A futuristic look at the schism created in mankind as industrialization and technological advancement serves to alienate the humans from one another. People are divided into two groups: the thinkers--who make plans, yet don't know how to operate machinery, and the workers--who forward production without having any overview vision. Completely separate, neither group is complete; however, together they make a whole. When one man, a "thinker," dares to journey to the underground, where the workers 'slave away,' he's surprised at what he sees.
Hans Leo Reich
Helen Von Munchhofen
David W Gray
F. W. Murnau
Thea Von Harbou
Thea Von Harbou
CAST AND CREW
Director: Fritz Lang
Producer: Erich Pommer
Screenplay: Thea von Harbou
Cinematography: Karl Freund, Gunther Rittau, Walter Ruttmann
Score: Gottfried Huppertz Art Direction: Otto Hunte, Erich Kettelhut, Karl Vollbrecht
Cast: Alfred Abel (Joh Fredersen), Gustav Frohlich (Freder), Rudolf Klein-Rogge (C.A. Rotwang), Fritz Rasp (The Thin Man), Theodor Loos (Josaphat), Brigitte Helm (The Creative Man/The Machine Man/Death/The Seven Deadly Sins/Maria)
BW -153 m.
Why METROPOLIS Is Essential Metropolis is the first feature-length science-fiction film and an epic that would set the style and themes for the genre for decades to come. No film before had created such a complete vision of a future world. It created the iconic image for cities of the future that would be reflected in such films as Just Imagine (1930), Alphaville (1965), Blade Runner (1982), The Fifth Element (1997), Dark City (1998), and Land of the Dead (2005), among many others.
The design for Rotwang's lab -- with its bubbling test tubes, arcing electrical currents and rings of light -- has influenced decades of science-fiction films as well, most notably The Bride of Frankenstein (1935).
Metropolis introduced to film the concept of the humanoid robot that would feature in The Creation of the Humanoids (1962), Blade Runner, A.I., Artificial Intelligence (2001) and numerous episodes of The Twilight Zone.
The film's mad scientist, Rotwang, is the prototype for many similar characters in films as varied as The Bride of Frankenstein, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), Goldfinger (1964) and Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (2008).
Thematically, Metropolis was a major work in the development of one of science fiction's most powerful themes -- that science without a conscience could become a great source of evil. The theme runs through any number of genre films and was one of the key elements of the series The X-Files.
The international success of Metropolis helped spread expressionism to global filmmakers. Unlike earlier expressionistic films like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), however, which take us within the characters' nightmares, Metropolis uses the style's harsh angles, severe lighting and symbolic spectacle to create a physical world that is itself a nightmare. As such, it had a major influence on the use of expressionism in more commercial movies, particularly those in the United States.
The glittering skyscrapers of Metropolis helped popularize Art Deco.
By Frank Miller
Pop Culture 101-Metropolis
Lang was shocked to discover that Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels were great fans of Metropolis. They were so impressed, in fact, that they offered to overlook Lang's Jewish family background and declare him an honorary Aryan so he could run the German film industry. That invitation helped push Lang into fleeing Germany.
Albert Speer used the film as inspiration in designing the Nuremberg rally. Leni Riefenstahl's documentary on that rally, Triumph of the Will (1935), also draws on Lang's film.
For a 1936 re-issue of the film, UFA cut it to 91 minutes. They also re-issued that print, with English subtitles in the U.S. and England. That is the version originally held in the Museum of Modern Art's film library.
Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster named the city in which he lived after the film.
A Japanese manga inspired by the film appeared in 1949. It became an anime feature in 2001 under the original feature's title.
Rotwang inspired the look of the title character played by Peter Sellers in Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964).
The design for C-3PO in Star Wars (1977) was modeled on the robot Maria in Metropolis.
Queen included footage from the film in the 1983 video for their hit "Radio Ga Ga."
For a 1984 version of the film, Giorgio Morodor created a new score, including songs performed by such prominent rock artists as Freddie Mercury, Pat Benatar, Bonnie Tyler and Adam Ant. This version met with decidedly mixed reviews, with some critics hailing it as a new vision of a great classic and others calling it a desecration. One major issue with the naysayers was that the Morodor version is only 87 minutes long, even though current prints ran 115 minutes.
Another 1980s television version is scored to Steven Reich's "Music for 18 Musicians."
In 1989, a musical version of Metropolis opened at the Piccadilly Theatre in London with music by Joe Brooks and lyrics and book by Dusty Hughes. Cast members included Brian Blessed as John Freeman (changed from Fredersen), Judy Kuhn as Maria and her robot double, here named Futura, Graham Bickley as Freeman's son, now Steven, and Jonathan Adams as mad scientist Warner. The musical has never played Broadway. It was revived in Luneburg, Germany, in 1989, Cicero, IL, in 1990, Salem, OR, in 2002 and Seattle in 2010.
The video for Whitney Houston's 1993 "Queen of the Night" includes footage from Metropolis. Huston's costume for the video resembles the design for the robot Maria.
Over time over one quarter of the footage from the original print was thought to have been lost.
Pop Culture 101-Metropolis
Trivia-Metropolis - Trivia & Fun Facts About METROPOLIS
Because of Brigitte Helm's inexperience and Lang's obsession with innocent young women, workers at UFA nicknamed her "The Virgin of Babelsberg."
