One of the greatest films ever made is getting a much-deserved new release: Carol Reed's 1949 The Third Man will be at Film Forum for a two-week stand next month, in a dazzling 4K restoration.
What is The Third Man? Well, novelist Graham Greene wrote the screenplay (and later published the novella) about Holly Martins, an American pulp fiction writer is invited to visit his friend Harry Lime in post-World War II Vienna. When Holly arrives, he finds that Harry is dead, and then starts to uncover what Harry was up to—and whether he's even dead. The film stars Joseph Cotten as Holly, Orson Welles as Harry, Trevor Howard as a British military officer and Alida Valli as Harry's lover Anna, as well as an unforgettable score by Anton Karas—it's a dark and sometimes dreamy look at human nature.
Roger Ebert wrote, "'The Third Man' is like the exhausted aftermath of 'Casablanca.' Both have heroes who are American exiles, awash in a world of treachery and black market intrigue. Both heroes love a woman battered by the war. But 'Casablanca' is bathed in the hope of victory, while 'The Third Man' already reflects the Cold War years of paranoia, betrayal and the Bomb."
According to Rialto Pictures, which is handling the U.S. release of the new print, "The award-winning team at Deluxe Restoration carried out the new 4K digital restoration of THE THIRD MAN on behalf of Studiocanal. Following rigorous comparison of different available elements, the 4K scan was done from a fine grain master positive struck from the original negative. Release prints were used as a reference for the grading."
And what's the big deal about 4K? It's much more detailed, allowing today's moviegoers to see the image as filmmakers wanted them captured. Berkeley Museum Video Curator Steve Seid wrote, "What we see in digitally equipped movie theaters is high-definition digital cinema. It’s termed 2K, meaning a picture standard that produces an image that is 1920 x 1080 pixels or just over two million bits of information. However, there is a standard beyond 2K that is used for scanning older films called 4K, which contains about eight million bits of screen info. This same 4K standard is used for film restoration because it allows for the manipulation of picture elements at a level far superior to its general exhibition format." (Check out the difference via this slider!)
Here's the trailer for the 4K restoration of The Third Man:
The Third Man will be at Film Forum on June 26th. Also, today would have been Orson Welles' 100th birthday. In honor of him, please enjoy these frozen peas: