Movie News

Capone has seen the fully restored METROPOLIS on the big screen! Your turn!!!

Published at: June 4, 2010, 11 p.m. CST

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here. I've had many great moments watching films over the years. I'm not necessarily talking about just seeing great movies, but thanks to memorable one-time-only screenings in Chicago or dozens of trips to Austin or living in a New York City for a couple of years, I've had access to some great "event" screenings that make the film I'm watching all the more special. But right now, I'm hard pressed to think of a place I would rather have been last Friday than sitting in the same screening room with Roger Ebert watching the most complete version of Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS in existence. By sheer coincidence, he and I rode up the elevator together to the Chicago screening room to watch the film, and without any prompting from me, Roger flashed two Thumbs Up accompanied by an unprecedented look of excitement in his eyes, to which I responded, "No one is more excited to see this than you, is there?" It was undeniably true. At this point in history--83 years after the film first premiered in Berlin--METROPOLIS is an experience that defies conventional reviewing. If you're as voracious a fan as Mr. Ebert or Harry or I are then loving this movie has been a sometimes-frustrating practice, since we've all known that at one time more of the film existed than we were seeing. Like many folks in my age range, my first exposure to METROPOLIS was what has come to be called the Giorgio Moroder version--a color-tinted work with a synthed-out score courtesy of the music producer. Harry programmed it at Butt Numb-a-Thon 10, and I'd forgotten how much I'd always loved it, primarily because prints of that particular version are almost impossible to come by these days. Seeing it recently also reminded me that there was actually unseen footage included in that cut. The next cut I distinctly remember being radically different was from about 10 years ago, and with a running time of about two hours, I think most of us had given up hope that what was reported to be a 2.5-hour-plus complete version would ever surface. And then came the rumblings from Argentina about two years ago concerning a discovered 16mm print that set film historians, geeks, and anyone who had ever been touched or influenced by METROPOLIS on fire. The recovered footage is easy to spot in the context of this new cut--the restoration team of the Murnau Foundation has done God's work repairing this film and placing the new footage back where it belongs. And while it's scratchy and faded, it's still utterly watchable. I seem to recall that the title cards for this new version are translated from the original screenplay this time around and have not been rewritten in any way. So is the rediscovered footage worth getting excited about? Most of it is. There's an entire subplot involving The Thin Man (the button-up heavy played by Fritz Rasp) following Georgy, Worker 11811, who trades places with Gustav Fröhlich's idealistic Freder, the son of Metropolis' leader Joh Fredersen (Alfred Abel). The journey of Georgy is fascinating, as he is immediately sucked into a life of privilege and excess. But most of what is restored are small moments (sometimes nothing more than reaction shots) that add up to tell a more complete tale. But there's also a Freder nightmare sequence, more backstory about the mad scientist Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), and perhaps my favorite series of additions--an extended look at the children's rescue from the flooding of Metropolis' underground city. And if memory serves, there's also quite a bit more mad ranting and gyrating from the robot Maria (Brigitte Helm). Yes, there's something for everybody. But the changes to METROPOLIS are not limited to found scenes simply being dropped in where they belong. Since the Argentine print was complete, previous random scenes discovered here and there over the years can now be placed in their proper order and context. And with once-small supporting characters being fleshed out significantly in many cases, we now realize that METROPOLIS is actually several fully realized storylines being told in parallel. This is especially evident when it comes to the story of Josaphat, the elder Fredersen's assistant (played by Theodor Loos), who is fired early in the film but becomes a key player in the workers' revolution. I sat there in wide-eyed disbelief watching this complete METROPOLIS unfold before me, and just when I thought "Okay, well that shot or scene wasn't too crucial," the film would reveal some new element that seemed so essential that it actually made me angry I had gone so long without it. But like every truly great film, this viewing made me appreciate the scenes that had been there from my first viewing as much as the new material. That image of the machine transforming into an angry god swallowing up workers like so many sacrificial animals still gives me chills. And Brigitte Helm's performance is almost too big and perfect for any screen to contain. The way she can appear sweet and innocent in one scene as the real Maria, and then transform into the twisted-faced, bodice-ripping robot Maria is astonishing. I'd like to see any of the last five Oscar-winning best actresses try something so bold and maniacal. You're either excited about this or you're not. You are either prepared to take the journey to wherever this restored film is playing near you or you're not. And if you're not, I can't believe you've read this far. So I'm going to guess you care deeply about this discovery--a singular moment in film history. Roger Ebert called this re-release “The most important film event of the year!” before he ever saw it, but it doesn't take someone with his expertise in cinema to know this. METROPOLIS is a film you must see and acknowledge as a masterpiece before you can even attempt to gain access to the riches of filmed science fiction. The influence and impact this film had on movies that came after it are impossible to count, although I'm guessing that many of your favorite sci-fi works involving a city of the future were touched in some way by this movie. But that's not necessarily a reason to see it. No, you should see METROPOLIS because it's a powerful piece of cinema by a great director. Amen. The end. THE COMPLETE METROPOLIS (as it's being billed) is embarking on a nationwide tour before hitting DVD in November. You are not allowed to die until you've seen it on the big screen.
-- Capone capone@aintitcool.com Follow Me On Twitter