The film's Yoshiwara nightclub was named for Tokyo's notorious red light district.
Helm's robot costume was not designed with the human body in mind. Nor did it help that the cast for the liquid wood armor was taken with the actress standing, but Lang decided to film the sequence with her sitting. The armor left several cuts and bruises on her body after long days of shooting. To make matters worse, Lang insisted on using her rather than a stunt double in the creation scenes. The armature in which the transformation occurred was so tight, she fainted from lack of oxygen.
The robot costume was just one of the trials Helm had to endure. Under Fritz Lang's direction, she also had to leap from perilous heights without a double and was subjected to real flames when the workers burn the robot Maria at the stake. At one point, her costume actually caught fire.
Lang spent two days shooting the scene in which Gustav Frohlich falls to his knees in front of Helm. By the time he was finished, the actor could barely stand. For another scene, in which Frohlich beats on large wooden doors, Lang shot so many takes the actor's hands were bleeding. Lang shot fewer takes for a fight scene, but only because the actor dislocated his thumb in the scuffle. Even then, he only gave the actor half an hour to recover before doing more takes of the scene.
Cinematographer Gunther Rittau created the whirling bands of light for the creation of the robot Maria by filming a spinning silver ball in front of a black velvet curtain. The rings' movement was created by raising and lowering the camera.
To capture the concussive blast that ruptures the water lines, Lang instructed that the camera be mounted on a swing moving toward and away from the actors.
During production, the set had two distinguished visitors. Alfred Hitchcock, then an assistant director and set designer, came to watch filming while working on The Blackguard (1925), a Gainsborough Pictures-UFA co-production. Sergei Eisenstein, an admirer of Lang's work, also visited the set, where they briefly discussed the merits of static and moving camera shots.
More than 37,000 extras worked on the film.
According to the film's novelization, the robot's name is Parody.
By Frank Miller
Quotes from METROPOLIS
"'We shall build a tower that will reach to the stars!' Having conceived Babel, yet unable to build it themselves, they had thousands to build it for them. But those who toiled knew nothing of the dreams of those who planned. And the minds that planned the Tower of Babel cared nothing for the workers who built it. The hymns of praise of the few became the curses of the many -- BABEL! BABEL! BABEL! " -- Brigitte Helm as Maria
"There can be no understanding between the hand and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator." -- Helm, as Maria
"It was their hands that built this city of ours, Father. But where do the hands belong in your scheme?"
"In their proper place, the depths." -- Gustav Frohlich, as Freder, and Alfred Abel, as Joh Fredersen
Compiled by Frank Miller
Trivia-Metropolis - Trivia & Fun Facts About METROPOLIS
The Big Idea-Metropolis
Lang's wife, Thea von Harbou, worked out his ideas for the film in a novel intended to serve as the basis for a film. She then worked with Lang to develop a screenplay. In that process, the book's references to occultism were cut to focus the story more on science.
From the start, Lang envisioned the film as the most expensive ever made in Europe. UFA executives did not expect a profit, but thought the mammoth production would open more doors for their films in the lucrative U.S. market.
For the showy role of the mad scientist, Rotwang, Lang cast Rudolf Klein-Rogge, an accomplished character actor who had starred in several of his earlier films, including Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922), Siegfried (1924) and Kriemhild's Revenge (1924). Von Harbou was Klein-Rogge's ex-wife.
Alfred Abel, who played the industrialist Joh Fredersen, had also worked with Lang previously in Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler.
By contrast, the film's leading lady was a newcomer. Brigitte Helm was not really interested in acting and only tested for the role because her mother had sent her picture to Lang and von Harbou. Lang asked her to bring the girl to meet him on the set of Die Niebelungen (1924). When he asked her if she was interested in being an actress, Helm said, "Never in my life." (Brigitte Helm, quoted in Patrick McGilligan, Fritz Lang: The Nature of the Beast.) Lang laughed until tears streamed from his eyes. He gave her a brief screen test, and then waited a year before asking her back for another. This time, she acted a scene from Kriemhild's Revenge (1924) so well Lang and Pommer thought her better than the actress in the film, and they cast her in Metropolis. Her first screen role would make her a star at the age of 19.
By Frank Miller
The Big Idea-Metropolis
Behind the Camera-Metropolis
With optical printers not yet invented, matte effects were created using a mirror placed at an angle to reflect the art department's drawings. The silvering was scraped off the back of the mirror at the places where the actors and full-sized sets needed to be seen. Cinematographer Eugen Schufftan developed the technique, which is still referred to as The Schufftan Process, for a planned production of Gulliver's Travels. When that fell through, he introduced it on Metropolis. The paintings reflected included the upper levels of the towering buildings (only the lower levels were actually built), the stadium in the wealthy part of town and a large bust of Fredersen's late wife.
The establishing shots of the city -- with cars, planes and elevated trains moving about -- were shot using stop-motion photography. The cars were modeled on the newest taxicabs driving the streets of Berlin. It took months to build the city model and several days to film the few short sequences. Then the lab ruined the first shots. The backgrounds in the shot had been dimly lit to create a greater sense of depth, but the head of the lab, who developed the film himself, decided that was a mistake and lightened the backgrounds, thereby destroying the sense of forced perspective.
