The Third Man (TV Series)
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Michael Rennie did a terrific job.
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This 10-episode, 2-DVD set from the Timeless Media Group, while much anticipated by this viewer, could have been better. The good news is that the episodes included in this set are, visually, a major improvement over a 4-episode single disc of "The Third Man" from Critics Choice Video that was released a few years ago. The prints are fairly crisp and clean looking, certainly better than what I would have expected for a release in this price range. Some background audio "flutter" can be heard in some episodes, but it's really not too intrusive. And, fortunately, none of the episodes in this collection are duplicates of the Critics Choice release, a real plus for collectors of this series. There are plenty of recognizable guest stars from both sides of the Atlantic, character actors like Nehemiah Persoff, Werner Klemperer, Robert Shayne, Hugh Marlowe, Mai Zetterling, Steven Berkoff, Marius Goring, Patrick Troughton and even Oliver Reed, among others, as well as the always fun-to-watch Jonathan Harris, who appears as a semi-regular.
Now for the bad news . . . the opening title sequence of Harry Lime walking alone on a dark, deserted street along with Anton Karas' famous theme music (the only real major carryover from the film) is played only once at the beginning of each disc, but has been completely eliminated from the beginning of each of the episodes. Each episode begins with the episode title card. While the closing end credits are left intact on most of the episodes, a few don't even have these. Also, the Timeless Media Group logo (TMG) appears in the bottom right hand corner for long stretches in each episode . . . another viewing annoyance.
"The Third Man" is a very rare television series to see . . . to my knowledge, it hasn't been broadcast in decades and there hasn't been much in the way of video and DVD releases in the ensuing years. So this release is a very welcome addition, and one has to give credit to the Timeless Media Group for taking a chance on this largely forgotten series. The pros certainly outweigh the cons, but one also wishes that Timeless Media would have done a better job with the presentation and, for this, I'm subtracting a star.
The television version of The Third Man, should delight lovers of mystery and intrigue. The series ran from 1959 through 1965, with Michael Rennie (The Day the Earth Stood Still) playing the infamous Harry Lime, an expert in art, who has business offices in London and New York. Jonathan Harris (Lost in Space) is Bradford Webster, the company treasurer and Lime's aide. A total of 77 half hour episodes were produced. This DVD collection contains a selection of ten episodes, on two DVD's, with approximately four hours of content.
Initially a joint production of National Telefilm Associates and the BBC, The Third Man is a very well-written and acted series, set in various domestic and international locations, where the plot usually unfolds in an unpredictable manner, often with an unexpected conclusion. It is all about intrigue. With a mysterious background, when he is not involved in the world of art, Harry Lime is sometimes hired to do unusual tasks. Michael Rennie brings confidence and class to the role, and is right at home hobnobbing with the upper crust of society. Being more athletic than Welles, this Harry Lime can move quickly and more than hold his own in a fight. The stories are often complicated, with subtle touches, where things are often not quite as they seem. A lot gets covered in just half an hour, and you may not catch everything the first time you view an episode. The women are exotic and beautiful, and the guest stars are among the best of the day. Based on this sampling, the quality of the series appears to be quite outstanding.
The episodes in this collection are:
1. The Third Medallion (Episode 11: 3/20/1959)
2. A Pocketful of Sin (Episode 16: 4/20/1959)
3. As the Twig Is Bent (Episode 18: 4/30/1959)
4. Broken Strings (Episode 19: 5/6/1959)
5. One Kind Word (Episode 22: 9/7/1959)
1. Barcelona Passage (Episode 26: 10/1/1959)
2. Toys of the Dead (Episode 30: 10/27/1959)
3. How to Buy a Country (Episode 17: 04/24/1959)
4. Diamond in the Rough (Episode 51: 05/11/1963)
5. A Question in Ice (Episode 60: 6/27/1964)
The emphasis is clearly on the early episodes, with eight of the ten episodes from 1959, with minimal coverage of the later years. Image and sound quality is good, with some grain, and a normal amount of dirt particles visible on the prints. Released by Timeless Media Group, who specializes in classic TV, the initials 'TMG' appear at all times at the lower right corner of the screen. When the disc first loads, the opening credit sequence appears and then transitions to a menu with a listing of the episodes on the disc. The episodes do not have chapter stops or subtitles, and the end credits appear to be intact. The set has no extras.
Despite the metamorphosis of the Harry Lime character, The Third Man is a high-quality series that deserves to be released in its entirety. Until that happens, this budget priced set is highly recommended to lovers of mystery, intrigue, and adventure.
It's one thing for a first-run movie, but for a 50+ year old TV series, Give me a break!