The ultimate film noir

The word “classic” is thrown around rather loosely these days (Dirty Dancing? Really?). But then there’s The Third Man, Carol Reed’s (truly classic) dark and moody masterpiece, which manages to improve with each viewing.

The 1949 movie has something for everyone: a bewitching mystery of corruption with high moral stakes written by Graham Greene, gloriously crisp black-and-white cinematography of rubble-strewn post-WWII Vienna, never-before-seen camera angles — plus it pretty much introduced the world to the zither, the instrument at the center of its perfectly unforgettable score.

Criterion has spiffed up the original, releasing a new 2-disc DVD (available now) complete with a high-definition digital transfer, and even on the small screen the movie gleams. Extras include Shadowing the Third Man, Frederick Baker’s 90-minute documentary; a 1968 BBC Omnibus profile of Greene; and oodles of archival footage of actors Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles and co-producer David O. Selznick.

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The ultimate film noir