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Third Man, The (Criterion)

Director(s): Carol Reed

Theatrical Release: 1949

Cast: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Trevor Howard, Alida Valli, Paul Hoerbiger, Bernard Lee

Genre(s): Thriller, film noir, psychological, mystery, spy, classic, Criterion Collection

Countries: United Kingdom


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Running Time: 104m.

In this Cold War spy classic, Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), a third-rate American pulp novelist, arrives in postwar Vienna, where he has been promised a job by his old friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles). Upon his arrival, Martins discovers that Lime has been killed in a traffic accident, and that his funeral is taking place immediately. At the graveside, Martins meets outwardly affable Major Calloway (Trevor Howard) and actress Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli), who is weeping copiously. When Calloway tells Martins that the late Harry Lime was a thief and murderer, the loyal Martins is at first outraged. Gradually, he discovers not only that Calloway was right but also that the man lying in the coffin in the film's early scenes was not Harry Lime at all—and that Lime is still very much alive (he was the mysterious "third man" at the scene of the fatal accident). Thus the stage is set for the movie's famous climactic confrontation in the sewers of Vienna—and the even more famous final shot, in which Martins pays emotionally for doing "the right thing." Written by Graham Greene, The Third Man is an essential classic, made even more so by the insistent zither music of Anton Karas. The film is currently available in both an American and British release version; the American print, with an introduction by Joseph Cotten, is slightly shorter than the British version, which is narrated by director Carol Reed. Nominated for several Academy Awards, The Third Man won Best Cinematography for Robert Krasker. — Hal Erickson (allmovie.com)

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Criterion Collection DVD #64 Special Features:

! Luminous new transfer, with digitally restored image and sound

! Video introduction by writer-director Peter Bogdanovich

! Abridged recording of Graham Greene’s treatment, read by actor Richard Clarke

! The Third Man on the radio: (1) the 1951 “A Ticket to Tangiers” episode of The Lives of Harry Lime series, written and performed by Orson Welles; and (2) the 1951 Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of The Third Man

! Joseph Cotten’s alternate opening voiceover narration for the U.S. version

! Archival footage of composer Anton Karas and the film’s famous sewer location

! A collection of rare behind-the-scenes photos, with a brief production history

! Original and re-release theatrical trailers

! Restoration demonstration

! English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired

! Optimal image quality: RSDL dual layer edition
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