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4.6 out of 5 stars
The Third Man: Special Edition [DVD] [1949]
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56 of 57 people found the following review helpful
on 15 August 2011
I see that Amazon have been merging review lists of movies with any similarity in the name, making a complete mess of product identification, so please note that this review applies to the 2-DISK SPECIAL EDITION DVD SET.

Of course I love the movie - it's in my all-time top ten, probably because of the noir visuals, the sly character and dialogue of Harry Lime, plus his famous entrance to the movie, and the unique Anton Karas zither score. I can see why some find the latter annoying: it's the kind of music that can go on and on in your head forever! But hey, I love it anyway.

The quality of this transfer is excellent, the picture is stable and clean, the audio quality is likewise. I see that others have complained about picture quality in a different release, so I just wanted to emphasise that the special edition does not have that problem.

The special edition comes with a retrospective making-of documentary which was certainly quite interesting, though obviously limited in what it can do now that just about everyone involved has since passed away.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 November 2014
Looking through my window at the dead leaves blowing across the road I immediately thought to play The Third Man again tonight. It is by far my favourite film. The next five or six could be in any order. Behind this one.

Even ‘perfect’ seems inadequate to describe the sum of its parts. The acting can’t really be acting can it? The unique movie music pulls at the tensions within the story. The story of moral collapse. The contorted camera angles reflecting the confused time. The dialogue which stays in the mind. The war that made us all Harry Lime.

Amongst the rubble allies compete for power. Order desperately tries to penetrate the chaos. And in the midst of all this male bravado; a woman who thought she had lost her man to death. Resurrection.

The shadows and the glances of guilt-ridden humanity. The city of Strauss reduced to a violin in the corner of a bar room. Immense film-making. Wave your mind good-bye.

UPDATE 19 July 2015: Just received the latest incarnation of this film. Billed as a ‘Stunning New 4K Restoration,’ it is the Studio Canal Blu-ray. Only a forensic analysis of the latest version against the steelbook/lime green disc example could detect a difference in picture quality. The volume is a bit low but it is an okay (not as great as the 4k Casablanca) version and includes English sub-titles unlike the steelbook/Zavvi.

But I am still glad I own it. The package is what you are paying for. Prints, booklet and a great poster which went instantly into a frame I had. DVD plays well though not as sharp as Blu-ray naturally. Ton of extras and a soundtrack cd complete the homage to a Classic movie.
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57 of 60 people found the following review helpful
on 1 October 2010
This is a review of the first BD release of "The Third Man" not to be Region A locked, coming after Criterion's Region A locked transfer which is now out of print after their rights to the title expired and were subsequently bought up by Studio Canal.

I have not seen Criterion's BD, but having compared still screenshots from the Criterion release, I must admit that thís version does appear inferior, but not vastly so. Generally the image quality is very good for a 61 year old film. Close-ups are often very richly detailed, showing texture, sharpness and well balanced b/w tones. Welles's agonised face seeking a way out in the sewer, Valli lying in bed before her re-arrest and many shots of Cotten digesting new revelations are the stuff of HD dreams. But some mid-range shots are a little disappointing, particularly bright outdoor shots (e.g. some graveyard scenes) where the contrast is a little wonky and there is some unsettling image softness, which occasionally looks as though some DNR might have been applied. That is not to say that the film is grain-free, and the grain that is present is never likely to offend any but the most sensitive.

The best news is that the most iconic scenes seem to have come out of this transfer best: Harry Lime appearing in the doorway, the ferris wheel scenes, and the sewer chase all look really rather splendid. The detail on the stones of the sewer interior is very impressive at times.

The worst news is that more detail clearly was possible. The texture of people's coats looks more detailed and real in Criterion shots. Those who have seen it report better contrasts and richer blacks; although the blacks in this version are actually quite solid, and the screenshots I have seen don't make it clear that contrasts are much better. But another issue is supposedly better treatment of print damage in the Criterion release. Here Studio Canal have left in cracks such as thin black vertical lines, which I noticed a few times in the film's final half hour. Quite frankly, I think I could have restored those fairly easily if I broke the discs's protection and loaded it into a video editor. This was lazy and sloppy on the part of Studio Canal.

On the audio front, there is little to complain about with a DTS HD Master Audio stereo track that conveys the dialogue, the iconic zither music and the relatively limited sound field very well indeed. Superbly balanced and crisp sounding for a film of this age. It is just a shame that they did not also offer the option of the original mono soundtrack. And, of course, the scene on the sewer where Lime considers his options with sounds coming from all angles makes you wonder whether a surround track would have been a worthwhile option - Disney, after all, manage it with much older films.

Extras are pretty good, although less generous than with Criterion. One gripe is that the alternative opening monologue scene (spoken by Cotten) is artificially stretched to widescreen, unlike the rest of the film which is presented in the correct OAR of 4:3. It also irritated me that the packaging seems so cheap. It is a book-style packet, and the rear info sheet is a piece of paper which has been glued onto the book's back cover and hangs loose!