Lang started shooting the film with a different actor cast as Freder. During the early days of shooting, however, Thea von Harbou noticed the good-looking Gustav Frohlich, one of the extras cast as a worker. When the first rushes featuring Freder proved unsatisfactory, she urged Lang to let their original actor go and cast Frohlich in the part.
All multiple exposures were done in camera, with the film rewound and re-exposed. For some scenes, this required up to 30 different exposures.
It took 14 days to film the scene in which the worker's city is flooded. Lang hired 500 children from the poorest areas of Berlin and kept them and Brigitte Helm in water he ordered kept cold. While shooting the flood scenes, he repeatedly ordered the extras to throw themselves at powerful jets of water until they were exhausted.
The nightmare in which workers are fed to Moloch was filmed in the middle of winter. Despite the lights and several heaters, the studio was extremely cold, a special hardship on the extras, most of them unemployed men, who had to walk naked into the mouth of the god. Lang took so many days filming the sequence his assistants feared the extras would revolt. Finally, Pommer came to the set and informed the director that he had more than enough footage already and needed to stop.
For the explosion of the heart machine, Lang refused to use dummies as stand-ins for the workers thrown about. He insisted that would look phony. So extras were to be hooked to harness belts and thrown through smoke, steam and fire. To lighten the mood before shooting, he insisted that his assistant, Gustav Puttscher, try out the harness, and then had him yanked almost to the top of the soundstage and left him there. During filming, he insisted the extras show pain, even though there were no close-ups. Fortunately for him, they already were in pain.
Lang wanted 4,000 bald extras for the Tower of Babel sequence, but Pommer could only find 1,000 willing to shave their heads. Since the scene was shot in the spring, these extras got to swelter under the hot sun shooting the exteriors as they hauled prop rocks and real tree trunks across the landscape. Some got sunburns on their scalps from the lengthy shoot. After shooting, Lang ordered the shot run through the optical multiplier to make the 1,000 extras seem like the 4,000 he had originally wanted.
In January 1926, UFA executives met to determine what to do about the increasingly costly production, which seemed nowhere near completion. They considered pulling the plug, but instead settled on firing Pommer from his position as head of the studio. He continued running interference on the production until April, when he left for a job at Paramount Pictures in the U.S.
For the chase across the rooftops, Brigitte Helm and Rudolph Klein-Rogge actually had to climb across the tops of the exterior sets and race on planks 25 feet above the ground. At the end of that sequence, Helm, without benefit of stunt woman, had to leap for the rope attached to the cathedral's bells. Although mattresses were placed in the event of a fall, the height would still make the stunt dangerous. She caught the rope first try, and then slowly slid down it as the ringing bell sent her careening into the set's walls. Bruised and battered, she fled the set in tears.
The scene in which scantily clad dancers and nightclub patrons spill out into the streets was filmed on a chilly spring night. It was so cold that, to keep the extras from rebelling, Lang ordered flasks of cognac for them. When that ran out, actor Alfred Abel offered his coat to one of the dancers.
To build excitement for Metropolis, von Harbou's novel was serialized in the popular German magazine Illustriertes Blatt in the month's preceding the film's release.
At the film's premiere in Berlin on January 10, 1927, the audience burst into applause at some of the more spectacular scenes.
At two-and-a-half hours in length, Metropolis could not be shown enough times in a day to return UFA's investment soon enough. As a result, the entire company was restructured, with a new, more conservative board of directors. Appalled at the film's Marxist politics, they pulled it from theatres in the spring of 1927.
As production costs pushed UFA toward bankruptcy, the studio had signed a deal with Paramount Pictures and MGM that created Parafumet to release the two U.S. studios' films in Germany. It also gave the studios distribution rights in the U.S. and other territories to UFA's films and the right to alter those films as they saw fit. Parafumet cut the picture to about 115 minutes, excising the Thin Man's pursuit of Freder and Josaphat and much of the backstory about Rotwang's past romantic rivalry with Fredersen.
For the U.S. version, Paramount hired playwright Channing Pollock to re-write the film around Lang's footage. He created an entirely new story that blamed all of the action on a greedy employee and identified many of the revolting workers as soulless robots. For the film's U.S. release, Paramount replaced the UFA logo with its own and reshot the credits. Lang refused to see this version.
With UFA still in financial difficulties, businessman Alfred Hunberg took charge of the studio. He cut the film still further to remove any Marxist and religious materials.
