Monday, August 11, 2008

Metropolis to be WHOLE again after 80 years?


No, I’m not talking about Superman’s city. I’m talking about the influential 1927 science fiction silent film by legendary German filmmaker Fritz Lang. For various reasons, the film was drastically chopped up and edited down following its initial release (probably for censorship reasons or in an attempt to make it shorter and more “appealing” for foreign audiences), and those cut portions were presumed lost.

For those of you who haven't already heard, apparently those missing scenes recently turned up in the archives of the Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires. The missing pieces are now in the Berlin film museum Deutsche Kinematik, where the film is undergoing complete restoration. Apparently a handful of film experts have already seen the restored footage and claim that it provides answers to plot holes that have baffled film enthusiasts for decades.

A little background for those who have never seen Metropolis: It was one of the most expensive movies of its time, and it remains arguably one of the most influential science fiction movies (if not one of most influential movies, period) ever made. 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, and even Doctor Strangelove, amongst other films, owe a great deal to Metropolis. It's definitely a must-see for science fiction film buffs, and a good introduction to silent film for anyone who's never seen a silent film.

Currently, the most complete version available on DVD is the 2001 Kino restoration, which also includes the film’s original 1927 score. The story of Metropolis, a futuristic city-state, centers on a clash between the city’s elite, who live in the upper parts of the city, and the city's workers, who live beneath the city. The plotting is a bit heavy-handed for modern audiences, and some of the scenes and acting styles seem a bit silly and dated; but overall, the film remains a masterpiece of mesmerizing images and stunning set pieces. Some of the film’s special effects baffle audiences to this day. I've watched the film dozens of times and still find it hypnotic.

I HAD been thrilled with the near-completeness of the 2001 restoration. A version that’s even MORE complete and restored is a treat I didn’t expect to witness in my lifetime. You can bet I’ll be there opening night once the new restoration makes it to my neck of the woods!

Here's the trailor for the most recent version of Metropolis, complete with restored visuals and original score:

11 comments:

SallyP said...

This does look cool. I blush to admit that although I have heard of it, I've never seen it. My acquaintance with silent films is usually limited to Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd.

Dwayne "the canoe guy" said...

The art museum here in OKC had showing of this a few years ago. I'm sure they'll get this version once it's available.

We once saw a Harold LLoyd film with a live 9 piece quartet playing an original score. It was fantastic.

FoldedSoup said...

Agreed. This is a fantastic film, period, and a new release is great news!

Bonus: You can pick up the 2001 version in the $5 bin at some of the big retail stores!

Sea_of_Green said...

I've been lucky to see quite a few silent films, even before they were availabe on home video. The museums and universities around the Indianapolis area have always done a good job of showcasing them, often with live organ or even full orchestral accompaniment!

I also confess to liking Buster Keaton much more than Chaplin or Lloyd -- though Harold Lloyd's "Safety Last!" is a masterpiece, and I do have a soft spot for Chaplin's "City Lights."

Here's my list of recommended MUST SEE silent movies:

Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
The Penalty (1920)
Nosferatu (1922)
Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
Safety Last! (1923)
Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Faust (1926)
The General (1927)
The Man Who Laughs (1928)
The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
Sunrise (1928)
City Lights (1931)
... or, heck, anything starring Buster Keaton or Lon Chaney, Sr.

... and for the REALLY brave:

Napoleon (1927)
Greed (1928)

Sea_of_Green said...

... in addition to Metropolis, of course. :-)

SallyP said...

I like just about anything with Richard Barthlemess and William S. Hart too. I don't really know why.

But "The General" is one of the best movies EVER made.

Dwayne "the canoe guy" said...

Wanna be REALLY brave? Battleship Potemkin. Watch that, and then watch DePalma's The Untouchables.

I made my kids watch Potemkin and the oldest ended up having to watch it in college. A few years later he went to film school and had to watch it AGAIN. None of his teachers beleived that his father had made him watch it.

Dwayne "the canoe guy" said...

Wanna be REALLY brave? Battleship Potemkin. Watch that, and then watch DePalma's The Untouchables.

I made my kids watch Potemkin and the oldest ended up having to watch it in college. A few years later he went to film school and had to watch it AGAIN. None of his teachers beleived that his father had made him watch it.

Sea_of_Green said...

Oh, geez, I also had to watch Potemkin in school (I took film classes, too!). Other than the famous scene of the Odessa Steps (which, as you pointed out, is recreated in The Untouchables), the whole movie just seems to drag on and on ... I understand the shock value it had at the time, and its importance of film history, but I have no desire to ever watch it again. :-\

Dwayne "the canoe guy" said...

Just watched Safety Last this week with Leonard Maltin commentary. I laughed until I was almost sick.

being scared of heights myself, it was an adventure to watch everything that happened to him climbing up that building. When they pulled the rope from his hands I almost jumped off the couch.

The General is fantastic as well.

Need to move The Man Who Laughs up my netflix queue. I Love Netflix!!

Sea_of_Green said...

Safety Last! is a masterpiece, but I admit I've always liked the General better -- probably because that scene where the train crashes in to the river is just so ASTONISHING. I mean, that was REAL, and so obviously real! There are just some things a computer cannot duplicate.

The Man Who Laughs is definitely must-see viewing for any comic-book fan, given its importance in influencing comic book history. :-) It's based on a novel by Victor Hugo. I have a copy of the novel, and keep meaning to read it.