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on October 7, 2010
The Studio Canal blu ray version of the Third Man is an ok transfer--but not as good as the version released by Criterion Collection. Having purchased the Studio Canal version, and then subsequently finding a new copy of the Criterion Collection version, it is apparent that each has used a print from a different source. In regards to the Studio Canal version, I noticed some less than stellar frames near the end of the film----where Joseph Cotton is leaning at the road side, watching Alida Valli walk by. In any case, the Studio Canal version isn't bad and I wouldn't discourage its purchase. But if you love this film and want the best print available---try to locate a copy of the Criterion Collection---before they completely disappear.
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on February 17, 2000
It was with great anticipation that I viewed The Third Man recently. I had last seen it nearly 25 years earlier. At the earlier viewing I was impressed with the atmospheric treatment of Vienna and the mystery surrounding Joseph Cotton's search for the truth about his friend Harry (Orson Wells). However, though I then thought of it as a very fine movie, I did not think it would rank in my top 20. Now I see what I missed as a younger person. I can also see why this film would rank as number one on a British list of greatest films of the 20th century.
The film is a surreal examination of the tension between loyalty, love, and friendship on the one hand, and truth and justice on the other. The Viennese are suffused with the cynicism of a destroyed continent and damaged culture. The British know only about the truth and justice side of the equation. The American writer of simple westerns still is naïve enough to care about friendship and truth, and follows both wherever they lead. At the same time, Carol Reed scarcely shoots a scene in which there are right angles. Nearly everything is tilted. Close-ups of faces exaggerate their features. The black and white of the film emphasizes the shadowy nature of the story and its moral underpinnings.
At first Holly Martins (Cotton) thinks he is helping his best friend, Harry Lime (Wells). At the same time he becomes Harry's rival for the woman, Anna. When Harry realizes that Holly has discovered his true evil scheme, Harry has a chance to murder Holly and make it look like an accident. What stops him? Friendship? And why does Harry accept Holly's invitation to meet? In the penultimate scene in the underground sewer tunnels, does Holly fire the final and fatal shot, or does Harry kill himself?
This magnificently filmed and wonderfully acted masterpiece has remained in my mind for days after seeing it. If you are a lover of cinema and not merely of movies, please get this classic. It richly deserves its reputation. Highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon July 28, 2000
I have always seen inferior prints of this film until I found this Criterion DVD and I must say, it was like watching a completely different film. The crisp b&w photography has been restored to the original pristine quality and one can easily see why this film took home the Oscar for best cinematography. The sound is also superb. The DVD is loaded with extra features such as the original opening monologue to the British release (voiced by director Carol Reed), a reading of the novel by author Graham Greene, archival footage of the sewer system "police" in Vienna (which plays a significant part in the film), and numerous stills with tantalizing behind the scenes information (like the fact that Orson Welles was so put off by working in the actual sewers that he refused to return and the crew had to build a sewer set at Shepperton Studios). There are many other extras as well, actually too many to remember. Bravo to Criterion for their amazing work on this classic film!
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VINE VOICEon April 13, 2007
According to Criterion, this 2 disc release should contain:
- All-new, restored high-definition digital transfer
- 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
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by Luc Sante, Charles Drazin, and Philip Kerr -- Also: a web-exclusive essay on Anton Karas by musician John Doe