Readers Talkback

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  • June 3, 2010, 9:26 p.m. CST

    OMG

    by mattforce7

    must see

  • June 3, 2010, 9:27 p.m. CST

    Seen it only once

    by mattforce7

    ive seen the previous restored version, but if i can by any chance catch this on the big screen, i will light up a dooby, and bring a date...or a friend...friend it more likely

  • June 3, 2010, 9:31 p.m. CST

    THE MOTHERSHIP

    by Those_arent_pillows

    o' scifi

  • June 3, 2010, 9:38 p.m. CST

    Jealous! It'll NEVER come to NOLA.

    by calloway98

  • June 3, 2010, 9:51 p.m. CST

    So worth seeing

    by CreamCheeseAlchemist

    I went about 2 weeks back... amazing. If you can, so go see this.

  • June 3, 2010, 9:58 p.m. CST

    Tour Schedule Here!

    by MediaGold

    http://www.kino.com /metropolis/playdates. html#play <p> Remove the spaces, of course. It also mentions some dates are TBA so here's hoping it comes to Phoenix!!

  • June 3, 2010, 10:02 p.m. CST

    I wish someone would release the Moroder version

    by Dark Knight Lite

    That's a DVD I would buy in a heartbeat. I saw that version twice when it played in NYC back in the day. Good times.

  • June 3, 2010, 10:07 p.m. CST

    Calloway98

    by Spyhunter

    Yep, it'll be in NOLA early next month. I may make a trip over to Shreveport to see it!

  • June 3, 2010, 10:09 p.m. CST

    YEAH, BUT YOU HAVENT SEEN METROPOLIS

    by moondoggy2u

    unless you saw the webcam footage in which cold germans were watching warm germans watching metropolis. Don't ask me what those germans did to deserve such cruel treatment.

  • June 3, 2010, 10:10 p.m. CST

    The Cinematic Orchestra

    by seagrass

    re-scored the silent film 'Man With The Movie Camera' a while back... would have loved to hear them take a shot at the score to Metropolis.

  • June 3, 2010, 10:19 p.m. CST

    I seriously got chills...

    by anEden37

    ...reading about this. Metropolis is one of the first movies my parents allowed me to see (for better or worse), and so their rather "skippy" VHS is the movie that is stuck in my mind. And now I've read a review that has made me, without a doubt, the most jealous I have ever been in my adult film-adoring life. I remember reading about the "missing reels" found in Argentina a while ago (maybe even on this site?), and wondering what could possibly be on them. I hope to GOD that this will make it's way to Blu-Ray. Otherwise said "bodice ripping" simply won't affect me like it did when I was 4 years old, 3 feet tall, and watching it on a CRT screen. Or something.

  • June 3, 2010, 10:27 p.m. CST

    I hope this thing comes to DC.

    by johndillingers20inchseveredcock

    I'd love to see it on a big screen.

  • June 3, 2010, 10:27 p.m. CST

    I agree -- you MUST NOT miss this!

    by Admonisher

    Extraordinary ... just extraordinary.

  • June 3, 2010, 10:29 p.m. CST

    Why no Special Edition "improvements"

    by CellarDweller

    like a CGI Jabba or Greedo shooting first? Oops! Sorry, wrong sci-fi movie.

