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(aka 'The 3rd Man')

directed by Carol Reed
UK 1949

 

The Third Man is a British cinematic masterpiece from director Carol Reed, author Graham Greene and starring Joseph Cotton, Alida Valli and Orson Welles. An undisputed all-time classic, the film features some of cinema’s most memorable set pieces: the chase through the sewers, the enormous Ferris wheel, the elm-lined cemetery and Anton Karas’ zither score, a worldwide phenomenon in itself.

 

***

 

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.

 

***

I hate to be a dissenting voice here but...

I always frowned when being "told" something was great... rather than finding it out for myself. So my stratospheric expectations of this overly acclaimed film, could not be in the vicinity of being attained. In fact even after a recent viewing, I  will still acknowledge Carol Reed's "Odd Man Out" (from 2 years prior) to be a far superior film and better representation of the Noir style. Yes, The Third Man has all the elements for greatness with stunning cinematography, frequent obtuse camera angles, a twisting plot, an unforgettable zither score backing it all up and a slew of great film posters. But as Manny Farber's forthright review states: "The movie's verve comes from the abstract use of a jangling zither and from squirting Orson Welles into the plot piecemeal with a tricky, facetious eyedropper. The charm, documentary skill, and playful cunning that fashioned this character make his Morse-code appearances almost as exciting visually as each new make-believe by Rembrandt in his self-portraits.... Reed's nervous, hesitant film is actually held together by the wires of its exhilarating zither, which sounds like a trio and hits one's consciousness like a cloudburst of sewing needles. Raining aggressive notes around the characters, it chastises them for being so inactive and fragmentary and gives the film the unity and movement the story lacks."

.

Okay, it's hard to be too critical as this film is still a fine way to spend a late Saturday night. Orson Welles as Harry Lime, and Joseph Cotten playing his childhood friend, Holly Martins - 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.

Posters

Theatrical Release: September - 1949 - Cannes Film Festival

Reviews                                                                 More Reviews                                                   DVD Reviews


Recommended Reading in Film Noir (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)

Comparison:

 

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray vs. Studio Canal Collection - Region 'B' - Blu-ray vs. Studio 4K - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 

1) Criterion - Region 'A' Blu-ray LEFT

2) Studio Canal Collection - Region 'B' Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Studio 4K - Region FREE Blu-ray - THIRD

 

Box Covers

 

 

 

 

Distribution Criterion Collection (Blu-ray) Spine # 64 - Region 'A' Studio Canal Collection
Region 'B' -
Blu-ray
Studio 4K
Region FREE -
Blu-ray

(click titles for DVDBeaver reviews)

This original edition (without any extras) is also available in The Essential Art House - 50 Years of Janus Films - a 50-disc celebration of international films collected under the auspices of the groundbreaking theatrical distributor. It contains Alexander Nevsky (1938), Ashes And Diamonds (1958), L'avventura (1960), Ballad Of A Soldier (1959), Beauty And The Beast (1946), Black Orpheus (1959), Brief Encounter (1945), The Fallen Idol (1948), Fires On The Plain (1959), Fists In The Pocket (1965), Floating Weeds (1959), Forbidden Games (1952), The 400 Blows (1959), Grand Illusion (1937), Häxan (1922), Ikiru (1952), The Importance Of Being Earnest (1952), Ivan The Terrible, Part II (1958), Le Jour Se Lève (1939), Jules And Jim (1962), Kind Hearts And Coronets (1949), Knife In The Water (1962), The Lady Vanishes (1938), The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp (1943), Loves Of A Blonde (1965), M (1931), M. Hulot's Holiday (1953), Miss Julie (1951), Pandora's Box (1929), Pépé Le Moko (1937), Il Posto (1961), Pygmalion (1938), Rashomon (1950), Richard III (1955), The Rules Of The Game (1939), Seven Samurai (1954), The Seventh Seal (1957), The Spirit Of The Beehive (1973), La Strada (1954), Summertime (1955), The Third Man (1949), The 39 Steps (1935), Ugetsu (1953), Umberto D. (1952), The Virgin Spring (1960), Viridiana (1961), The Wages Of Fear (1953), The White Sheik (1952), Wild Strawberries (1957), Three Documentaries By Saul J. Turell plus the hardcover, full color 240-page book.