All in all, this is a good transfer of "The Third Man", but Criterion showed how to do it better. Canal should have paid to use their transfer since they were incapable of matching or surpassing it. Perfectionists (rich perfectionists) might consider getting the Criterion release. But as an out-of-print title, this is now very expensive, and if you need a Region A/Region free machine too, then like myself you might decide to settle for the second-best "Third Man".

Just a little grudgingly recommended :-)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 April 2013
One of the more curious things about Carol Reed's classic 1949 film The Third Man is that, although rightly touted as a 'British classic' (indeed, it recently came second in Time Out's poll of greatest ever British films), with a co-producer (alongside great 'Brit' Alexander Korda) of Hollywood's David O. Selznick, and starring Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles it has a distinctly international flavour. This feeling is then, of course, reinforced by its rubble-strewn post-WW2 setting of multi-jurisdictional Vienna (each of the UK, US, France and Russia controlling specific sectors of the city), and the film's resulting multi-national casting.

At the core of Reed's film, which is based on the novella by Graham Greene (who also wrote the screenplay), is a story of the black market trafficking of medicinal drugs (in this case, penicillin) as Joseph Cotten's pulp novel author, Holly Martins, arrives in the Austrian capital to meet up with erstwhile friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles) who (allegedly) has a job for Martins, only to find Lime now deceased, the victim of a mysterious car accident. What follows is an intriguing (albeit slow-paced) story, as Martins digs to find the truth behind Lime's alleged accident, uncovering more and more disturbing detail about Lime's activities as he goes.

For me, whilst The Third Man's narrative is generally engaging (and, at times, very funny), what converts the film from being merely good into a classic is the 'noir-like' look and feel with which Reed has imbued his film. I would guess two-thirds of the film is shot at night, and Robert Krasker's chiaroscuro cinematography of the (often echoing) night-time Viennese streets is stunning, and (particularly in relation to the film's interior shots) with the film's innovative framing and tilted camera angles, Krasker's approach calls to mind Greg Toland's work in Citizen Kane. Of course, to round off the film's unmistakeable and unique feel is Anton Karas' quirky zither playing which is (pretty much) all-pervading.

Acting-wise, for me, Cotten is merely adequate in his central role - for example, he has nothing of the nuanced presence (admittedly in a very different character role) of his Uncle Charlie Oakley in Hitchcock's Shadow Of A Doubt. However, otherwise, Reed has assembled a brilliant cast, with many notable character turns. Alida Valli is stunningly glamorous (and generally very engaging) as Harry's hopelessly devoted, erstwhile girlfriend Anna, whose time in the city is marked as Harry has forged her passport. Trevor Howard is similarly convincing as the upright and officious British Army Major Calloway, who is on Harry's nefarious trail, and is constantly trying to convince Martins and Anna of their misplaced allegiance. Then there are a whole host of great cameo turns, ominously mysterious locals trying to throw Martins of the scent - Ernst Deustch's chihuahua-carrying 'Baron' Kurtz, Erich Ponto's Doctor Winkel ('Vinkel!') and Siegfried Breuer's Mr Popescu - and also Wilfred Hyde White's 'cultural propagandist', Crabbin, and Bernard Lee as the well-intentioned archetypal, cockney geezer Sergeant Payne.

I almost forgot, of course, Orson Welles' (late, 62 minutes in) entrance as Lime is one of cinema's great moments, as his cat ('He only liked Harry') nuzzles up to Harry's shoes in a shadowy doorway. Welles is typically excellent as the cold and blasé Lime, whose famous pseudo-Nietzschean speech ('Swiss cuckoo clocks') delivered in the fairground Ferris wheel compartment is one of the film's highlights. Other standout scenes are, of course, the climactic chase through the Viennese sewers and the memorable concluding cemetery walk sequence.

The Third Man stands as part of a superb triumvirate of films made by Reed during the period (alongside 1947's Odd Man Out and 1948's The Fallen Idol) and is an example of British film-making at its most innovative and engaging.