  • June 3, 2010, 10:42 p.m. CST

    Nothing compares to...

    by Hari_Seldon

    ... watching METROPOLIS together with Fritz Lang. I mean, i have a friend who actually did it in a 1969 international science fiction convention in Rio. My very close friend is Andre Carneiro (86), most important Sci-fi writer in south america (google him), and the guy responsible for that convention. Oh, and he also watched 2001 with Arthur C. Clarke. He lives near my house, and still writing and being published to this day. Nobody knows who he is here in Brasil.

  • June 3, 2010, 10:45 p.m. CST

    I live in the middle of nowhere, I hope it comes to town.

    by Stereotypical Evil Archer

    But I doubt it.

  • June 3, 2010, 10:53 p.m. CST

    Hari_Seldon

    by HEADGEEK

    Epic. To see METROPOLIS with Fritz Lang.. the greatness can't be conceived.

  • June 3, 2010, 10:55 p.m. CST

    I am going thursday night!

    by Superponte

    Only a week away!

  • June 3, 2010, 11:03 p.m. CST

    Calloway98, it is coming to NOLA...

    by ChrisPC24

    Check out the playdates that were posted.

  • June 3, 2010, 11:14 p.m. CST

    Looking forward to big screen again

    by Dasinfogod

    Saw it on the last go-round restoration (astonishingly clear print, beautifully restored) at the Rafael theater in Marin. Quite an eyeful, and have seen the German TV transmission of this current edition, and looking forward to seeing again properly on the big screen.<p>As mentioned on previous METROPOLIS threads, though, the Murnau/Kino presentation it still being projected and telecined too fast, giving the action a sped-up look that perpetuates the myth of cartoonish action in silent cinema. I can only assume that this will eventually be corrected for the next major overhaul of the film for the 90th Anniversary re-issue - so we have that much to look forward to! Who knows, maybe the 16mm footage can be digitally cleaned up some more by then, too?<p>In any event, go see this picture! Add to the coffers of Murnau/Kino and this may inspire/finance them to present this masterpiece correctly...

  • June 3, 2010, 11:18 p.m. CST

    anEden37: not to worry, Blu is coming

    by ByTor

    In November this edition is being released on DVD and Blu-Ray. <P> But I fully intend to make it over to the Musicbox to see it on the big screen.

  • June 3, 2010, 11:20 p.m. CST

    Dasinfogod: it's not so clear-cut

    by ByTor

    I have read some very persuasive arguments suggesting that the faster frame rate was, in fact, what Lang intended. <P>I'm no expert, but there's enough debate amongst film historians that I don't think anyone can definitively state what the "proper" frame rate is.

  • June 3, 2010, 11:23 p.m. CST

    Dark Knight Lite...

    by Dasinfogod

    The Moroder version is out there, if you know where to look. Here's a good place to start: tinyurl.com/kvnmju

  • June 3, 2010, 11:28 p.m. CST

    Want to see it!

    by moviemaniac-7

    The grand daddy of all sci-fi!

  • June 3, 2010, 11:30 p.m. CST

    ByTor

    by Dasinfogod

    Yup, I've argued with many of the fast frame purists out there, but all I can say is watch Rotwang chase Maria around the cathedral near the end and the motion looks more like Keystone Cops than a serious pursuit. Maybe Lang was going for a chuckle, but it ain't too likely.<p>Like I say, I think the Murnau Foundation is taking the LucasFilm model and will likely triple dip this cash-cow seven years down the line with a "Special Three-Hour Definitive Cut", which I'll gladly pay for in addition to this current version.

  • June 3, 2010, 11:51 p.m. CST

    Very entertaining H.G. Wells review of Metropolis

    by SmokingRobot

    I have recently seen the silliest film. I do not believe it would be possible to make one sillier. And as this film sets out to display the way the world is going, I think [my book] The Way the World is Going may very well concern itself with this film. It is called Metropolis, it comes from the great Ufa studios in Germany, and the public is given to understand that it has been produced at enormous cost. It gives in one eddying concentration almost every possible foolishness, cliché, platitude, and muddlement about mechanical progress and progress in general served up with a sauce of sentimentality that is all its own. http://tinyurl.com/ygpjaf8

  • June 3, 2010, 11:56 p.m. CST

    Alas

    by zer05um

    I sincerely doubt it'll get a screening here in New Zealand...

