The Third Man (remaster) review

A brand-new 4K restoration makes this latest Blu-ray of the classic noir worth investigating

Carol Reed's celebrated 1949 British noir stars Joseph Cotten as Holly Martins, a pulp novelist who accepts a job offer in post-war Vienna from childhood friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles) – only to learn on his arrival that Lime has been killed in a traffic accident. Unconvinced by the story he's told by the local military police, Martins teams up with Lime's girlfriend Anna (Alida Vali) in an attempt to uncover the identity of the mysterious 'third man' seen at the site of the accident and find out what really happened to his old chum.

Based on a script by Graham Greene, The Third Man is a masterful (and surprisingly wry) thriller that eschews the more straightforward notion of goodies and baddies in favour of a complex moral minefield full of corrupt officials and black marketeers. And at the heart of it all stands Orson Welles as the cherub-faced Harry Lime, one of the actor's most memorable and celebrated creations, despite his relatively brief screen time.

But Welles is merely the icing on the top of this beautifully constructed cinematic confection. Even without his performance The Third Man would still be a remarkable film thanks to Carol Reed's assured direction, Graham Greene's sly script, Robert Krasker's expressionist cinematography and Anton Karas's unforgettable zither score.

Picture: The Third Man has an interesting history on Blu-ray, having been released first as part of The Criterion Collection in the US in 2008, before the UK received its own inferior StudioCanal Collection Blu-ray two years later (a Lionsgate-distributed US version of this release also replaced the Criterion disc).

This second StudioCanal UK release is thankfully a significant step up in quality, with the new 4K restoration (explored in depth in one of the platter's new extras) delivering a more stable and detailed 1.37:1-framed 1080p transfer. Contrast levels look far more accurate, leading to vastly improved shadow delineation, while native film grain is perfectly resolved.
Picture rating: 5/5

Audio: The Third Man's DTS-HD Master Audio dual-mono soundtrack does everything you could hope for given the age of the source material. There's no pop, crackles or other distortion, dialogue is clear and natural, and that zither score sounds sublime.
Audio rating: 4/5

Extras: This new release carries over the vast majority of extras from StudioCanal's original Blu-ray. These include a commentary; 90-minute documentary; a live performance of the main zither theme; an interactive map of Vienna with links to 14 location videos; an episode of the 1951 radio production The Lives of Harry Lime written and performed by Welles; audio interviews with Joseph Cotten and Graham Greene; and the alternate opening narration.

New to this release are a 20-minute look at the restoration of the film; a 56-minute doc about Greene and a 16-minute featurette in which the likes of Martin Scorsese, John Sayles and Ben Wheatley discuss the impact The Third Man had on them.
Extras rating: 4.5/5

We say: It's taken a few attempts, but we finally have a definitive hi-def version of Carol Reed's classic thriller

The Third Man, StudioCanal, All-region BD, £23 Approx