The DVD also includes an extremely informative 90 minute documentary on the making of the film.
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55 of 60 people found the following review helpful
This glorious film is a true classic, and a historic document as well as marvellous cinema, with its footage of post-War Vienna, a divided and unhappy city beginning to come to terms with itself. Everything about it is memorable - the naggingly catchy zither tune by Anton Karas which opens it (the Harry Lime theme), the eerie black and white photography, Graham Greene's excellently mysterious plotline, and in particular the performances, not so much of Joseph Cotten, who is fine and doesn't let the side down, as of Trevor Howard trying to make good British sense of an out-of-control situation, Alida Valli as Lime's doomed, tragic, world-weary, stunning girlfriend and Orson Welles as Harry Lime himelf, one of the most memorably delayed entries in all cinema, seductive and sinister at the same time. It is beautiful to the eye and completely compelling, one of the very great films.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 4 May 2015
A brilliant film and this edition is excellent. I'd like to make a recommendation here for any fan of this film who is visiting Vienna to go to The Third Man Museum in Pressgasse, 25. It's a knock-out, a fantastic museum full of one couple's collection of memorabilia of posters, letters, shellacs, cd's, dvd's, letters, video clips, zither recordings, cameras used in the film, etc. etc. spread over 3 rooms (actually 3 houses). Gerhard and Karin the owners are passionate about the film and have been collecting for years and now we can see it as well. Take the address with you as it's a private museum and not all taxi-drivers know where it is. You won't be disappointed, trust me.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 16 January 2012
This edition is excellent: there are two dvds, one explaining the background to the research and making of the film and the other the film itself. "The Shadow of the The Third Man" contributes greatly to the appreciation of one of the classics of British film making - especially illuminating regarding Orson Welles' contributions and the interpretation of the ending.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 1 January 2015
This is a review of the movie not the specific edition. I'm not a film historian or a serious critic so I had a somewhat naive viewpoint when I watched this movie. Just so you know how naive I was, I was actually taken by surprise when a certain famous actor showed up playing what I now know is considered to be one of his iconic roles. As with all older films, it can sometimes be hard to appreciate how amazing they must have been in their original context. I could see a modern moviegoer finding the plot a bit lacking (there is no real mystery here). But something that is perhaps a bit hard to appreciate now is that they actually filmed this on location in Vienna, which must have been no small feat (and expensive?) in 1949. Because of this, it gives the film an atmosphere that would be impossible to recreate on a hollywood film lot. Vienna's great architectural beauty is allowed to starkly contrast with extensive WWII ruins. The crazy wide angle camera shots combined with the stark lighting made me feel as though I was stalking the tranquil yet slightly menacing streets right along with the main character. As I already said, the plot was not filled with twists and turns or was really in any way surprising, but instead was an interesting examination of the many different faces of morality. One of the more interesting characters was that of Anna Schmidt, who showed herself to be fiercely loyal and yet at the same time oddly amoral, perhaps as a direct result of her more than likely intense experiences during the war. And I have to say the "cuckoo clock" speech was certainly one to remember. A great movie, I'm glad I watched it.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 17 July 2012
Pretty disappointing Blu-ray of the Third Man. Not any better in quality really than my DVD copy or the version shown on digital television in the United States by Turner Classic Movies via digital cable. Picture quite lacking in contrast, very bland, no different from many other old black and white unrestored films shown on cable TV. Certainly didn't look like a HD release of a restored film master. Details were OK, pretty sharp, but nothing like I have seen on other restored old films transferred to Blu-ray where you can't believe the fine detail, seeing the pores and tiny wrinkles on peoples faces and subtle textures in clothing. I had to boost my HD TV contrast up high to get an approximation of a decent picture, and that was not very satisfactory. I would only recommend this to someone who does not already own a good DVD of the film, this Blu-ray won't look much better. It is not bad, just a disappointment for a Blu-ray. Also, my disc cover states English subtitles, but the subtitle menu on my disc only shows German, Spanish, French and Dutch or no subtitles, so you may not have English subtitles. My disc is a Spanish Studio Canal Blu-ray release by Universal, and the cover states "perfect image". Well, that is certainly a gross exaggeration and let down for a film fan of movies from the 30s through 50s who has many many hundreds of old films in his collection. I have numerous Blu-rays of old black and white films and TV shows that look better than this one. Also, Studio Canal has one of those long obnoxious forced ads for their other releases at disc startup that you cannot skip over or get to the menu from, but must fast forward to get past. Hopefully I can come across a copy of the Criterion Blu-ray of this film somewhere. Not an impressive introduction to Studio Canal Blu-ray, give this a pass if you already have a DVD version.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 29 August 2013
To me these odd and weird remarks on picture quality and the texture of a coat and screen size and other petty and quite unimportant pedantry are so baffling and so much beside the point it makes one wonder whether this one-time masterpiece of a film has made any impact at all as a work of art on these reviewers.
To me this film is the absolute top of the list of all the films I have watched in my life.
I have seen it eleven times (one of which in Vienna)and I look forward to watching it again. Everything in it is just perfect, even the minor part played by Paul Hörbiger and the still smaller part played by Hedwig Bleibtreu (Anna's landlady), ......acting, directing, editing, photography, script and music, -all is beyond reproach and so well balanced. The intense atmosphere of this film has hardly ever been matched in any other story on the screen.
Orson Welles and Paul Hörbiger and Trevor Howard stand out as bloody geniuses in film history and it is probably also Joseph Cotten's tour de force in his acting career.
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