Once voted the ‘Best British film ever made’ in a poll by the BFI, 1949’s The Third Man has been given a stunning 4k restoration and is now available to own on DVD and Blu-ray in a collector’s edition that includes a host of brand new extras, from Studiocanal.
HUNTED…By a thousand men! Haunted…By a lovely girl!
Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), a writer of pulp Westerns, arrives in post-war Vienna on the invitation of his childhood friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles). But on arrival he finds that Harry has recently been killed by a car whilst crossing the street, leaving a grief-stricken lover, Anna (Alida Valli).
When local British investigating office Calloway (Trevor Howard) claims that Lime was an unsavoury criminal, Martins accepts an offer from a local book club to stay in Vienna in order to clear his friend’s name. As he investigates his friend’s last hours, he grows closer to the doomed Anna, and learns of an unidentified ‘third man’ at the scene of the accident, who may hold the key to the deepening mystery surrounding Harry’s death.
He’ll have you in a dither with his zither!
Upon its release in 1949, director Carol Reed’s atmospheric thriller The Third Man instantly became a classic, winning the Grand Prix at Cannes, a BAFTA for Best British Film, and the Oscar for Best Cinematography for Robert Krasker. Featuring some of cinema’s most memorable set pieces and quotable lines, the film’s Viennese locations quickly etch themselves in the memory. The city may have been bombed out and strewn with rubble, divided into four sectors by the Allies, but it still stood tall in all its faded grandeur.
The film was also the masterwork of it’s key players – Carol Reed, Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles, as well as Graham Greene, who wrote the script while holed up in the now legendary Hotel Sacher, where Cotten’s Martins stays in the film, and composer Anton Karas, who was then a musician for hire playing in the wine gardens of Vienna when Carol Reed first encountered him. His six week work on the soundtrack resulted in a unique and melancholy zither score that has since become iconic.
The 4-disc Blu-ray collector’s edition includes the Deluxe 4k restored print of the feature, the full soundtrack by Anton Karas, with zither music performed by Gertrud Huber, a set of postcards, and the following extras:
• Audio Commentary with Guy Hamilton, Simon Callow & Angela Allen
• Shadowing The Third Man featurette
• Interview & Zither Performance by Cornelia Mayer
• The Third Man Interactive Vienna Tour
• Guardian NFT Interview – Joseph Cotten & Graham Greene (Audio Only)
• Joseph Cotten’s Alternate Opening Voiceover Narration
• The Third Man: A Filmmaker’s Influence featurette
• Restoring The Third Man featurette
• Dangerous Edge: Graham Greene Documentary
The Curse of the Cat People (1944) | Val Lewton’s haunting sequel is a tender tale of terror indeed!
THE BLACK MENACE CREEPS AGAIN!
In Tarrytown, New York, home of the legend of Sleepy Hollow, sensitive six-year-old Amy Reed (Ann Carter) worries her parents Oliver (Kent Smith) and Alice (Jane Randolph) over her constant daydreaming and her inability to mix with the local children. Oliver is especially concerned, as his first wife, Irena (Simone Simon), was driven to madness and murder when she became convinced she was descended from a race of Balkan cat-like creatures.
When Amy is given what she believes is a wishing ring by the reclusive Mrs Farran (Julia Dean), who lives in an old mansion dubbed ‘the witch’s house’ with her daughter Barbara (Elizabeth Russell), Amy creates an imaginary friend in the guise of Irena, whose picture she finds in her father’s study.
Amy and her invisible friend happily play together as Christmas Eve approaches and the first snow reaches Tarrytown. But when Irena leaves after Amy is punished for daydreaming, Amy heads out into the woods one dark and stormy night in search of her only friend…
A TENDER TALE OF TERROR
Just as 1942’s Cat People was a brilliant piece of supernatural cinema, but a long way from horror, this ‘sequel’, again produced by the legendary Val Lewton, is anything but horrific. It’s actually a gentle fantasy about a lonely child caught up in a world that she imagines for herself, and takes its cue from Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1913 poem, The Unseen Playmate.
While it should be watched alongside the original 1942 classic, it’s certainly stands on its own merits despite being something of a flop on its original release; even UCLA child psychologists at the time praised its treatment of ‘the troubled sensitive child’.
Ann Carter dominates every scene as Amy, and imbues her character with a sensitivity that steers clear of sentimentality. It’s a great performance by Carter, who retired from acting, aged 13, after contracting polio in 1948. She went on to become a teacher and passed away earlier this year (27 January), aged 77.
Set seven years after the events of Cat People, and moving the action from the bustle of New York City to the ‘burbs, this sequel has nothing to do with the Balkan curse that drove Simon’s poor Irena mad. Indeed, the title was at the behest of RKO and was originally to be titled: Amy and Her Friend.
The ‘Curse’ of the title here is embodied in the spirit of Irena, whose tragic demise still haunts Oliver: he blames himself for her death, keeps photos of her as a memento, and even has one of her slightly disturbing paintings hanging in his study. Fearing Amy’s solitude will breed the same despair and madness that killed Irena, he’s rightly worried. But it’s actually his refusal to believe his daughter that gives form to her imaginary friend.
This inability of a parent connecting with their child is also mirrored in the estranged relationship between Mrs Farran (who is obviously suffering from dementia) and her scary-looking daughter (played by the same actress who caused Irena to go off the rails in Cat People), which gives the film its true menace and becomes integral to Amy’s journey after she is drawn into their creepy Addams Family-styled mansion.
The quaint suburban setting and all-American pie ideals might seem outdated by today’s standards, but if you consider audiences in 1944 were suffering the daily horrors of World War II (the film was also screened in combat areas overseas), then the fantasy does a brilliant job at reminding us of the wonders and innocence of childhood.
THE UK DVD RELEASE
The OEG Classic Movies Region 2 DVD release, part of the Hollywood Studio Collection, features a fine un-restored print of the film in the 4:3 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital mono sound.
• READ MY REVIEW OF 1942’s CAT PEOPLE (CLICK HERE)[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8O0hWTAyEXA%5D