Runtime1:45:13.348 1:44:58.000 1:44:21.255
Video

Disc Size: 43,293,713,595 bytes

Feature Size: 27,234,594,816 bytes

Average Bitrate: 34.51 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray AVC

Disc Size: 49,547,069,955 bytes

Feature Size: 28,495,620,096 bytes

Average Total Bitrate: 36.20 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray AVC

Disc Size: 27,599,288,304 bytes

Feature Size: 22,280,020,608 bytes

Average Total Bitrate: 24.28 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray AVC

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate: Criterion  Blu-ray

Bitrate: Studio Canal  Blu-ray

Bitrate: Studio 4K  Blu-ray

Audio

LPCM Audio English 768 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Commentaries:

Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps

DTS-HD Master Audio English 1700 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1700 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio English 1722 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1722 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio French 1562 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1562 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio German 1562 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1562 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio Spanish 1595 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1595 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio Italian 512 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 512 kbps
DTS-HD Master Audio English 1564 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1564 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 512 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 512 kbps
SubtitlesEnglish, None Dutch, French, German, Spanish, None Italian, English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Disc Size: 43,293,713,595 bytes

Feature Size: 27,234,594,816 bytes

Average Bitrate: 34.51 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray AVC

 

Edition Details:

• Video introduction by writer-director Peter Bogdanovich
• Two audio commentaries: one by filmmaker Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Tony Gilroy, and one 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
• Liner notes booklet featuring essays by Luc Sante, Charles Drazin, and Philip Kerr 

Blu-ray Release Date: December 16th, 2008
Custom cardboard slipcase (with booklet)
Chapters: 24

Release Information:
Label: Studio Canal Collection
 

Disc Size: 49,547,069,955 bytes

Feature Size: 28,495,620,096 bytes

Average Total Bitrate: 36.20 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray AVC

 

Edition Details:

Shadowing the Third Man (1:29:39 in SD)
The Third Man on the Radio (28:45 audio only)
Audio commentary with Guy Hamilton (Assistant Director), Simon Callow and Angela Allen (2nd Unit Continuity)
Guardian NFT Interview with Joseph Cotton (47:15 - Audio only)
Guardian NFT Interview with Graham Greene (8:05 - Audio only)
Joseph Cotton's Alternate Opening Voiceover Narration (1:20 in SD)
Original Trailer 1 (2:43 in HD!)
Original Trailer 2 (1:50 in HD!)
Stills Gallery (29 images)
The Third Man Interactive Vienna Tour
Interview and zither performance by Cornelia Mayer (4:43 in HD!)


Blu-ray Release Dates: September 2010
Custom
Blu-ray package
Chapters: 1
5

Release Information:
Label: Studio 4K
 

Disc Size: 27,599,288,304 bytes

Feature Size: 22,280,020,608 bytes

Average Total Bitrate: 24.28 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray AVC

 

Edition Details:

Shadowing the Third Man (1:29:20 in 576i)
Original Trailer 1 (2:24 in 480i)

Blu-ray Release Dates: February 4th 2014
Standard
Blu-ray package
Chapters: 12

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were obtained directly from the Blu-ray disc.

 

ADDITION: (March 2014) Studio 4K (Italy) - Region FREE - Blu-ray: Firstly with our comparison of Welles' The Stranger Blu-rays we identified that Studio 4K is definitely not what some had reported them to be. I've compared only four captures below. I was just curious which companies' transfer they decided to 'use'. It looks to be Criterion, now OOP Blu-ray disc, for the video and possible Studio Canal for the audio?!? The Studio 4K is a lesser 1080P - lower bitrate, same "Shadowing the Third Man" documentary extra, slapped on a weak Italian DUB and Italian subtitles. Probable bootleg - either way - pass.   

 

***

 

ADDITION: (August 2010) Studio Canal Collection - Region 'B' - Blu-ray: Firstly, this is the European region 'B'-locked Blu-ray edition of Carol Reed's film. It will be the exact same disc (transfer, menus, extras) used in the UK (Optimum), Germany (Kinowelt) and in France (Studio Canal) under the umbrella of The Studio Canal Collection. Packaging will differ due to the country language it is sold in September 2010 but all digital features will be the same. Surprisingly, the Lionsgate (USA version - also out in September) must have some differently licensed supplements but the feature transfer should be exactly the same.

NOTE: We've been informed that the LionsGate will be missing the 1.5 hour documentary "Shadowing the Third Man".

