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The Third Man (The Criterion Collection)

4.4 out of 5 stars 671 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Orson Welles stars as Harry Lime, and Joseph Cotten plays his childhood friend, Holly Martins, in this all-time classic thriller 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. The Third Man's stunning cinematography, twisting plot, and unforgettable zither score are immortalized in Criterion's pristine special edition, following the 50th Anniversary theatrical re-release.

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The fractured Europe post-World War II is perfectly capturedin Carol Reed's masterpiece thriller, set in a Vienna still shell-shocked from battle. Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) is an alcoholic pulp writer come to visit his old friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles). But when Cotton first arrives in Vienna, Lime's funeral is under way. From Lime's girlfriend and an occupying British officer, Martins learns of allegations of Lime's involvement in racketeering, which Martins vows to clear from his friend's reputation. As he is drawn deeper into postwar intrigue, Martins finds layer under layer of deception, which he desperately tries to sort out. Welles's long-delayed entrance in the film has become one of the hallmarks of modern cinematography, and it is just one of dozens of cockeyed camera angles that seem to mirror the off-kilter postwar society. Cotten and Welles give career-making performances, and the Anton Karas zither theme will haunt you. --Anne Hurley

Special Features

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Product Details

  • Actors: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Trevor Howard
  • Directors: Carol Reed
  • Format: Black & White, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: November 23, 1999
  • Run Time: 104 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (671 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000025RE7
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #58,378 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Third Man (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
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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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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?
Read more ›
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Format: DVD
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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Format: DVD
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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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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?
Read more ›
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