By Frank Miller
Behind the Camera-Metropolis
"...quite the silliest film..." - H.G. Wells, Time
"Nothing like Metropolis, the ambitious UFA production that has created wide international comment, has been seen on the screen. It, therefore, stands alone, in some respects, as a remarkable achievement. It is a technical marvel with feet of clay, a picture as soulless as the manufactured woman of its story. Its scenes bristle with cinematic imagination, with hordes of men and women and astounding stage settings. It is hardly a film to be judged by its narrative, for despite the fantastic nature of the story, it is, on the whole, unconvincing, lacking in suspense and at times aggressively theatric." -- Mordaunt Hall, The New York Times
"What is this? This is not just Metropolis; it is not just German film. It is...all of official Germany as we know it and experience it every day on our own hides." - Hans Siemsen, Die Weltbuhne
"The movie has a plot that defies common sense, but its very discontinuity is a strength. It makes Metropolis hallucinatory -- a nightmare without the reassurance of a steadying story line. Few films have ever been more visually exhilarating." -- Roger Ebert, Chicago Tribune "Building on earlier science fiction and endlessly influential on later works, Lang's film is a mammoth marvel, fusing modernism and expressionism, art deco and Biblical spectacle, Wagnerian bombast, sentimental Marxism and religiose militarianism. Sit close to a big screen and submit to the machine." -- Ben Walters, Time Out
"One of the last examples of the imaginative -- but often monstrous -- grandeur of the Golden Period of the German film, Metropolis is a spectacular example of Expressionist design (grouped human beings are used architecturally), with moments of almost incredible beauty and power (the visionary sequence about the Tower of Babel), absurd ineptitudes (the lovesick hero in his preposterous knickerbockers), and oddities that defy analysis (the robot vamp's bizarre, lewd wink). It's a wonderful, stupefying folly." -- Pauline Kael, 5,001 Nights at the Movies
AWARDS & HONORS
In the British Film Institute's 2012 poll to name the greatest movies ever made, Metropolis came in 35th.
Giorgio Morodor's 1984 score for Metropolis was nominated for the Razzie for Worst Musical Score, and his collaboration with Freddie Mercury on the song "Love Kills" was nominated for Worst Original Song. It lost to Bolero (1984) in the former category and Dolly Parton's "Drinkenstein" from Rhinestone (1984) in the latter.
The film's 2001 restoration won a special award from the New York Film Critics Circle.
By Frank Miller
The director always said that he was inspired to make Metropolis by his first visit to New York, the city of the future, in late 1924. In truth, he had begun hatching the idea months earlier for a tale of a future utopia that turns out to be hell on earth. He wanted a project to surpass his epic two-part film version of Die Nibelungen (1924) and began tossing around ideas with his wife, writer Thea von Harbou, who first developed the story as a novel. They drew ideas from a variety of sources, including Karel Capek's play about a robot revolt, R.U.R.; the pioneering Soviet science fiction film Aelita (1924); and H.G. Wells' novels. And contrary to Lang's account, the novel was finished by the time he returned from New York in December 1924.
The older character parts in Metropolis were cast with Ufa contract stars who had worked with Lang previously. Alfred Abel, who would play the master of Metropolis, had starred in Lang's Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler (1922). So had Rudolf Klein-Rogge, whose flamboyant performances as the villains in that and other Lang films made him a natural for Rotwang, the mad scientist who would later serve as inspiration for the title character in Dr. Strangelove (1964). Gustaf Frohlich, cast as Abel's son, started the film playing one of the factory workers, but somehow managed to attract von Harbou's attention. When the actor originally cast as Freder didn't pan out, she suggested Frohlich move into the lead. Brigitte Helm, who played both the virginal Maria and her evil robot double, had to wait even longer for her break. Her mother had gotten her a test with Lang over a year earlier, but the girl was so awkward she was laughed off the screen. Something about her stuck in his memory, however. When he was casting Metropolis, he brought her in for another audition. This time she chose to imitate the leading lady from his Die Nibelungen and, from all accounts, surpassed her performance.
But special effects were the real stars of Metropolis. Lang's film benefited from the work of Eugene Schufftan, a pioneering effects artist who would later move into cinematography. He had invented "the Schufftan process" -- which involved using mirrors to seamlessly combine actors, full-sized sets and miniatures -- for an abandoned production of Gulliver's Travels. Instead, it was first used in Metropolis, allowing Lang to create spectacular shots of actors moving against seemingly massive sets. Cameraman Gunther Rittau created the swirling rings of light that encase the robot Maria at her creation by moving the camera as he shot a spinning silver ball against a black backdrop. For the massive cityscapes, complete with trains, cars and airplanes, the production team shot miniature sets with stop-motion photography. The brief shot took months to prepare and several days to shoot. Then the lab ruined the footage, and they had to do it all over again.
Delays became routine on Metropolis. After five months of pre-production, Lang finally started shooting on May 22, 1925. Thanks to production problems and his own perfectionism, the film did not wrap until October 30, 1926, shooting for 310 days and 60 nights. According to press releases, the film employed eight leading players, 750 supporting cast, 26,000 male extras, 11,000 females, 750 children, "100 Negroes and 25 Chinese." The production was so profligate that Lang's producer, Erich Pommer, was fired in January 1926. This simply caused more delays, as he was the only man who could control Lang.
One thing that definitely needed to be monitored was Lang's legendary cruelty. Whether it was just perfectionism or a sadistic streak (which could be mirrored in the violence in his films), Lang drove cast and crew relentlessly, with little regard for their health or safety. He spent two days rehearsing and shooting a simple scene in which Frohlich collapses at Helms' feet. By the time he was finished, the actor could barely stand. During a fight scene, Frohlich dislocated his thumb, but Lang only gave him a half-hour to recover going back to work on the scene. During the flooding of the worker's living areas, he kept directing the extras and children to throw themselves at the biggest water jets until they were almost drowned. When it came time for the workers to burn the robot Maria at the stake, he insisted on using real flames for the shots of Helm. At one point, her dress accidentally caught fire.