 

The disc asks you immediately to choose; Deutschland, España, France, Netherland or United Kingdom. Then the menus, and feature subtitles, are in the appropriate language. But there are no English subtitles available.

 

I don't know if this will be an issue for most systems - but anyway, I prefer the Criterion Blu-ray (now out-of-print) - it has better contrast and shows more film grain. Period. There are some slightly different scratch and speckles marks but I don't know that the source was different - Criterion look to have performed some of their renowned digital restoration magic - probably heightening black levels, removing small blemishes etc. I don't know that I can say much more - The Studio Canal is a bit flatter, and has the perception of being less sharp. I still think those locked to region 'B' will still appreciate the SC Collection image quality and most systems will surely benefit from the 1080P upgrade.

 

I don't think my ears are capable of distinguishing too many differences between the lossless track - the Criterion has a linear PCM 1.0 mono track that some minor hiss and low-level frequency noise that also exists on the re-issue and the European BD has a 2.0 channel DTS-HD Master that sounded a bit more robust. The Criterion offers optional English subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being region 'B'-locked.

 

Criterion wins with the extras with 2 commentaries and more, but the Studio Canal Collection includes some valuable supplements as well - with, what I would describe as, a very 'gracious' commentary from the participants - Guy Hamilton (Assistant Director), Simon Callow and Angela Allen (2nd Unit Continuity). It's easy to hear that this grouping are getting on in years - but they have some wonderful anecdotes about production and seem very pleased to be recording the commentary with each other. Included is the same 1.5 hour long documentary Shadowing the Third Man found on the Criterion - as is Joseph Cotton's Alternate Opening Voiceover Narration. There are audio-only interviews from the Guardian NFT with both Joseph Cotton (47:15) and Graham Greene (8:05), HD trailers, a stills gallery an interactive tour of Vienna (this is kind of educational - having never traveled there myself) and a short interview and zither performance by Cornelia Mayer. I expect there will be a booklet in the package but I only have the disc screener at present.    

 

There you have it! I appreciate the black and white visuals more than the film itself that is now imbedded in my memory banks. I seem to know every scene and all the dialogue - despite not being a that big fan of The Third Man. I don't think there is any need to make issues with the Studio Canal Blu-ray - it's still a strong package - if arriving a reasonable second behind the Criterion.

 

***

 

ADDITION: Criterion Blu-ray - December 08': Utilizing the same high definition master as the standard DVD (re-issue) released in 2007, we have essentially the same image with better resolution. Technically over 3 times the bitrate. This is a dual-layered Blu-ray with the feature taking up approximately 27Gig of space transferred with the AVC encode. On my 42" system the improvment is certainly noticeable but the larger your system display - the superior the Criterion Blu-ray will appear beyond the DVD(s) image. This transfer has the same infrequent marks and speckles, much less noise/more grain than the re-issue DVD and looks pretty sweet with rich contrast that appears a shade more pure. In short everything is better visually. The Blu-ray may be marginally brighter. Watch out though - it will be hard to go back once you see it in 1080!

 

Important news for some - this Blu-ray is NOT pictureboxed like the re-issue (see our description of picture-boxing in THIS review.)

 

We have a PCM mono track that is imperfect with some minor hiss and low-level frequency noise that also exists on the re-issue. This Blu-ray offers only English subtitles as an option.

 

Extras are duplicated from the re-issue (see description below) and thankfully housed all on one disc. I actually re-listened to Dana Polan's commentary and grew some appreciation of the film, which is nice, as it was never a favorite. We also get the fine booklet but its shorter at only 16 pages of content instead of 32, deleting the essays by Charles Drazin and Philip Kerr.

 

Once again Criterion's package is fairly basic - a cardboard slipcase but I'd love to see it state 'Blu-ray' somewhere on the package (enough grumbling old man.) Criterion are committed to this 1080P venture and they are being fair in not gouging for a higher price - this is actually cheaper than the SD-DVD re-issue from 2007! It's the best way to see The Third Man digitally in your home. We absolutely endorse.

 

***

 

ON THE SD-DVDs: ADDITION: Criterion - RE-ISSUE - Region 1- NTSC: The Criterion appears to have come from the Studio Canal master used for their 2-disc edition HERE. Criterion state -"This new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a restored 35mm fine-grain master positive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, and scratches were removed using the MTI Digital Restoration System." There are quite a few image differences from the original release:

 

1) The RE-ISSUE is picture-boxed (see our description of picture-boxing in THIS review)

2) The print used is definitely a different one from the original (not simply further restoration - there is different framing and different damage).

