Third Man, The (Blu-ray) (1949)

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Released 1-Mar-2017

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Audio Commentary-Simon Callow, Guy Hamilton and Angela Allen
Featurette-Shadowing The Third Man (89:39)
Featurette-Interview and Zither Performance by Cornelia Mayer (4:44)
Featurette-The Third Man Interactive Vienna Tour
Audio-Only Track-The Third Man on the Radio (30:02)
Audio-Only Track-Interviews: Joseph Cotton (47:24), Graham Greene (8:04)
Alternate Audio-Joseph Cotton’s Alternate Opening Voiceover Narration (1:20)
Featurette-The Third Man - A Filmmaker’s Influence (16:07)
Featurette-Restoring The Third Man (19:38)
Featurette-Dangerous Edge – A Life of Graham Greene (56:01)
Trailer-The 4K restoration release trailer (1:34).
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1949
Running Time 105:01
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Carol Reed
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Joseph Cotten
Alida Valli
Orson Welles
Trevor Howard
Bernard Lee
Paul Hörbiger
Ernst Deutsch
Siegfried Breuer
Erich Ponto
Wilfrid Hyde-White
Hedwig Bleibtreu
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Anton Karas


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 2.0
French DTS HD Master Audio 2.0
German DTS HD Master Audio 2.0
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
French
German
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton), a penniless writer of pulp westerns, arrives in occupied and divided Vienna soon after the end of WW2. Holly has come to meet his old friend Harry Lime (Orson Wells) but when Holly arrives in Vienna he learns that Harry has just been killed in an accident. At Harry’s funeral Holly meets British Military Policemen Major Calloway (Trevor Howard) and Sergeant Paine (Bernard Lee, who later became very well known as “M” in all the early Bonds) who have been investigating Harry for a black market racket involving diluted penicillin that has caused children’s deaths. Holly does not believe that Harry was a crook and he also begins to suspect that the details he has been given about Harry’s accident may not be the truth. Holly is determined to find out what really happened and his enquiries lead him to Harry’s mistress Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli) and Harry’s associates Kurtz (Ernst Deutsch) and Dr. Winkel (Erich Ponto). Holly soon discovers that there are indeed many unanswered questions around Harry, and he is caught between his emerging love for Anna, the Military Police and other parties who also want to know about Harry Lime and his illegal activities.

     On its release The Third Man was a box office hit and a critical success; it has in polls been voted the greatest British film of all time and still rates a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film was written by Graham Greene based on his own novella (his only screenplay) and directed by Carol Reed. Reed was nominated for an Oscar but lost out to Joseph L. Mankiewicz for All About Eve (it was a very strong field that year: another nominee was Billy Wilder for Sunset Boulevard); Reed won his Oscar however many years later for Oliver! (1968). The Third Man looks unusual; Reed employs many tilted camera angles, so much so that the story is that the crew bought him a spirit level after the shoot. He also utilises the bombed out ruins and rubble of Vienna, light and shadow to create an oppressive atmosphere which is beautifully shot by Australian born cinematographer Robert Krasker, who won an Oscar for his work. And of course everything is connected by that unforgettable zither score by Anton Karas.

     The Third Man is a film that does not take the easy route. Harry Lime is a manipulating, cold hearted racketeer and Orson Wells plays him to perfection and almost makes us believe that he has a valid point of view. Italian born Alida Valli is also excellent as are the Austrian supporting cast. It may be me but I have never been completely convinced by Joseph Cotton’s performance as the naïve American out of his depth amid murder and betrayals; others apparently considered for the part were James Stewart and Robert Mitchum, either of whom would have been interesting.

     The Third Man is also renowned for its wordless final scene, one of the best in movie history although one which Graham Greene initially fought against, wanting the “happy” ending of his novella although he was gracious enough to admit later that he had been wrong! It has become a bit of a trend in recent times to label classic films like The Third Man as overrated, too slow and not slick enough for modern audiences. Each to their own, of course, but for me The Third Man, with its atmosphere, sharp dialogue, twists, acting and score, remains a one of a kind, bona fide masterpiece.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The Third Man is presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     The Third Man has been in the public domain and there are some poor versions of the film out there. I am happy to report that this Blu-ray, based on a remastered print, looks wonderful. Some backgrounds seem overbright, but detail is strong, allowing us to see every line of Wells’ coat or Alida Valli’s black hair. Blacks, greyscales and shadow detail are excellent and, although light grain is evident, I did not see any marks or other artefacts.

     English subtitles for the hearing impaired are available plus French and German subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio choices are English, French and German, all DTS-HD MA 2.0 (mono). The audio commentary is Dolby Digital 2.0.

