When Criterion finally embraced Blu-ray, the company’s first wave of releases included director Carol Reed’s 1949 noir masterpiece The Third Man (until the rights were snatched away and the disc went out of print). Here at The Dissolve, we figure that what’s good enough for Criterion is good enough for us, so as we renew of cable-picking for 2014, let’s re-launch with a favorite of cinephiles for generations. In The Third Man, Reed and screenwriter Graham Greene examine the moral ambiguity of post-WWII Europe through the eyes of a pulp writer named Holly Martins (played by Joseph Cotten) who thinks in terms of black-and-white, and doesn’t know how to react when he visits Vienna and hears stories about the creepy criminal behavior of his old friend Harry Lime. Determined to prove that Harry’s been getting a bad rap, Holly defies the local authorities and plays amateur detective, working alongside Harry’s reluctant ex-girlfriend Anna (Alida Valli). With cinematographer Robert Krasker’s long shadows, composer Anton Karas’ insinuating (or incessant, depending on your personal taste) zither score, and a memorable cameo/speech by Orson Welles, The Third Man is a film that looks and sounds like no other. It’s sophisticated, suspenseful, funny, and brutally bleak in its assessment of human nature. It airs on TCM at 9:30 p.m. Eastern.
Or: The Third Man is airing as part of an evening of Robert Osborne’s favorite films, joined the undersung 1936 newspaper comedy Libeled Lady, the 1945 prestige melodrama Love Letters (with a screenplay by Ayn Rand!), and Vincente Minnelli’s classic 1953 musical The Band Wagon. Bracketing The Third Man, TCM will be airing a special edition of the interview series Private Screenings, with Alec Baldwin interviewing… Robert Osborne. Should be a nice night, spent with the face and soul of Turner Classic Movies.