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The Third Man 4K restoration in cinemas and on Blu-ray this summer

7 May 2014

Studiocanal have announced that the first ever 4k restoration of The Third Man (1949) will open in UK cinemas on 26th June before being released on DVD and Blu-Ray in a new collector’s edition on 20th July that will include more extras material than any previous version. Following its official selection in 2015 Cannes Classics, the UK release will take place as part of a worldwide reissue in celebration of the centenary of Orson Welles. This marks the first time that the film, once voted the “Best British film ever made” in a poll by the BFI, will be presented to audiences fully restored in 4k resolution.

Upon its release in 1949, Carol Reed’s atmospheric thriller The Third Man was widely acclaimed, 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 vast sewers, the Ferris wheel, the elegant avenues of its central cemetery. 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.

Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), a writer of pulp Westerns, arrives in post-war Vienna on the invitation of his childhood friend Harry Lime. 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.

The Third Man has since been acknowledged as the masterwork of many of it’s key players – director Carol Reed, Joseph Cotten, Welles as actor, and novelist and sometime screenwriter Graham Greene, who wrote the script holed up in the now legendary Sacher Hotel, where Martins stays in the film. Then unknown, composer Anton Karas was a musician for hire playing in the wine gardens of Vienna when Carol Reed first encountered him. He then brought Karas to London for 6 weeks to work on the soundtrack to the film and the resulting unique and melancholy zither score became a worldwide phenomenon in itself.

Restorations notes by Senior Colourist Stephen Bearman of Deluxe

Having identified five different potential elements of The Third Man to use, the evidence, after scrupulous comparison, suggested that the best quality one from which to work would be a fine grain master positive struck from the original negative.

Scanning at 4k resolution, the ARRI has the capability to disengage the pins for archive work that, due to some minor shrinkage on the source element, allowed us to gain a safe scan of The Third Man. The integrity of the filmed image is paramount and the intention was to produce a restoration that balances the benefits of higher resolution and film technology but is akin to a first print showing. On this project a combination of Nucoda, MTI and Diamant were used to their individual strengths.

Release prints were used as a reference for the grade: these were put side by side with the digital image as a guide for a first pass, setting the contrast levels and matching the shots within each scene to get an even flow throughout the film.

Combining passion with expertise and bespoke restoration tools, the award winning team at Deluxe Restoration specialise in restoring classic films, reaching back into the earliest days of cinema. Deluxe Restoration are immensely honoured to have been chosen to by Studiocanal to work on the The Third Man to deliver the definitive 4K scan and restoration of this classic piece of cinema.