  • June 4, 2010, 12:37 a.m. CST

    Fascinating. But I need to go get in line for my Sprint EVO now.

    by gun_will_travel

    Because Best Buy has maxed out its preorders and the guys at the Sprint stores aren't taking my bribe offers.

  • June 4, 2010, 12:47 a.m. CST

    So does this mean Bay will redo it next year???

    by I_shot_Cyrus

  • June 4, 2010, 12:50 a.m. CST

    i saw this in berlin with live music

    by mojination

    ..earlier this year. AMAZING!!! one of those film geek moments that's hard to beat.

  • June 4, 2010, 2:44 a.m. CST

    Damn You Michael Bay

    by MCMLXXVI

    Damn You Michael Bay

  • June 4, 2010, 2:57 a.m. CST

    I will pay good money to see this.

    by V'Shael

    I'm sure it will get a release in Europe somewhere. I couldn't make the Berlin screening, but would have loved to.<br /><br />It would reaffirm my faith in humanity somewhat, if this movie made a metric fuckton of money, without having 3D or CGI effects or whatever. Who knows, it might teach Hollywood a badly needed lesson.<br /><br />Who am I kidding? They'd just remake it...

  • June 4, 2010, 3:46 a.m. CST

    I want the "Streaming Live from the Brandenburg Gate" Version

    by tonagan

    It could be projected onto a tiny screen, and people could be hired to walk in front of it at random moments.

  • June 4, 2010, 3:57 a.m. CST

    I'm of the same age group of Capone and Harry...

    by AsimovLives

    ... and i never saw the Moroder Assclown version. And i intent to keep it that way, thank you very much.

  • June 4, 2010, 6:06 a.m. CST

    I_shot_Cyrus

    by AsimovLives

    Shut up, man! Don't give him any ideas!

  • June 4, 2010, 6:09 a.m. CST

    I wonder if fleeing Nazis took it to Argentina.

    by Mr Nicholas

  • June 4, 2010, 6:09 a.m. CST

    Oh, and a 1984 Metropolis DVD can be found here:

    by Mr Nicholas

    http://www.morodermetropolisdvd.com/

  • June 4, 2010, 6:41 a.m. CST

    Been meaning to watch this

    by Dazzler69

    Nice to be able to see it complete the first time. Probably going to feel slow as hell since that was the norm back then for our ADD minds now.

  • June 4, 2010, 7 a.m. CST

    A definite must-see

    by umbral_shadow_

  • June 4, 2010, 7:07 a.m. CST

    Will it be retrofitted for 3D?

    by horndog

    Settle down ...

  • June 4, 2010, 7:31 a.m. CST

    MCMLXXVI, long time no see!

    by ricarleite2

    And indeed, Michael Bay should be damned. Keep up the good work.

  • June 4, 2010, 7:33 a.m. CST

    i think patrick wilson

    by thesmilingpsycho

    would play a good superman. he's got the look and can play a solid dork just look at watchmen if u don't believe me. perfect clark kent in that movie. plus he seems like an all around good guy

  • June 4, 2010, 8:03 a.m. CST

    call me crazy but I never did care this film...

    by Hideo Kojima

    it's slow and plodding and is just boring.. I appreciate the mise-en-scene and what it meant for the future of cinema but I'll take The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari over it any day of the week!

  • June 4, 2010, 8:15 a.m. CST

    Best of both worlds

    by The StarWolf

    If only Moroder could come back and do to this complete version what he did to the 80s one. And then sell a two-DVD set with his version and the untouched original. One can dream ...

  • June 4, 2010, 8:29 a.m. CST

    "Found footage"

    by Horgy

    I wish Brian Herbert would see this, to learn the correct way to deal with "things that were found after a long time hiden away in a safety deposit box."

  • June 4, 2010, 9:34 a.m. CST

    Dasinfogod: Yes, I do agree

    by ByTor

    That scene definitely makes the argument for a slower frame rate. <P> And this is one movie that I never seem to mind double-dipping on. I had a VHS copy, then the Moroder laserdisc, then a crappy PD DVD, then the 2002 restored DVD, and now the new Blu-Ray. <P> If they fix/change the frame rate and re-relase in a few years...I'll be first in line again. <P> And remember...Rotwang shot first!

  • June 4, 2010, 9:59 a.m. CST

    MCMLXXVI, welcome back!

    by DamnMichaelBay

    I hope this comes to the UK.