3) The RE-ISSUE shows far less speckles and marks.

4) The original version is smoother with less grain and appears cleaner (in the sense of fine dirt).

5) The original release shows a shade more information in the frame - mostly on the left edge.

6) The original release is slightly brighter - most probably digitally manipulated.

7) The original release shows more digital artifacts.

 

BOTTOM LINE ON IMAGE: It is a personal preference if you enjoy the grain in the RE-ISSUE vs. the pictureboxing limitations which means it probably depends more on your system and what you prefer in a digital representation. The old edition was never really weak - it just had more marks, speckles and light scratches that you would see from a usual Criterion release.

 

SUPPLEMENTS: The new 2-disc edition is loaded. It repeats most of the extras from the original release but adds two optional audio commentaries - the first with Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Tony Gilroy - it is fairly informative but also sounds off-the-cuff and I've never been enamored with Soderbergh in the arena of commentaries. I much preferred the Dana Polan (professor cinema studies - NY University) commentary which is more at the level of professional discussion that you may be used to with Criterion. He immediately launches into his contention that The Third Man is a 'hybrid' film with a mélange of creative input - old world European vs. modern Hollywood (Selznick). This is reflected in the characters and story as well with cocky American Holly Martins and the cultural tension observed in the evolving plot as he is unsettled in the old world sensibilities of Vienna. I have enjoyed all of Polan's commentaries that I have heard (Emperor of the North, Bullets ands Ballots and Mann's Border Incident come to mind). Fascinating and very much worth listening to.

 

On the 2nd disc there are some new features -   the extensive "Shadowing "The Third Man" (2005), is 1.5 hours and exposes some of the battle for power in the creation of the film. There is also "Graham Greene: The Hunted Man," an hour-long, 1968 episode of the BBC's Omnibus series, featuring a rare interview with the novelist where he too exposes Selznick's infestation to some degree - as does assistant director Guy Hamilton giving his input on the perceptive myth of the Hollywood mogul. There is also Who Was the Third Man? (2000), a thirty-minute Austrian documentary featuring interviews with cast and crew in German with English subtitles. Another important inclusion is the liner notes booklet featuring essays by Luc Sante, Charles Drazin, and Philip Kerr.

 

I was never overly disappointed with the original transfer but the Polan commentary swayed me to endorse this 2-disc edition. I got more out of his comments than my early viewings of the film that I was always ambivalent toward. I wouldn't say I'm a big fan of "The Third Man" but my appreciation has risen immensely and I'm proud to have this in my DVD library. For those who are keen on it - this new DVD package is a must-have.     

****

 

Original Criterion DVD: This was quite a DVD production... perhaps the finest of its time (way back in 1999). Extensive effort went into the film transfer (22,000 scratches and dirt particles removed from the master) and the extras although there are still some visible marks. It is even reasonably priced. With the reputation of the film, Criterion certainly chose the right project to funnel their work ethic. At the time it set a new standard for the digital versatile disc medium - not to be equaled by their competitors for years. As stated, although this is not my favorite film, it would be criminal to be a DVD-o-phile and not own it.

 Gary W. Tooze


 

Studio Canal Collection - Region FREE Blu-ray

 

Studio 4K - Region FREE Blu-ray


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

1) Criterion - Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP

2) Studio Canal Collection - Region 'B' Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Studio 4K - Region FREE Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

Screen Captures

 

 

1) Criterion - Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP

2) Studio Canal Collection - Region 'B' Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Studio 4K - Region FREE Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

 

1) Criterion - Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP

2) Studio Canal Collection - Region 'B' Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Studio 4K - Region FREE Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion (RE-Issue) - Region 1 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Criterion - Region 'A' Blu-ray - THIRD

4) Studio Canal Collection - Region 'B' Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion - Region 'A' Blu-ray - TOP

2) Studio Canal Collection - Region 'B' Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Criterion - Region 'A' Blu-ray - TOP

2) Studio Canal Collection - Region 'B' Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion - Region 'A' Blu-ray - TOP

2) Studio Canal Collection - Region 'B' Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


Box Covers

 

 

 

 

DistributionCriterion Collection (Blu-ray) Spine # 64 - Region 'A' Studio Canal Collection
Region 'B' -
Blu-ray
Studio 4K
Region FREE -
Blu-ray



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Gary Tooze