The Third Man is one of the most enduring films of the post-war era and has now got a worthy Blu-ray release as part of The Studio Canal Collection.
Set in Vienna just after World War II, the story begins when a writer (Joseph Cotten) visits the city to meet his old friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles), only to be told that he has died.
At Lime’s funeral, Martins meets a British army major (Trevor Howard), Lime’s actress girlfriend (Alida Valli) and slowly begins to discover that Lime was a much more ambiguous character than he realised with with connections to the criminal underworld.
A quick glance at some of the key talents involved with The Third Man is illuminating: Welles and Cotton had worked together on Citizen Kane (1941), Alexander Korda and David O Selznick were two of the most influential producers of that era, director Carol Reed was coming off Odd Man Out (1947) and The Fallen Idol (1948) and the screenplay was written by novelist Graham Greene.
In addition to this glittering line up of talent, we can also note Anton Karas, who provided the indelible zither score, and Robert Krasker, who won an Oscar for his atmospheric cinematography.
The film managed to capture the weary mood and shifting moralities of post-war Europe.
Vienna proved to be a memorable backdrop, with key locations including an elm-lined cemetery, the iconic Ferris wheel and the underground sewers.
In Harry Lime, it also gave us one of great villains in cinema.
Welles is magnetic in the role and although he only has a handful of scenes, his presence dominates the film.
Aside from the marvellous technique and fine performances, it also has a unique power and intelligence courtesy of Greene’s script.
It ponders some of the great moral questions of the twentieth century, most memorably in the Ferris wheel sequence, but does so on a way that is engrossing, funny and ultimately moving.
Reed imbues everything with a sublime melancholy that underscores the personal and political impact of World War II.
A film that repays repeated viewings, it contains many delights ranging from amusing supporting turns by Bernard Lee and Wilfred Hyde-White, a famous scene involving a cat in a darkened doorway and one of the finest closing shots in the history of cinema.
The extras on the disc are generous, the best of which is the 89-minute documentary ‘Shadowing The Third Man’, which revisits the original locations and explores the film in considerable depth, revealing the tensions behind the scenes and why the film continues to resonate with audiences.
Narrated by John Hurt, it also features key contributions from Guy Hamilton (the Assistant Director, who would go on to direct Goldfinger) and Angela Allen (2nd Unit Continuity) as they reminisce about their time working on the production.
The audio commentary also features Simon Callow (author of the best biography of Orson Welles) with Hamilton and Allen as they provide further insights on various sequences in the film, along with more anecdotes on the production.
Also of note is some new supplementary material actually shot in HD, which includes an interactive tour of Vienna, which features locations from the film.
Here are the technical details of the disc, alongside the extras in full:
- Region B
- 1080P 1.33:1
- English, French and German DTS-HD MA 2.0 (mono)
- German, French, Spanish and Dutch subtitles
- New or previously unreleased material:
- Guardian NFT Interview with Joseph Cotten (audio only: 47’13)
- Guardian NFT Interview with Graham Greene (audio only: 8’05)
- Audio Commentary by Guy Hamilton (Assistant Director), Angela Allen (2nd Unit Continuity) & Simon Callow (audio only: 1’44)
- 2 x original trailers (1’46 mins & 2’19) (HD)
- Stills gallery (2’24) (HD)
- Interview and performance by zither player Cornelia Mayer (4’44) (HD)
- The Third Man Interactive Vienna Tour (49’50) (HD)
- The Third Man on the Radio (an episode of The Lives of Harry Lime: Ticket to Tangiers (1951) written by and performed by Orson Welles) (audio only: 28’45)
- Shadowing The Third Man –retrospective documentary (1hr29) (SD)
- US alternative prologue by Joseph Cotton (1’20) (SD)
- Booklet Essay by Charles Drazin, film historian / biographer – Charles Drazin is a film historian and biographer. His books include Korda: Britain’s Only Movie Mogul, The Finest Years: British Cinema of the 1940s and In Search of The Third Man. He lectures on the cinema at Queen Mary, University of London.
The Third Man is out on Blu-ray on September 13th from Optimum Releasing
> Buy The Third Man on Blu-ray from Amazon UK
> The Third Man at the IMDb
> Find out more about The Third Man at Wikipedia