AUDIO: Dolby Digital 1.0 signal on 5.1-channel sound systems / two-channel playback.
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on February 26, 2000
It was with great anticipation that I viewed The Third Man recently. I had last seen it nearly 25 years earlier. At the earlier viewing I was impressed with the atmospheric treatment of Vienna and the mystery surrounding Joseph Cotton's search for the truth about his friend Harry (Orson Wells). However, though I then thought of it as a very fine movie, I did not think it would rank in my top 20. Now I see what I missed as a younger person. I can also see why this film would rank as number one on a British list of greatest films of the 20th century.
The film is a surreal examination of the tension between loyalty, love, and friendship on the one hand, and truth and justice on the other. The Viennese are suffused with the cynicism of a destroyed continent and damaged culture. The British know only about the truth and justice side of the equation. The American writer of simple westerns still is naïve enough to care about friendship and truth, and follows both wherever they lead. At the same time, Carol Reed scarcely shoots a scene in which there are right angles. Nearly everything is tilted. Close-ups of faces exaggerate their features. The black and white of the film emphasizes the shadowy nature of the story and its moral underpinnings.
At first Holly Martins (Cotton) thinks he is helping his best friend, Harry Lime (Wells). At the same time he becomes Harry's rival for the woman, Anna. When Harry realizes that Holly has discovered his true evil scheme, Harry has a chance to murder Holly and make it look like an accident. What stops him? Friendship? And why does Harry accept Holly's invitation to meet? In the penultimate scene in the underground sewer tunnels, does Holly fire the final and fatal shot, or does Harry kill himself?
This magnificently filmed and wonderfully acted masterpiece has remained in my mind for days after seeing it. If you are a lover of cinema and not merely of movies, please get this classic. It richly deserves its reputation. Highly recommended.
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on April 27, 2007
Who was Harry Lime (Orson Welles)? An evil man, devil in the flesh who was responsible for the unspeakable crimes, yet brilliant, cheerful and charismatic. His most famous words, a short speech written by Welles himself, say a lot about his character and motivations:

"In Italy for 30 years under the Borgies they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

No wonder, we like him, even though we know what he'd done...

It has been said thousands of times about the greatest movie entrance ever - but what about his 'exit' - the fingers on the street? I think it is one of the greatest, too...

A beautiful mysterious girl with tragic past was in love with him and the unforgettable ending, so anti-Hollywood, so true to the film - was about her love that goes beyond the grave. I read that both Selznick (the producer) and author Graham Greene had initially argued for something more upbeat (Holly and Anna walking off arm-in-arm), but Reed disagreed. I am so happy that Reed won (I am sure millions of fans are, too). That was the way to finish the movie and make it much more than just typical noir. Makes the viewer think about love, friendship, betrayal, loyalty, the price one pays for them.

Amazing film - perfectly shot; almost flawless. It looks and feels like Welles himself could've made it. The influence of Citizen Kane is undeniable. The only problem I had - the music. I like it but it was very strange to hear it in the film like The Third Man. Maybe that was a purpose - instead of somber, moody, and ominous music that would be expected for the noir film, something completely different and out of place - cheerful but melancholy in the same time...

Criterion DVD is wonderful - the restored version of the film shines. There are two openings of the film available - British and American, and a lot of extras.
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on December 2, 1999
This movie is a personal favorite, the DVD version is better than the Laser Disk, and some 22,000 'clean ups' were done on the source material. Quality is very good, Criterion have done an excellent job, there are also many extras, all of which are very interesting. For those of you who like a mystery, this is the tops. From the begining scenes you are engrossed in this dark story. The acting is simply superb, conveying this sense of foreboding. Camera work, again, superb. Joseph Cotton plays Holly Martins, an out of work western author, who arrives in Vienna to work for his old friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles). But Lime is dead, under slightly strange conditions, conditions which get more confusing as the movie progresses. Martins follows the clues, not helped by Major Calloway (Trevor Howard), the Britsh Military Policeman for the British sector of Vienna. Martins struggles on, meets Harry Limes girl friend Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli). After a time Martins begins to trust Major Calloway, and vice-versa, and so the story continues. You may even recognise Sergeant Paine (Bernard Lee) who was later to become 'M' in the James Bond movies. Throughout this movie the music is played by Anton Karas on the Zither. The music is hypnotic and forceful. Karas had a major hit with 'The Harry Lime' theme, and there is a clip of him playing it. This movie is great, everything went well, wonderfully directed, acted, photographed. If you haven't seen it please do.
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In 1950, Carol Reed's "The Third Man" would gain worldwide recognition for its story, cinematography and it's soundtrack. Winning the 1949 Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, the film would win a British Academy Award for Best Film and an Academy Award for "Best Black and White Cinematography".

Directed by Carol Reed (The Running Man", "Oliver!", "Follow Me"), "The Third Man" is an adaptation of a novela by Graham Greene ("The Quiet American", "Double Take", "Strike It Rich") who also penned the original screenplay. The film would feature music by Anton Karas and cinematography by Robert Krasker ("The Criminal", "Cry Wolf" and "The Quiet American").

But the film would also receive top honors with the film being selected by the British French Institute as the best British Film of the 20th Century, 57th on the American Film Institute's list of top American films and is regard by cinema fans as one of the great films made of all time.