When the film premiered in Berlin on January 10, 1927, the audience burst into spontaneous applause at several of the more spectacular scenes, and showered Lang and Helm with flowers afterwards. The critics were less enthusiastic. Though they praised the film for its stunning visuals, they also derided its sentimentality in dealing with the strife between labor and management. In particular, the finale -- in which Frohlich secures a truce between his father and the workers he has just tried to murder, played with the title card "Between the mind and the hands, the heart must mediate" -- seemed to belong to another film. These criticisms were echoed around the world, with the most cutting comments coming from one of the film's inspirations, H.G. Wells: "I have recently seen the silliest film. I do not believe it would be possible to make one sillier." Nonetheless, the premiere run was greeted with strong attendance. But the film was so long, Ufa couldn't begin to recoup its costs quickly enough, prompting a bail out by communications magnate Alfred Hugengberg, a staunch conservative who would later serve under the Third Reich.
Ufa's immediate response to the expense of Metropolis was to cut the film by half an hour three weeks after its premiere. As a result, Lang's two-and-a-half hour cut would never be seen again. Distributors in England and the U.S. took out even more, cutting characters and subplots and rendering some of the action incomprehensible. Although the film would become a major influence on American movies, particularly the science fiction and horror genres, the version shown in the U.S. was less than 90 minutes long. Sadly, that version would be the only one in circulation for decades. Moreover, subsequent releases of the film in Germany would be cut further, with shorter outtakes substituted for shots approved by Lang. Nor did any of the surviving versions use Gottfried Huppertz's original score, performed live at the premiere.
Yet the magic of Metropolis remained, not just in the truncated versions available but also in the dreams of film lovers. Efforts to restore the film began in the '80s at the Munich Filmmuseum, where a nearly two-and-a-half hour version was assembled from a variety of sources, with stills and title cards filling in for lost footage. In 1984, composer Giorgio Morodor created his own highly controversial version. The print was one of the shortest ever released and featured new color tinting, a new score by Morodor and rock numbers by such performers as Adam Ant, Freddie Mercury and Pat Benatar. Although loved by some fans, it also was nominated for Golden Raspberries for Worst Score and Worst Original Song.
Then, in 2002, Metropolis made a triumphant return. After three years of work, the Berlin Filmmuseum unveiled a new restoration using digital technology to restore film and camera elements assembled from around the globe. They also recorded Huppertz's original score with a 65-piece orchestra. The results were as close to the film's original form as possible. The restoration cost $250,000, but the new version made back twice that amount in a limited theatrical release. It also won rave reviews and a special award from the New York Film Critics Circle. An even more recent restoration with additional found footage premiered in 2010 and is the version being shown on TCM. For additional information on the film's restoration and behind-the-scenes information on the making of Metropolis, visit Kino International.
Producer: Erich Pommer
Director: Fritz Lang
Screenplay: Fritz Lang, Thea von Harbou
Based on her novel
Cinematography: Karl Freund, Gunther Rittau
Art Direction: Otto Hunte, Erich Kettelhut, Karl Vollbrecht
Score: Gottfried Huppertz Cast: Alfred Abel (Joh Fredersen), Gustav Frohlich (Freder), Rudolf Klein-Rogge (Rotwang), Brigitte Helm (Maria/Robot), Fritz Rasp (Slim), Theodor Loos (Josephat), Helene Weigel (Female Worker), Curt Siodmak (Working Man).
by Frank Miller
Giorgio Moroder Presents Metropolis on DVD & Blu-Ray
In 1978 our PBS TV stations broadcast G.W. Pabst's Pandora's Box and Fritz Lang's Metropolis in slightly more complete BBC versions, with new scores and transferred to video at proper projection speeds. The improved Metropolis left much to be desired. The version still followed the continuity of the Paramount Studios' 1927 re-cut, with its altered, simplified storyline. Fritz Lang's film was in poor condition, a mess of scratched, damaged and unstable shots. At around eighty minutes (at 24 fps) almost half of its original footage was missing. Curious new viewers found mostly confusion, while silent film enthusiasts and science fiction fans admired the remains of Metropolis without understanding it. I myself saw the film projected at UCLA in 1973, with Fritz Lang in attendance. He stated that he no longer believed it to be a good film at all, and did not attempt to tell us that it had been radically edited. We film students did not realize that what we were shown was actually an altered, inferior remnant of Lang's original.
Enter successful composer and record producer Giorgio Moroder, who had made music history with movie scores and hit disco records by the likes of Donna Summer. His Midnight Express and American Gigolo had established synthesizers as a dominant fad in film music of the 1980s. Moroder was also an avid film fan well informed about the tragic history of Fritz Lang's Metropolis. He consulted German film experts with the idea of reassembling the original lost Lang cut that played for only a few weeks in Berlin in early 1927. He also aimed to produce a contemporary soundtrack for the movie, to make it accessible to modern audiences.
