The Third Man (Universal) (1949)

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Released 28-May-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-US Opening Sequence
Featurette-Sewer Footage
Featurette-Anton Karas
Radio Spots-The Lives Of Harry Lime : A Ticket to Tangiers
Radio Spots-Lux Radio Theatre Presents The Third Man
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1949
Running Time 104:29
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (69:02) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Carol Reed

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Joseph Cotten
Orson Welles
Trevor Howard
Alida Valli
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Anton Karas

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    When American Western novel writer Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) arrives in post World War II Vienna to see his friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles) and accept his offer of a job, he arrives to hear that his friend has been killed as a result of a motor accident. Arriving just in time, he proceeds to his friend's funeral where he meets Major Calloway (Trevor Howard), a policeman who is part of the international force responsible for policing the post war city. Calloway informs him that his friend was "the worst racketeer making a living in the city". Before long, Holly comes to believe that Harry's death was suspicious, and because of his friend's reputation, the Police are less than interested in investigating the case any further. By questioning witnesses, he learns that a mysterious third man, who is unable to be identified, was present at the scene and he sets off to find this person in the hope of finding out the truth about his friend death. Along the way he is assisted by Anna Schmidt  (Alida Valli), an actress and the girlfriend of Harry Lime.

    This movie is based on the story  by Graham Greene.  It is has been said that the character of Harry Lime was modelled on Kim Philby, the British double agent who was also Greene's superior during his time with the British Secret Intelligence Service. Certainly The Third Man it is an interesting story, all the more due to its link with one of best known double agents, however from my personal perspective I wouldn't rank it as highly as others and certainly not at number 10, which is its ranking in the IMDB's list of the all-time best thrillers. The reason? Simple. It just didn't keep me on the edge of my seat and that's all I want from a thriller. Perhaps if it had been directed by Hitchcock. After all, he's got 4 of his movies in the top 10 thrillers (or 5 if you count the top 11).

    On the awards front, The Third Man won the Academy Award in 1951 for Best Cinematography (Black and White) and was nominated for the Best Director and Best Film Editing awards.

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Transfer Quality


    As you would expect of a movie of this vintage there are going to be a few deficiencies in the image quality.

    This transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and it is consequently not 16x9 enhanced. This is very close to its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1.

    There is some variation in sharpness, but generally the image is quite sharp. Edge enhancement is seen on a few occasions but is not distracting. Shadow detail is generally more than adequate. No low level noise is present.

    This a a black and white movie which exhibits a detailed grey scale. There are a number of  occasions when white portions of the picture appear to be oversaturated.

    MPEG artefacts are absent from this transfer. No aliasing was noted. Film artefacts abound as expected in an old movie. These consist mostly of small white or black marks, and an occasional larger mark such as those at 26:43 and 51:46, which are more or less present throughout the movie. I also noted one small hair and vertical scratch which was present for a few seconds early on. One set of reel change marks are also present at 74:32 and 74:40. Film grain is evident although this is reasonably fine in nature and not particularly distracting.

    No subtitles have been included on this disc.

    This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change occurring during chapter 15, at 69:02. It is quite noticeable and somewhat disruptive to the flow of the movie.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    As expected, the audio exhibits a dated quality that is in keeping with the vintage of the movie, however if you make an allowance for the age of the movie the audio is otherwise quite acceptable.

    This disc is graced with a single English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack which means that all your speakers with the exception of the centre speaker are superfluous. In general, the audio is free of hiss but does contain a fair bit of low level crackle.

    There were no problems with the dialogue which was always perfectly clear and intelligible. The audio sync was spot on.

    The musical score is by Anton Karas ("He'll have you in a dither with his zither"), and features him playing his zither of course. The main theme is a catchy little piece which somehow manages to get into your head. Even when the movie is over you still seem to be able to hear a few bars of the theme playing softly over and over again in the background! Be careful, it might drive you mad!!

    As this disc has only a mono soundtrack the surrounds are completely silent. The subwoofer is not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There's quite a selection of extras to keep you amused for a few hours once the movie has finished.


    The main and scene selection menus both feature animated black and white images with colour menu items and are displayed in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

Theatrical Trailer (2:18)

    The very grainy original theatrical trailer which, like the movie, is displayed in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with a very dramatic Dolby Digital 2.0 mono voiceover which has a significant level of hiss.

Theatrical Trailer (1:42)

    This is the trailer used for the 1999 re-release of the movie. The image is very oversaturated and displayed in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 without 16x9 enhancement. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono and exhibits significant hiss.

Featurette - US Opening Sequence (2:27)

    This is the slightly shorter opening sequence used in the US release of the movie. Other than the fact that it is slightly shorter and the narration is by Joseph Cotton rather than Producer Carol Reed, it is not significantly different to the British version. It's not in as good condition as the British opening featured in the movie as it contains a number of audio clicks and pops and plenty of film artefacts.

Radio Spot - The Lives Of Harry Lime : A Ticket to Tangiers (28:45)

    A radio play - remember them? Well, I don't either. Like you, I'm too young! As I understand it, this is what people listened to for entertainment before television. In this case we have Orson Wells and others from 1951 presenting another tale in the life of Harry Lime. The audio is effectively Dolby Digital 2.0 mono which is strangely presented from the rear speakers. The video is a black and white still image which is a montage of images from the movie presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

Radio Spot - Lux Radio Theatre Presents The Third Man (60:30)

     Another radio play, this time the radio version of the movie starring Joseph Cotton and Evelyn Keyes in the lead roles. Once again the audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono over a black and white image which is displayed in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. This is broken into a number of acts complete with Lux soap advertisements in between them!

Photo Gallery

    About 40 mostly behind the scenes shots in black and white. There's no audio. The aspect ratio is 1.33:1.

Featurette - Sewer Footage (1:09)

    Just like you'd expect from the title, this is a very short behind the scenes documentary showing the shooting of the underground sewerage sequence from the movie. It's in black and white in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono voiceover is in German but there are English subtitles.

Featurette - Anton Karas (1:56)

    Here we have Anton performing the Third Man Theme on his Zither from his Viennese restaurant. The aspect ratio for this black and white production is is 1.29:1. The French audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. There are English subtitles.

R4 vs R1

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

    Based on information from the Internet, the Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:

    Best version? About line ball I'd say.


    The Third Man comes in at number 9 in the IMDB list of all-time top thrillers. I'm not sure I would consider it this good, as it really didn't keep me on the edge of my seat, which is my personal criterion for a top thriller. Nevertheless, if you like classic movies this is definitely worth a look.

    The video quality is good allowing for the age of this production.

    The audio quality is dated but otherwise quite OK.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Peter Cole (Surely you've got something better to do than read my bio)
Monday, August 04, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-995
SpeakersFront L&R - B&W DM603, Centre - B&W LCR6, Rear L&R - B&W DM602, Sub - Yamaha YST-SW300

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