Although released on DVD from THE CRITERION COLLECTION in the past, the film has now underwent through modern restoration and was released on Blu-ray in Dec. 2008.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

"The Third Man" is presented in 1080p High Definition with an aspect ratio of 1:33:1. According to Criterion, "The picture has been slightly windowboxed to ensure that the maximum image is visible on all monitors. On widescreen televisions, black bars will appear on the left and right of the image to maintain the proper screen format. This high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a restored 35 mm time-grain master positive."

As with most Criterion Blu-ray releases, the company also had thousands of instances of dirt, debris and scratches removed using the MTI Digital Restoration System.

The picture quality, although in black and white, looks incredible for a film created in 1949. Black are nice and deep but you can see a lot more detail in the surroundings.

Suffice to say, THE CRITERION COLLECTION releases films with how the director intended the film to be. There is no DNR (digital noise reduction) and no softness and the film keeps the grain and retains its film-like quality. The film just looks beautiful on Blu-ray! I didn't own the previous Criterion release on DVD, fans of the film have commented that this Blu-ray release features the definitive picture quality for the "The Third Man".

Although Robert Krasker's cinematography was criticized at the time for using an tilted/angled view, fans have shown their appreciation for Krasker's artistic style. I personally enjoyed the cinematography of the film.

As for audio, the soundtrack was mastered at 24-bit from a 35mm optical soundtrack and audio restoration tools were used to reduce clicks, pops, hiss and crackle. The audio has an uncompressed monaural soundtrack. My Onkyo receiver received a multichannel signal (via bitstream) but overall, audio dialogue is understandable and clear. And Anton Karas's music sounds absolutely beautiful.

Subtitles are featured in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

"The Third Man" comes with the following special features:

* Audio commentary by filmmaker Steve Soderbergh and screenwriter Tony Gilroy - A commentary that is quite complimentary of the film and also discussing about the film and some factual tidbits.
* Audio commentary by film scholar Dana Polan - An informative and entertaining commentary by the film scholar Dana Polan. No slowdown, Polan is very good at describing each scene quite well.
* Peter Bogdanovich Introduction - (4:39) An introduction by Peter Bogdanovich about why he enjoys the film, a discussion with Orson Welles and more.
* The Third Man Treatment - (1:45:12) Novelist Graham Greene composed the first draft of "The Third Man" in story form. The treatment, abridged is read by Richard Clarke.
* Shadowing "The Third Man" - (1:33:14) Frederick Baker's 90-minute documentary shown at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival and narrated by John Hurt. Revisiting locations and interviews with assistant director Guy Hamilton and archival footage of Alexander Korda, David O. Selznick and Carol Reed.
* Who Was the Third Man? - (29:14) The 50th Anniversary of the Austrian premiere of "The Third Man" commissioned by the Vienna Sewer Department (Wien-Kanal) and was written by George Markus and directed by Beat Talberg and aired on Austrian and German television back in 2000.
* The Third Man On the Radio - Featuring "The Lives of Harry Lime: A Ticket to Tangiers" (an episode written by Orson Welles in which Harry Lime would recall an adventure from his past) which was broadcast on August 24, 1951. The second radio program included is "Lux Radio Theatre presents The Third Man" (a radio show featuring Joseph Cotton, Evelyn Keyes, Ben Wright, Edgar Barrier, David O. Selznick starlet Irene Winston and Ted De Corsia as Harry Lime). This aired back on April 9, 1951.
* Insider Information - (8:46) A production history featuring writer Charles Drazin who wrote "In Search of the Third Man" featuring a gallery of rare behind-the-scenes photos. Voice-over by Robb Webb.
* U.S. vs UK Version - Because their were a difference of opinion between the US and UK release, US producer Daniel O. Selznick had eleven minutes cut from the US version and there are slight differences. For the first time, both the US(1:23, featuring Joseph Cotton's voice-over) and UK opening (1:41, featuring Carol Reed's voice over) are featured.
* "Kind to Foreigners" - (5:24) Scenes from "The Third Man" left untranslated to show Holly Martin's confusion of the surroundings of postwar Vienna.
* Original U.S. Trailer - (2:22) The original theatrical U.S. trailer.
* Original UK Press Book - Using your remote, you can cycle through images from the UK press book of "The Third Man". From the archive of director Carol Reed's papers at the BFI Special Collections.
* From the Archives - Featuring Anton Karas at London's Empress Club (2:56 - Classic footage of Anton Karas performing "The Third Man"), In the Underworld of Vienna (1:50 - Classic footage of the command brigade who capture criminals in sewers) and The Third Man's Vienna (using your remote, you can cycle through images of post-war Vienna).
* Graham Greene: The Hunted Man - (56:25) A rare profile from 1968 of novelist and screenwriter Graham Greene which was shown on the BBC arts program "Omnibus".