With the help of German film expert Enno Patalas, Moroder gained access to the existing pieces of Metropolis that had surfaced by the early 1980s. From sources in the Soviet Union, Australia and even a private collector in Los Angeles came extra shots and half a scene or two not contained in the standard Paramount version. Moroder proceeded with radical revisions to help the show play as a new theatrical release. He replaced the silent inter-titles with superimposed subtitles. He stretch-printed some shots, artificially slowing them down for a 24 fps projection speed. Moroder commissioned several new animations to replace stylized opening text cards. Still photographs were animated to illustrate missing footage. Finally, Moroder re-edited the entire movie for maximum impact, shortening many scenes and altering the pacing and shot order to play better against his disco-inflected soundtrack.
Moroder's main contribution is of course his music. A striking and dynamic main theme is used as a background for the large-scale action scenes. Instrumental cues enhance other scenes with weird atmospheres, and the famous scene where the robot takes Maria's form is scored with a symphony of electronic sound effects. Just as often, however, the instrumentals fight the film's own natural rhythm. The scene in which the Good Maria rings the alarm bell in the worker's city is designed and cut around the visual cadence of the bell-clapper. After marking the first few clapper strikes Moroder's music imposes a faster beat of its own.
Moroder commissioned lyrics by Pete Bellotte and engaged star recording artists to sing them. As the MTV cable channel had reached its height of popularity just a year before, the music video connection was surely Moroder's main selling point. Most of the songs push Lang's classic into the background, working against the images they are meant to enhance. Even the best lyrics are far too literal. Cycle V's Blood from a Stone accompanies the marching workers, and is at least a good tonal match. Pat Benatar's Here's My Heart parallels scenes with the Good Maria, and is inoffensive, if redundant. Cage of Freedom (Jon Anderson) and On Your Own (Billy Squier) are also not too awkward. But the wrenching, overly literal and agitated vocals for Destruction (Loverboy) and Love Kills (Freddie Mercury) are laughable. Bonnie Tyler's Here She Comes is quite a good rock tune, but can come off as hilarious when attached to images of the Evil Maria slinking across the screen in a stylized trance. And the repeated question in the lyric to What's Going On? (Adam Ant) seems silly when applied to shots of the young hero Freder investigating various underground machine rooms and catacombs: "What's going on? / I wanna know!"
The songs in themselves make for a fine album, and film audiences were split as to their value. Some fans of Fritz Lang considered them the equivalent of audio vandalism. But film restoration experts don't condemn the 1984 Giorgio Moroder Metropolis, as it helped promote the cause of restoring old movies. The publicity around the release brought more attention to film restoration in general. Studios developed departments to make sure that as many titles as possible in studio vaults were "serviceable" = exploitable on film and video. Troubled movies like Frank Capra's 1937 Lost Horizon became the focus of major restorations.
The biggest benefit to Metropolis came from Giorgio Moroder's return to Fritz Lang and writer Thea von Harbou's original storyline. The Moroder version restored the rivalry between Joh Fredersen, the Master of Metropolis, and the mad inventor Rotwang, over the long-dead woman they both loved. Because the appropriate film footage was nowhere to be found, a new piece of artwork depicted the oversized sculpture Rotwang has erected to her memory. The worker 11811 (Georgy) is shown (via a rare still photo) rushing to the brothel-nightclub called Yoshiwara, an element dropped in the Paramount re-cut. According to Enno Patalas, Moroder's so-called "disco version" inspired curiosity about Lang's original cut, and helped accelerate the search for more and better footage. The culmination of that effort was, of course, the near-miraculous uncovering of an almost complete Argentine print in 2008.
Giorgio Moroder's Metropolis was issued on VHS and laserdisc, but various rights problems prevented its release on DVD until now. The old laserdisc became a pricey collector's item in the 1990s, fetching hundreds of dollars. Kino had hoped to include it in a proposed boxed set to be marketed with The Complete Metropolis, along with the 1927 Paramount re-cut and perhaps the BBC cut as well. Fans of Moroder's music will welcome its return.
Kino Classics' Blu-ray of Giorgio Moroder's Metropolis is indeed meant for lovers of the disco music score. The picture element is the same as was shown in 1984 and therefore cannot compete with the better sourced and digitally enhanced The Complete Metropolis that came to Blu-ray last Fall. Many shots are murky and unstable. Moroder's revision adds color to a few skies and tints liquids in the glassware in Rotwang's lab, but the quality overall now serves mainly to remind us of how damaged the film was for so long. The soundtrack is the expected brilliant professional remix of Moroder's tracks to 5.1 stereo channels (or 2.0 with the original 1984 mix, included).
Don't be fooled by the "original" trailer for the '84 cut presented as an extra -- it's a mockup that substitutes cleaner images from the latest improved versions. The quality of the video in the feature presentation accurately represents original 1984 prints.
A pleasant surprise on the disc is an original 1984 featurette explaining Moroder's restoration process, before the notion of "film restoration" had been firmly established with the public. We see footage of a music session and a rare film interview with John Hampton, the legendary founder of Hollywood's Silent Movie Theater. Hampton's copy of the film was sourced for some of the new film material. It's interesting to note that this early featurette about the need to restore old films, has itself faded rather severely.