  • June 4, 2010, 10:36 a.m. CST

    Hello Baxter Avenue Theaters

    by Kentucky Colonel

    this is your wake up call. <p> Seeing it at the AVALON in DC would be amazing. Moreso if they'd play it at the UPTOWN. But I'll settle for little old Baxter Ave. Theaters here in Louisville if they'll book it. I saw the last "restored" version there, so hopefully it's just a matter of time.

  • June 4, 2010, 10:42 a.m. CST

    Bless You MCMLXXVI

    by JIMBOCOP

    Bless You MCMLXXVI

  • June 4, 2010, 10:43 a.m. CST

    BTW

    by JIMBOCOP

    Does anyone else think this print got to Argentina by U-Boat?

  • June 4, 2010, 11:32 a.m. CST

    Not coming to NOLA?

    by maxjohnson1971

    Hell, we'll be lucky if it comes to Louisiana! Fucking cultural abyss (well as far as movies go anyway.)

  • June 4, 2010, 12:20 p.m. CST

    Thanks George!

    by FlipFriddle

    WooHoo. Two showings of Metroplois at the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY; June 26 and 27. Along with Zardoz, Logan's Run, Superman the Movie, RoboCop, Brazil, and Soylent Green this month alone. Yeah!

  • June 4, 2010, 1:02 p.m. CST

    I sort-of saw the last restoration in the theaters.

    by geekzapoppin

    I say, "sort-of" because the idiots who run the Esquire in Cincinnati incorrectly framed the image at 1.85:1, chopping off the tops of heads and some of the intertitles. We complained to the management, but he said his projectors couldn't handle Academy Ratio films, so they were just showing it cropped. It looked like ass.

  • June 4, 2010, 1:29 p.m. CST

    I WANT to go see this

    by Series7

    But the theater they are showing it in is kind of shitty? Still worth it?

  • June 4, 2010, 2:05 p.m. CST

    This will be my second time on a big screen

    by gotilk

    seeing this. I don't even count the time I watched the Moroder thing at a midnight movie.

  • June 4, 2010, 2:09 p.m. CST

    Seeing it at the Castro in SF was amazing.

    by gotilk

    I arrived a few minutes late (friggen SF parking, I'm still not used to it) and even though they were not letting people in late they made an exception because I told them I'd driven 125 miles just to see it. Very cool. I actually like it when theaters do not let stragglers in, usually, because they're disruptive. But I was so happy they made an exception for me and my friend. The Castro is a GREAT theater.

  • June 4, 2010, 6:46 p.m. CST

    This Movie Must Suck......

    by Partyslammer

    Even if it's a respected groundbreaking classic like Metropolis, in reality it must suck badly if anyone from AICN gives it a good review simply because this site has absolutely no cred anymore when it comes to movie reviews. I mean, is Metropolis any better'n "Get Me To The Greek?

  • June 5, 2010, 2:31 a.m. CST

    RIP John Wooden

    by gun_will_travel

    At age 99, he was actually old enough to have seen this when it debuted!

  • June 5, 2010, 1:48 p.m. CST

    If it ain't got Superman or Queen in it, I ain't going!

    by MrMysteryGuest

  • June 5, 2010, 9:22 p.m. CST

    Kentucky Colonel

    by nyj_et

    Love the Baxter Ave Theater. Saw many a flick there during my stay in Louisville. Would love to get my hands on one of those oversized posters like the Star Wars one they have up in there.

  • June 6, 2010, 6 p.m. CST

    first time viewing

    by belledame

    i don't recall ever seeing metropolis, though i've heard of it plenty. so when i saw the complete restoration last week (nyc), i wasn't even that excited to go. it was just an appointment to ensure i didn't waste the day in bed. <b></b> i was definitely impressed but also i kept nodding off. i had been up till 5am and gotten up at 10am that morning. it's a little saddening to know i have no history with, and therefore appreciation of, this restoration. my biggest thoughts were to marvel at the set design, interior and exterior. and to think that all these people did this cutting edge work nearly 100 years ago. and now all of them are gone.

  • June 7, 2010, 5:33 a.m. CST

    No copyright

    by Suskis

    This movie is well over 70 years old, so, I assume, it is not copyrighted. Are they going to put it somehwere for download? Officially, I mean.

  • April 22, 2012, 10:09 a.m. CST

    Nope

    by orcus