JUDGMENT CALL:

After watching "The Third Man", I must admit that so many things were going through my mind. For one, the talents were well-cast, the cinematography and the amount of cuts and smooth editing was fantastic, the music was memorable and most of all the storyline was well-planned.

Because the film took place right after World War II, the destruction of Vienna and what was going on at the time with people having to sell their jewelry and belongings just to get bread and butter due to the heavy rationing at the time is captured. The penicillin stolen from American medical areas and were meant to take care of the wounded and sick but being sold in the black market and that story of racketeering is captured in the film. Also, how Vienna was separated into four zones is integrated into the storyline of the film through the various shots of key locations was well-planned.

So, in some sense, this film is also a snapshot of a time in history and why it remains so popular in the minds of many cinema fans but also a sign of pain for some who live in Austria and seeing how things were at the time the film was being shot. Even many historians on Vienna's history are impressed of how much the film captures that difficult time in Vienna history and also has actual footage from that time.

But there are just so many memorable scenes that stick in my head. From the music (which was #1 in the charts and started a zither craze) to certain shots where shadows were effectively used, Vienna was well integrated into the film and who can forget the child screaming after his father is killed and trying to place the blame on the wrong person. Or even the final shot of the film. There are so many moments in this film that stay strong in your head.

But what I found so fantastic about this release from THE CRITERION COLLECTION was the amount of bonus content. It's one thing to get audio commentaries but two documentaries, radio shows and many more. That's awesome to receive so much content for an older film such as "The Third Man". Bonus content that actually is quite entertaining, especially when you find out how volatile things were behind-the-scenes. Surprising to say the least.

Overall, "The Third Man" is a film and a Blu-ray release worth having in your HD collection. It's also important to note that because THE CRITERION COLLECTION has recently lost the rights to this film, if you want to own the definitive version of this film, you better get it now before the prices skyrocket for the Blu-ray or DVD release.

"The Third Man - THE CRITERION COLLECTION" is highly recommended!
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HALL OF FAMEon December 20, 2004
Poor Orson Welles. My earliest memories of the man come from the 1970s and early 1980s, roughly the last ten or so years of his life. People told me he once had Hollywood in the palm of his hand, that he was a cinematic genius, and that his tempestuous relationships with the studios ruined his career. An impressive list of information pointing to a powerful man, wouldn't you say? Sadly, I heard these things when Welles was doing wine commercials to make ends meet. "We'll sell no wine before its time" doesn't evoke visions of a cinematic genius, that's for sure. Nor did his physical presence impress me all that much. Orson Welles, according to information I have seen, weighed nearly 350 pounds at one point and remained severely obese until the end of his life. I'm not knocking on people with weight problems, but it's just another example of how difficult it was for me to imagine the man as a Hollywood heavyweight (no pun intended). Then I grew up and watched some of his classic films, i.e. "Touch of Evil," "Citizen Kane," and the incredibly atmospheric "The Third Man." The glowing accolades started making a lot more sense. No wonder filmgoers love this guy's films; they're masterpieces in nearly every way.

"The Third Man" takes place in the shattered ruins of post-World War II Vienna. Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton), an alcoholic hack who bangs out western novels, arrives in town to a mystery greater than anything he ever wrote about. His old friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles) sent him a letter some time before offering him a job in Vienna, but Martins discovers when he gets there that his pal recently perished in an unfortunate traffic accident. The writer shows up in time to witness Lime's funeral and to meet his buddy's beautiful girlfriend Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli). He also runs afoul of the British occupation force, especially Major Calloway (Trevor Howard), a man who has nothing nice to say at all about Harry Lime. In fact, Calloway insists that Martins leave town immediately, much to the writer's consternation. Fortunately for Holly, a local reading group discovers he is an author and invites him to give a lecture a few days down the road. This gives Martins an excuse to stick around and investigate the increasingly suspicious nature of his old friend's passing. Questions about how the accident unfolded bring conflicting answers from witnesses. Anna Schmidt, who faces a possible expatriation to the Soviet Union's sector of the city, provides few answers to Martins's questions. Something sinister is going on in Vienna, and Holly Martins wants to get to the bottom of it.

