This DVD marked the filmís 50th anniversary and for the time I always thought it was a rather solid special edition, but itís been greatly improved upon with the new 2-disc edition thatís now available. It should be noted that most of the features found on here have been carried over to the new DVD/Blu-ray, but will point out the couple that didnít make it.
Part of something called the "Director's Introduction Series", a short lived label where directorís introduce some of their favourite films, this disc contains a brief introduction by Peter Bogdanovich. Lasting only 5 minutes, Bogdanovich just explains to the viewers why The Third Man is a great movie. Not something that one has to view.
In place of a commentary there is an audio recording of Graham Greene's script treatment read by actor Richard Clarke. It's interesting to listen to, most notably for a few differences. The track has also been synched up to what is going on during the film for the most part and has been abridged to accomplish this, as it mentions at the beginning. Also carried over is a text segment for Greene's preface, touching on why he ended up writing a publication (despite the fact it was only meant to be a film) and even touches on his initial disagreement with Reed on the ending.
My favorite part of the disc is this next bit. It's a section devoted to radio content. We get a radio version of The Third Man from the Lux Radio Theater and we also get an episode from "The Lives of Harry Lime" featuring Orson Welles himself. This episode is called "A Ticket to Tangiers" and shows Harry before he becomes the scum sucker of the earth we know him as in the film. He actually has a conscience in this but he still has that sly charm that helped in the film. I found it rather funny how Harry, in the movie, had no problem killing children but here has a real problem with transporting heroin. Oh well. People change I guess. The presentation is rather nice, with the radio programs playing over the image of an older radio. While these supplements were carried over to the new DVD/Blu-ray their presentations are a little duller, playing over menus and lacking the on screen index.
There is a comparison between the American version and the UK version (the UK version is the one used for the main feature). Here you are displayed the one key difference, the alternate openings. The original opening had a cynical Carol Reed kind of pushing the black market while the American version has Holly Martins narrate the opening with a few slight changes, making Holly look more heroic than he actually is.
Another feature I really liked (and I always loved how Criterion goes out of their way to enhance our enjoyment of the movies they release) was the archival footage provided. There is film of the sewer locations used in the movie showing the sewer police make their rounds looking for racketeers and smugglers, who used the sewers to move between the different sections of Vienna. Another piece of news reel is the footage of Anton Karas playing his zither in a restaurant to a group of onlookers.
There are a few production notes on the disc with photos from the set. The presentation here presents notes with photos that you navigate through using your remote. The new DVD differs by presenting it as a narrated slide show. You then get a Restoration Demonstration, showing some before and after comparisons, and two theatrical trailers, one for the original release and another for the 50th Anniversary re-release. The new DVD/Blu-ray is missing both the restoration demonstration (which makes sense since itís a new transfer) and the Rialto rerelease trailer, which I admittedly found a little bizarre to be left off. Also missing from the new releases is the essay on the film by Michael Wilmington, which is found in the small insert.
Itís a nice release, though I remember wishing a making-of or something of that sort was included. The new DVD does top this one, though, including just about everything here plus a couple of new commentaries, a long making-of, some other documentaries and a larger booklet. While the supplements here are nice itís been topped. 7/10