ball. It is very clear, to me, that the uncompressed mono track delivers a much more stable audio quality here. Lastly, the actual track is, as noted earlier, free of pop-ups, hissing, or cracks. Optional English subtitles (white) are provided for the main feature.
The Third Man Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Before we get to the supplemental features, let's take a look at Criterion's booklet. In it, you will find an informative essay titled "The One and Only" by Luc Santie (the author teaches at Bard College and has writings include Low Life, The Factory of Facts, and Kill All Your Darlings). The actual essay focuses on the history of The Third Man as well as the effect it had on world cinema as a whole. There is also a short note about the transfer, in addition to production credits, acknowledgments, and special thanks.
On the actual Blu-ray disc there is an abundance of important extras. First, there is an introduction to the film by writer-director Peter Bogdanovich where he talks about the appeal of The Third Man, its charismatic beauty, and what makes it a film of tremendous importance (there are some very interesting comments about Orson Welles as well). Next, Criterion offer a story-form draft by Graham Greene which was initially intended for The Third Man. The piece is aligned with the actual film and narrated by the late Richard Clarke. There are also two audio commentaries, also found on the SDVD version, one by filmmaker Steven Soderbergh and director Tony Girloy, and the other by film scholar Dana Polan. Both of those are terrific. I've listened to the two on my DVD and highly recommend that you find the time to have a look at them. Especially the second commentary, the one by Dana Polan, offers a wealth of information that surely allows for an entirely new appreciation of this spectacular film. "Shadowing The Third Man" (2005) is 90-minute documentary that chronicles the production history of the film. It was premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and it is herein narrated by actor John Hurt. "Who Was The Third Man" is an extensive documentary that was commissioned for the fiftieth anniversary of the film by Wien-Kanal (the Vienna Sewer Department). The piece is written by Georg Markus and directed by Beate Thalberg. Next is "A Ticket to Tangiers", a collection of early 1950s radio announcements for The Third Man as heard on "The Lives of Harry Lime" show. "Insider Information" is an interesting collaboration between writer Charles Drazen, author of "In Search of the Third Man", and Criterion offering a short production history of the film with rare behind-the-scenes photos. "US vs. UK version" focuses on the different voiceovers in the opening scenes for The Third Man. Detailed information pertaining to the exact differences is provided. "Kind to Foreigners" gathers the German spoken scenes director Carol Reed intentionally left unsubbed with English subtitles. In addition to the original US theatrical trailer, and UK press book with scanned documents from Carol Reed's personal archive, you will also find archival footage from post-war Vienna. Finally, an Omnibus-featurette focuses on writer Graham Greene's history. The Blu-ray disc also offers the "Timeline" feature which allows you to bookmark selected scenes and compare them after you've listened to the commentaries/analysis.
The Third Man Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Wow! I really cannot see what could have been improved here. The entire package is absolutely superb. This is what Blu-ray is all about, and in the hands of competent distributors, the format sure is capable of delivering miracles. Very Highly Recommended.
The Third Man: Other Editions
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The Third Man Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Lionsgate Announces Delicatessen, The Third Man on Blu-ray - July 5, 2010
Lionsgate Home Entertainment has announced that it will release two films on Blu-ray on September 14 as part of its StudioCanal Collection: Delicatessen (Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro, 1991); and The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949), which had previously been released ...
• The Third Man Criterion Blu-ray Going Out of Print (Update) - October 29, 2009
We have the first discontinued Criterion BD before us. Both the DVD and Blu-ray editions of the classic movie 'The Third Man' are listed on the Criterion Collection site as out-of-print. Hence, the only available copies will be those already in the retail channel. ...
• Today on Blu-ray - December 16th - December 16, 2008
Since the days of Laserdisc, the Criterion Collection has dedicated their efforts to collecting the greatest classic and contemporary films from around the world, and make them available to the general public at the highest quality possible. Today, they release ...
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