There apparently can be no universal standard of happiness (or contentment even) regarding Blurays of Carol Reed‘s The Third Man. First there was the infamous Criterion grainstorm Bluray edition that gave me (and perhaps others) so much anguish and frustration, and now there’s another source of agony — the Studio Canal Third Man Bluray (out 9.21). And yet it must be said that Nate Boss‘s High-Def Digest review is hilarious.
Boss is a colorful impassioned writer. I like him because he hates like I do.
“Let me just say I wouldn’t have minded a brown tint, caused by a layer of barbeque sauce smeared across the picture, compared to the sometimes blurry, borderline sterile and inhuman veneer found here,” he notes halfway into the review. “Early reports and screenshots showed this release having a significant amount of grain removed from the picture, and as much as I hate to give any credit to screenshots, they were right.
“Jackets and their intricate stitching appear smeared, while the stitching on Major Calloway’s shoulders is illegible, even in a closeup of his arm. The sewers never looked cleaner, and that’s just dirty. There is no disputing how different this release looks from the Criterion edition, but these changes, they’re not for the better. Another blow to the StudioCanal Collection name. A big, big blow. If there weren’t a previous release, this wouldn’t have been as big a deal, but since we know the potential, it’s downright unforgivable.
“There’s quite a smattering of dirt, debris, and lines all over this release, significantly more than the previous version, with some amazingly large or heinous onslaughts leaving one to wonder how much it would have cost to license the Criterion supervised restoration. Brightness levels can still shift, as they did before, but shadow details take a humongous drop. Where black on black in the darkest shadows used to be quite easy to discern, now it’s just one big mess. The picture retains some nice depth, but detail levels take a hit. Edges appear pretty clean, free from halos of any kind. Aliasing pops up from time to time in the jackets of the actors, in varying degrees (the tighter the pattern, the more problematic it can be).”
I think even I, one of the most grain-averse people on the planet, might prefer the Criterion Bluray edition to the Studio Canal version. Honestly? I watched it again last month and even though the grain in some of the scenes makes me sick, it at least doesn;t have the kinds of problems that afflict the Studio Canal version, according to Boss.