     Dialogue was easy to understand. There was little by way of effects during most of the film although in the sewer chase sequences the footsteps, voices and gunshots reverberated and water noise was prominent, giving a nice feel to those scenes. There was obviously no surround or subwoofer use. The iconic zither score by Anton Karas came over cleanly.

     In some sections without music I noticed some slight distortion.

     Lip synchronisation was generally fine (although check out the IMDb here for some obvious sync errors.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Feature Commentary

     Simon Callow asks questions of Guy Hamilton (Assistant Director- later director of three Bond films) and Angela Allen (2nd Unit Continuity) about their experiences in filming The Third Man. This is a humorous and entertaining commentary full of information and anecdotes about filming in Vienna, candid comments about the cast, the director, producers, the sewers, the music and the antics of Orson Wells. Fascinating, although they do tend to run out of steam a bit towards the end.

Shadowing The Third Man (89:39)

     Not a documentary or a retrospective “making of” as such, rather this is an intriguing feature film in its own right about The Third Man directed by Frederick Baker and narrated by John Hurt. Mixing substantial film extracts with location shots in Vienna contrasting then and now, archive cold war footage, the voices of Carol Reed and Graham Greene and interviewees including Guy Hamilton and Angela Allen, the film delves into the situation in Vienna immediately after the war, the fractious relationship between producers David O Selznick and Alexander Korda, the antics of Orson Wells on set, the score and the reaction to the film.

Interview and Zither Performance by Cornelia Mayer (4:44)

     Mayer plays The Harry Lime Theme and Café Mozart Waltz from the film and talks about the zither.

The Third Man Interactive Vienna Tour

     Fourteen locations are highlighted on a map of Vienna. For all but one (the modern Third Man Museum) click on the location for photographs taken in 1948 and 2010, film footage and a discussion on location by Dr Brigitte Timmermann who is involved with a tour group “Vienna Walks & Talks”. This is a good informative feature, slightly lessened by the fact that Dr Timmermann tends to talk too much about the film itself and also because the credits occur after every section before returning to the map, which slows things down.

The Third Man on the Radio (30:02)

     Audio only: Orson Wells wrote and performs A Ticket to Tangiers in 1951, in a radio series called “The Lives of Harry Lime”.

Guardian NFT Interviews

     Audio only interviews with Joseph Cotton (47:24) and Graham Greene (8:04).

     Cotton speaks in 1987 after a showing of The Third Man and answers audience questions. He has bad laryngitis and it sounds very painful but he remains humorous as he answers questions and provides anecdotes about his career, other films he made, Orson Wells, Alfred Hitchcock and a bit, but not a lot, on The Third Man.

     Greene in 1984 answers questions from an audience about the screenplay, the development of the script, the dispute about the end of The Third Man and the difficulties with David O Selznick. Parts of this interview are also included in the “Shadowing The Third Man” featurette on this Blu-ray.

Joseph Cotton’s Alternate Opening Voiceover Narration (1:20)

     Used for the US theatrical release of the film.

The Third Man - A Filmmaker’s Influence (16:07)

     Directors Martin Scorsese, Ben Wheatley, John Sayles, Franc Roddam and screenwriter Hossein Omini reflect on the influence of The Third Man.

Restoring The Third Man (19:38)

     A technical look at the 4K restoration of the film including sourcing elements, the scanning, stabilising, artefact removal and the grading.

Dangerous Edge – A Life of Graham Greene (56:01)

     Made in 2012 and narrated by Derek Jacobi, this documentary is a fascinating look at the life, loves, works and religion of this very contradictory personality using photographs, archive footage, exerts from the films made from his books, the voice and writings of Greene and comments by others, including writers John Le Carre, Sir John Mortimer and Paul Theroux. One priceless comment comes from Kim Philby, Greene’s boss in the British Secret Service, and Russian spy. There is only a brief mention of The Third Man but this is essential viewing for anyone interested in Greene.

Trailer (1:34)

     The trailer for the 4K restoration release.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Over the years there have been a number of Blu-ray releases of The Third Man with different extras; a comparison of some earlier releases can be found here. This remastered release is the same as is currently available in the US and UK.

Summary

     Released in1949, The Third Man is a critically acclaimed one of a kind masterpiece. This is one of my favourite films, so I admit to being biased. This Blu-ray package, with its wonderful, clean video presentation, lossless audio and excellent range of extras is a fantastic opportunity to possess one of cinema’s greatest gems.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Friday, May 26, 2017
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
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