I'm not spoiling a thing by saying that Harry Lime never perished in that traffic accident. Why he staged his own passing, and how Holly Martins discovers the ruse, is the central element of "The Third Man." It turns out Lime is involved in a particularly loathsome black market scheme, along with several unsavory European characters, that threaten the health of Vienna's children. Calloway shows Martins up close what Lime's handiwork has done to the city's youths. The British have been on Lime's trail for ages, and that is why he doesn't want Holly Martins lurking around Austria. Once the British officer knows that the writer isn't about to condone what his friend is doing, he lets him in on the case and tries to use Martins to bring Lime out of the woodwork. There are only two things complicating the search for Harry Lime: Martins falls in love with Anna Schmidt and Lime is one slick operator who isn't about to go down without a fight. When the two old friends finally meet on a Ferris wheel, the encounter turns into a memorable exposition on the merits of right and wrong. Despite Lime's blithe belief in what he's doing for a buck, his time is about to run out. Holly Martins can't save his friend even as he cannot convince Anna to give up her love for Harry. The two sequences at the end of the film, the sewer chase and the funeral scene, will stay you with for eons.

What's not to like about this movie? Try as I might, I can't think of anything I would want to see changed. The performances are magisterial, the dialogue transcendent, and the set pieces perfectly match the sordid storyline. Repeatedly, memorable scenes march across the screen. The shadow of the guy with the balloons looming on the buildings, the vividness of the wet cobblestones in the nighttime street scenes, and the hunted look on Harry Lime's face as the authorities corner him in the sewer like the rat he is all stick in the memory banks with the tenacity of molasses. Just as memorable is Anton Karas's zither score, an odd choice for a noir film yet a tune that fits the story perfectly and will have you humming for weeks afterwards. The question I ought to ask should go something like this: what I can say about this marvelous picture that hasn't been said by others a million times before? No one with an ounce of appreciation for the cinematic form, regardless of their personal favorites, can deny the beauty and power of this film.

Criterion goes above and beyond the call of duty with their DVD version of the film. Supplements are plentiful and lengthy: an alternate opening voice narration track, footage of Anton Karas playing the movie's theme on his famous zither, a short documentary about how the Viennese police patrol their extensive sewer system, an introduction by Peter Bogdanovich, episodes from Welles's Harry Lime radio show, and much more. The picture quality looks great, the sound quality is very nice, and the movie is a masterpiece. Don't wait as long as I did to see this phenomenal picture; it's every bit as good as you've heard.
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on March 16, 2013
I owned the Criterion DVD of this classic film. I have not seen their BD version, which is now oop and commands top dollar from third-party sellers.

This Studio Canal issue is the only reasonably priced BD out there right now, and it really is quite good. Other amazon reviewers have complained about the print quality, but I have to disagree. This is a clean and clear print that does justice to the film. I'll admit that facial images are less sharp in extreme close-ups, but I don't know if that effect wasn't intended by director Carol Reed.

I was quite pleased with the soundtrack as well - it is super clean. The dialogue comes out nicely, and the musical soundtrack is very well balanced, which is to say that the zither music isn't too loud and nearing distortion levels as it often seems to when broadcast on TV. There's more sweetness to the zither's tone in this version - I like it.

The extras are enjoyable, especially the visual tour of Vienna which takes us to many of the landmarks and neighborhoods that served as locations for the film. Each stop on the tour starts with a still photo from the 1948 film, followed by a 2010 shot of the exact same location, followed by an informative and interesting background video that tells us a little about what happened at the location during the shooting of the film.

The only problem I found with this product is that the cardboard O-ring that surrounds the BD shell is really tight around the plastic box, making it a bit of work to dislodge the BD case from the O-ring. Of course, you can always toss the O-ring as all the info contained on it also appears in the BD shell itself.

Highly recommended.
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