For more information about Giorgio Moroder's Metropolis, visit Kino Lorber.
by Glenn Erickson
Giorgio Moroder Presents Metropolis on DVD & Blu-Ray
Restorations - Metropolis
The Definitive 35mm Restoration of METROPOLIS - Lang's Pioneering Futurist Extravaganza
METROPOLIS (1927), Fritz Lang' groundbreaking science fiction epic, will screen in a new 35mm restoration at Film Forum from July 12 through 25 (two weeks). This new restoration, the fruit of a four-year effort by a team of German experts who worked with source material culled from archives around the world, is the most complete version of METROPOLIS since the film's Berlin premiere 75 years ago. (Kino will be releasing it on video and DVD in 2003).
Amid the gleaming towers of a gigantic city of the future, Gustav Frohlich, pampered son of Alfred Abel, the Big Boss himself, is smitten by a young woman (Brigitte Helm, in a sensational film debut) ushering workers' children on a topside field trip, and follows her back to the depths, where he discovers what really makes Metropolis run. And as slavishly regimented workers with numbers instead of names toil amid smoke-belching machinery, he has a vision of slaves lining up for sacrifice at the flaming mouth of the idol Moloch. But anticipating unrest, Abel makes plans to defuse it, inciting eccentric inventor Rudolph Klein-Rogge to fashion an agent provocateur, the "robot-Maria" (Helm again!).
Inspired (or so legend says) by his first glimpse of the Manhattan skyline, Fritz Lang's visionary work of science fiction redefined the term "super-production" - in the process nearly bankrupting Ufa studios - with its thousands of extras (cheap, in the era of Weimar hyperinflation); already-monstrous sets inflated to the gargantuan by cutting-edge camera trickery (including the first use of the legendary Schufftan process, whereby miniatures and live action are filmed simultaneously); and eye-popping special effects extravaganzas, including the explosion of the "heart machine;" the Frankenstein-like genesis of the robot girl; and a cataclysmic, multitude-engulfing flood.
A legend and a byword almost from first release,METROPOLIS was seen as Lang conceived it only by the earliest Berlin audiences ("positively overwhelming," raved the Variety critic after the premiere), and then the cutting began, by the U.S. distributor Paramount, by Ufa itself, and so on, down to a 1984 "restoration" that ran only 87 minutes. Now, film restoration specialists Alpha-Omega, working at the behest of Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung and Bundesarchiv Filmarchiv, has collated the seven existing source copies - all original nitrate material, and digitally restored 1257 scenes via a laborious multi-step process. The result, generated back to pristine 35mm prints, is probably the most complete, integral version of Lang's work that will ever be seen - complete with a new recording of the original orchestral score by Gottfried Huppertz and jaw-dropping imagery that you won't remember from the print you saw in film class or the copy you rented at the local video store. This is, literally, METROPOLIS like you've never seen it before.
For more information about METROPOLIS , visit the FILM FORUM.
The Greatest Comedy Team Since Laurel and Hardy?
The Producers is considered by many to be one of the top comedies of all time; this 1968 film ranked at number eleven on the American Film Institute's list of the top one hundred comedies. The film, which has grown to cult status, is noteworthy for a number of reasons: first, it marked Mel Brooks' directorial film debut. Brooks had begun his career in stand-up comedy, then moved into writing for the television comedies You Show of Shows and Caesar's Hour. After winning an Oscar in 1963 for his animated short The Critic, Brooks received financial backing from Joseph E. Levine to direct his hilarious original screenplay The Producers. Beginning June 7th, the Film Forum in New York City will present a brand new 35mm print of The Producers, courtesy of Railto Pictures, along with Brooks' short subject, The Critic. Hopefully, the newly restored print of The Producers will be played in other theatres across the United States.
For his debut feature, Brooks cast three-time Tony Award winner Zero Mostel as Max Bialystock, a failing Broadway producer who has been reduced to wearing a cardboard belt and taking money from elderly women in exchange for fulfilling their sexual fantasies. Mostel had taken a break from the silver screen somewhat unwillingly, as a result of being blacklisted during the McCarthy era Communist hunt. He had continued to act on stage, then made his return to movies in 1966 with A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. The Producers cemented Mostel's reputation as a zany comedian, and did much to restore his popularity with film audiences.
The Producers plays like a demented parody of the Hollywood musical, particularly the ones where Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney decide to "put on a show in the old barn." It's also a blistering assault on the dubious ethics at work in the business side of the Hollywood movie industry as well as Broadway. Filled with some of the funniest dialogue in contemporary screen comedy, The Producers reconnected audiences with a tradition of American film humor that had not been seen since the heyday of W.C. Fields and the Marx Brothers. Furthermore, it encouraged other comedy writers like Woody Allen to take up directing in order to express their own comic vision. The film's freewheeling style and unique mixture of sight and sound gags, vaudeville routines, and blackout sketches pushed the envelope with potentially tasteless jokes and humor. But critics and audiences of the late sixties obviously relished the irreverent humor and The Producers quickly developed a cult following. Its success also allowed Mel Brooks to continue making comedies which expanded on this "anything goes" formula like Blazing Saddles (1974) and inspired future filmmakers like John Landis (The Kentucky Fried Movie, 1977) and Jim Abrahams, Jerry and David Zucker (Airplane!, 1980).
For more information about The Producers , visit the FILM FORUM.
