Three Days of the Condor

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Kino Lorber;
Thriller;
$24.95 Blu-ray, $39.95 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R.’
Stars Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Max von Sydow, Cliff Robertson, John Houseman, Addison Powell, Walter McGinn, Tina Chen, Jess Osuna, Hank Garrett.

Pretty much everything about Three Days of the Condor screams ’70s spy thriller.

From its retro futuristic credits font to its music to the technology on display, the film is very much a product of its time. Even director Sydney Pollack makes this point in an old commentary included on the Blu-ray that he must have recorded it over 20 years ago, a few years prior to his death in 2008.

Based on the novel Six Days of the Condor, the 1975 film version jettisons most aspects of the book aside from a few basic plot elements and most of the title (several people in the bonus materials joke that the film didn’t have the budget to drag out the story more than three days).  Robert Redford plays Joe Turner, code name Condor, an analyst for a small CIA branch office in New York who reads a variety of foreign novels looking for patterns that could indicate clandestine real-world activities. After he files a report suggesting a group of rogue operators exists within the CIA, his office is targeted for termination.

Turner returns from lunch to find all his co-workers have been shot, and he immediately goes into hiding. Unsure of who to trust, he kidnaps Kathy (Faye Dunaway), a random woman he encounters on the street, using her apartment as a hideout while he tries to figure out who murdered his friends and why.

Between its old-fashioned computers and Turner’s infiltration of the phone network to gather information on his enemies, it wouldn’t be a shock if anyone born in the 21st century had no idea what was happening. However, the film being dated doesn’t diminish its impact or entertainment value, as at its core it’s still a very effective cat-and-mouse thriller populated with memorable characters and layered in detail.

It turns out the scheme Turner stumbled upon involved the U.S. destabilizing regimes in the Middle East in order to control the world’s oil supply — which turned out to be quite a prescient notion, both in terms of the exposure of the CIA’s of underhanded foreign policy tactics that was happening concurrently with the film’s production, and the looming energy crisis that was a few years away.

Modern audiences will most likely recognize the story element of an agency within an agency from Marvel’s 2014 film Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which was so influenced by Condor that its makers even cast Redford in a key role (a reprisal of which in a cameo in 2019’s Avengers: Endgame marks his final on-screen appearance to date).

Three Days of the Condor also bears remarkable star power for its day, filled with some of its era’s most iconic faces. Dunaway, cast to bring the film some notable female starpower, was a year away from capturing an Oscar for her role as a duplicitous TV programmer in Network. Cliff Robertson plays a CIA deputy director who becomes central to Turner’s investigation. John Houseman, Orson Welles’ old producer buddy, makes a welcome appearance as one of the leaders of the conspiracy. He was coming off an Oscar win for 1973’s The Paper Chase, and a few months prior to Condor’s release he played a similar character in Rollerball. And Max von Sydow is great as the mercenary in charge of the hit squad in pursuit of Turner.

For its new Blu-ray and 4K editions of Three Days of the Condor, Kino Lorber offers a remastered version of the film scanned from the original 35mm negative, with great results. It’s not flashy or in your face, but this is what classic, gritty films are supposed to feel like.

Kino has also assembled a decent package of legacy extras, with two featurettes made for earlier Studio Canal European releases of the film on disc. The 25-minute “More About the Condor” is a 2003 reflection on the making of the film from Redford and Pollack, while the hour-long “Something About Sydney Pollack” is a 2004 retrospective of the director’s career.

In addition to the thorough decades-old commentary from Pollack, there’s also a newly recorded commentary about the film’s context, impact and legacy from film historians Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson.

Rounding out the extras is the film’s trailer.