Third Man On The Mountain is a 1959 Disney family-adventure film directed by Ken Annakin and written by Eleanore Griffin based on a book (‘Banner in the Sky’) by James Ramsey Ullman and stars Michael Rennie, James MacArthur and Janet Munro. Since the house-of-the-mouse hasn’t released it on Blu-ray, I thought I’d take a look at the 1080p iTunes HD version.
The story of Third Man On The Mountain is pretty straightforward, a boy, Rudi Matt (James MacArthur) attempts to realize his father’s dream of climbing the forbidding alpine peak known as the ‘Citadel’ (based on The Matterhorn), friends and family fear that the cursed mountain will take Rudi’s life, just as it took his fathers.
Filmed largely on location, the film has a very fresh feel that really captures the awe and excitement of mountain climbing. As an aside, the setting seems like exactly the sort of chocolate box, fairy-tale Europe that the Studio Ghilbli films evoke.
James MacArthur gives a suitably cipher-ish performance as Rudi and Michael Rennie is suitably stiff upper-lipped as the English aristo bankrolling the whole thing. Janet Munro was mid-twenties when this was filmed, and to my eye looks a bit too old for pigtails in this role, but turns in a spunky performance as the token love interest (Bechdel test fail).
Herbert Lom also has a nice turn as a sort of late-second-act xenophobia inducing baddie.
The mountain climbing itself and portrayed well, and is genuinely tense, although there is no violence in the film, there are certainly a number of bloody injuries from falling rocks. Overall I enjoyed watching the film.
Third Man On The Mountain iTunes HD Review
Looking at the iTunes 1080p download of ‘Third Man On The Mountain’, clocks in at 4.04 GB, average bitrate is 5.3Mbps with peaks of 12.6Mbps and a total run-time of exactly 107 minutes. Video quality is generally good, however there is some visible artifacting, grain is frequently present, although it would appear there is insufficient bitrate to capture it, and frequently the compressor appears to drop it. Audio is presented as a 160 kilobit stereo stream, but is naturally entirely monophonic.
Overall the presentation is good, shots varying in quality greatly generally reflecting what you would expect when shifting between location and studio. Metadata in the video file suggests that the transfer dates from September 2012.
Unfortunately there is one somewhat intractable issue with this particular version: it’s presented widescreen (1.66:1) rather than its intended 1.37:1 ‘Academy’ ratio, which the 2004 DVD is presented in.
Normally that would pretty much kill it. However, the film was made in a time of transition from Academy ratio to widescreen, certainly all the character shots in the ‘Academy’ version seem to allow plenty of head room, so it’s possible the cinematographer, Harry Waxman, had been given clear instructions to allow for later matting. As always I would prefer a choice between the two (hint Disney: please put both versions on the Blu-ray).
One thing that is definitely compromised by cropping are some of the fantastic vertigo inducing matt paintings.
Fair: 3 out of 5. Third Man On The Mountain looks great: colors look sensible, and there is some grain, though the compression can’t keep up all the time. The aspect ratio is a bit of a conundrum, so I’m docking one point. A Blu-ray would look better, but I’m not holding my breath. Certainly worth an iTunes rental if you are a fan.
Third Man on the Mountain 1080p iTunes HD Screenshots
FTC Disclosure: I am an iTunes and Amazon affiliate advertiser, if you click on the links above I may earn a small commission on any purchases you make.