By Sarah Heiman & Scott McGee
Restorations - Metropolis
Metropolis - The Definitive Restored Version
The special edition DVD of METROPOLIS brings a wide-variety of supplemental features, including an exclusive 43-minute documentary about the history and making of METROPOLIS, a gallery of posters and stills, a featurette explaining the digital restoration process and audio tracks and titles in English, German, French and Spanish.
Arguably the most famous silent film of all time, this brand-new presentation of METROPOLIS was licensed from Transit Films and the Murnau Foundation in Germany. After three years of restoration work and a budget of over $250,000, Fritz Lang's epic was finally reconstructed from positive prints, dupe negatives and camera originals assembled from around the world. Using new digital technology, all 1257 scenes were cleaned of scratches, tears and uneven contrasts. The result is a "DROP DEAD STUNNING" (Jami Bernard, New York Daily News) METROPOLIS, now available as close as possible to the German 1927 premiere version.
Drastically cut within three weeks after its release in Germany, this new restoration of METROPOLIS is also significantly longer than any previous theatrical or video release of the same film. The added time is mostly due to the inclusion of recovered shots, additional (and retranslated) intertitles, and the film's restructured narrative plot.
Gottfried Huppertz's original score was also re-recorded by a sixty-five-piece orchestra and, for the first time since the film's opening, it will accompany METROPOLIS and allows us to appreciate the original impact of the film.
Set in the far off year of 2026, the towers of Metropolis reach up to the skies and are the home of a privileged elite who callously rule the entire city. When Maria (Brigitte Helm), an inspired young woman from the "lower city" brings a group of workers' children to the "eternal gardens," she coincidentally meets Freder (Gustav Frohlich), the son of Metropolis' ruler Joh Fredersen (Alfred Abel). Immediately entranced with Maria's dazzling beauty, Freder follows her to the lower city and witnesses the deplorable conditions of the machine rooms, finally understanding the underlying reality of Metropolis.
Having celebrated METROPOLIS' s 75th anniversary with this successful theatrical reissue (the film played in over 100 markets in U.S. and Canada, grossing over $500,000 to date), Kino International now intends to make the definitive video and DVD versions of METROPOLIS available to a much larger audience in the North-American market.
For more information on Metropolis, visit Kino International. To purchase a copy of these DVDs, visit TCM's Shopping Section.
Metropolis - The Definitive Restored Version
It was their hands that built this city of ours, Father. But where do the hands belong in your scheme?- Freder
In their proper place, the depths.- Joh Frederson
There can be no understanding between the hand and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator.- Maria
Film included no fewer than 1,100 bald extras.
Reportedly one of Adolf Hilter's favorite films.
An original version, according to Lang himself, has not existed since the middle of 1927. Being one of the most expensive movies of the time, around 5,000,000 marks, it nearly sent UFA (Universum Film) into bankruptcy.
The restored version of 2001 is based on a digital restoration at 2K resolution from the best available sources. The image quality far surpasses anything seen since the original release of the film.
No optical printing system existed at the time, so to create a matte effect, a large mirror was placed at an angle to reflect a piece of artwork while live footage was projected onto the reverse. To expose the projected footage, the silvering on the back of the mirror had to be scraped off in strategically appropriate places. One mistake would ruin the whole mirror. This was done for each separate shot that had to be composited in this manner.
Released in United States 1926
Re-released in United States July 12, 2002
Re-released in United States October 4, 2002
Re-released in United States July 20, 2007
Released in United States March 1975
Released in United States March 1979
Released in United States August 1990
Released in United States April 2000
Released in United States February 2001
Shown at Edinburgh International Film Festival August 11-26, 1990.
Shown at Avignon/New York Film Festival (Opening Night) in New York City (French Institute) April 24-30, 2000.
Shown at Berlin International Film Festival February 7-18, 2001.
Film was restored again in 2001, this time in an attempt to return it to as close as possible to its original form. Based on the discovery in the former East Germany of the original Paramount camera negative, the film was digitally reconstructed and re-edited. A new score was also commissioned.
Released in United States 1926
Re-released in United States July 12, 2002 (Film Forum; New York City)
Re-released in United States October 4, 2002 (Nuart; Los Angeles)
Re-released in United States July 20, 2007 (Film Forum; New York City)
Restored print released at New York City's Film Forum July 20, 2007.
Film was restored in 1984 to a little over half its original length with subtitles superimposed instead of title cards, and an entirely new score created. In some scenes still photographs with animated backgrounds were used to re-create sequences that no longer existed as usable footage. The original film used a cast of over 30,000 and took 310 days to shoot.
2002 re-release is digitally restored and features a new orchestral soundtrack as well as a new English translation of the original German intertitles.
Released in United States March 1975 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Science Fiction Movie Marathon) March 13-26, 1975.)
Released in United States March 1979 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (German Cinema: The Golden Age) March 14-30, 1979.)
Released in United States August 1990 (Shown at Edinburgh International Film Festival August 11-26, 1990.)
Released in United States April 2000 (Shown at Avignon/New York Film Festival (Opening Night) in New York City (French Institute) April 24-30, 2000.)
Released in United States February 2001 (Shown at Berlin International Film Festival February 7-18, 2001.)