Fritz Lang's Expressionistic masterwork continues to exert its influence today, from Chaplin's Modern Times to Dr. Strangelove, and into the late 1990s with Dark City. In the stratified society of the future (Y2K no less... more »), the son of a capitalist discovers the atrocious conditions of the factory slaves, falling in love with the charismatic Maria in the bargain, who preaches nonviolence to the workers. But even the benevolent leadership of Maria is a challenge to the privileged class, so they have the mad-scientist Rotwang concoct a robot double to take her place and incite the workers to riot. The story is melodrama, but it's the powerful imagery that is so memorable. One of the most arresting images has legions of cowed workers filing listlessly into the great maw of the all-consuming machine-god Moloch. Unfortunately, the print used for this DVD is unfocused, scratchy, and five minutes short, altogether unworthy of a visionary masterpiece. It may be too much to hope for the complete film to be restored (only two hours of the original three-hour film are extant), but a clean transfer from a fine-grain negative ought to be possible. And why, when there are other possible future Metropolises to be had, should we downtrodden masses accept this junk? If anyone wonders what became of Moloch, now they can stop guessing; he's alive and well and making debased DVD versions such as this one. --Jim Gay« less
"Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS was very successful with both critics and audiences when it debuted in 1927 Berlin--but it was thereafter edited for distribution by Channing Pollock, who disliked it and removed great chunks of the film and substantially altered the storyline. The resulting film was admired for its visual style, but it proved a critical and box office disappointment. Neglected in the wake of sound, surviving prints of the film were left to corrode and decay--and when it began to reach the home market via VHS and DVD the results were very hit or miss; Blackhawk released a fairly credible version of the truncated film to home video, but for the most part the quality of these releases varied from barely mediocre to downright unwatchable.Until now.A great chunk of METROPOLIS--perhaps as much a quarter of more--has been forever lost, but this Kino Video DVD release offers the single best version of the film available. The previously cut footage that still exists has been restored; gaps in the film have been bridged by the occasional use of stills and explanatory title cards; the film itself has been painstakingly and digitally restored; and the soundtrack is the Gottfried Huppertz original created for the film's 1927 Berlin debut. In seeing this version of METROPOLIS, I was struck by how very differently it reads from the previously available truncated version. The visual style and the story itself are much more exciting and cohesive, and in the wake of this restoration it becomes impossible to deny the film status as landmark of international cinema.Freder Fredersen (Gustav Frohlich) is the son of Joh Fredersen (Alfred Able), who reigns over the great city of Metropolis. Freder is surprised to discover his lifestyle has been built on the unseen but backbreaking labor of an entire class of unseen workers who tend the machines that make the city run--and he descends to the subterranean levels of Metropolis in an effort to understand their lives... and, not incidentally, to find the mysterious but beautiful woman Maria (Brigitta Helm) who has inspired his interest in the workers' plight. But his father is concerned by both Freder's interest and Maria's activities among the workers, and he turns to scientist C.A. Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) for aid. Rotwang has created a robot, and he agrees to give it the likeness of Maria in order to undermine both Freder's love for the girl and her own activities. But Rotwang has a hidden agenda of his own: once the robot has been unleashed, he will use her to destroy Metropolis and thereby exact revenge on Joh Fredersen for past transgressions against him.In many respects the story is simplistic, but the film's visual style and connotations are anything but. Deeply influenced by such art movements as Expressionism, Objectivism, Art Deco, and Bauhaus, the film is visually fascinating--not only in its scenic designs, but in director Lang's famous skill at creating the powerful crowd scenes that dominate the film and building the pace and tension of the film as it moves toward an intense climax. But while one can--and many do--admire the film purely at this level, there is quite a lot going on in terms of philosophical content as well: while it offers few viable solutions, the film raises such issues as the relationship between capital and labor, the place of religion in modern society, human reaction to overwhelming technology, and (perhaps most interestingly) the drift of government into a class-conscious corporate entity. And religious motifs abound in the film: a largely deserted cathedral; Moloch; the Tower of Babel; and crosses--intriguingly juxtaposed with a repeating motif of the pentagram-like designs associated with the robot. It is fascinating stuff.There has been complaint that this restoration runs at incorrect speed and the performances are therefore unnecessarily jerky. I did not find this to be the case. In certain instances the movement is deliberately jerky and mechanical--the workers are a case in point--but beyond this there is nothing for which the difference between silent acting and modern acting techniques cannot account. There has also been some complaint that the title cards should have been left in their original German and translated via subtitle. There is a certain validity to this, but it seems a minor quibble; title cards were typically translated in the silent era itself. The DVD includes a number of extras, including still photographs, biographies of the major figures involved in the film, and two interesting documentaries-one on the restoration process and one on the creation of the film itself. Both are interesting; the audio commentary track by film historian Enno Patalas, however, is mildly disappointing. But when all is said and done, it is the film that counts. And this restoration is a remarkable achievement, to say the least, a project which brings a great landmark of world cinema back from the edge of the abyss. Indispensible; a must-own.--GFT (Amazon Reviewer)--"
This tinted version is NOT Moroder's version
S. Nelson | Texas, USA | 02/15/1999
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This is the 139 minute, tinted version, with the disjointed music, distributed by "JEF films" and labeled "Aikman Archive" in yellow on the box. The sound is bad and the video quality is poor. For superior video quality, get the version produced by Kino Video instead. although the Kino version has a bad sound track, at least the video quality is very good. For superior sound, get the Moroder version of Metropolis.This review assumes that you have already seen Metropolis. For those unfamiliar with Metropolis, it is considered "the" first SciFi movie -- the robot, the cool visual effects of future cities, and a few mad scientist lab scenes. But it is only a great movie IF you see the right version. Sadly, there are more then 6 versions of the film floating around -- Black/white, bad music, slow playback B/W, bad music, fast playback tinted, bad music, slow playback tinted, good music, fast playbackplus a few versions with terrible video quality (the DVD version is such a case) and other versions with missing scenes, a non-logical flow to the story line due to bad editing, etc.Unfortunately, the situation with prints of Metropolis is a bit of a mess. Those looking for the tinted Girogio Moroder sound track should NOT get this tape. Although the run time of this version of the movie is 139 minutes, it is actually missing scenes that are in the 90 minute Kino Video and Moroder versions of the tape. The reason is that this 139 minute tape is run at a SLOWER speed than the Kino tape is. Also, the music is totally out of sync and unrelated to the action.Unfortunately, Moroder's copy is not available from anywhere. At $24.95, I'd hoped that the folks at Amazon.com had found a copy but this is not the case. Someone should find a good copy of the Moroder tape, sell that, and burn all of the other versions. Although some people object to Moroder's rock soundtrack, at least it follows the story line and is an excellent sound track on its own.I was fortunate enough to have seen Moroder's copy the first time I saw Metropolis and I am very glad that I did.To add further insult to injury, the CD of Moroder's soundtrack is not the same as the music that appearred in the movie. The CD has some additional songs and is missing some others. So you can't redub a video from the CD. So don't get the "Moroder CD" and expect to remix your own copy of the video.OK, having provided all of the background info, there is the review:139-minute B&W version published by JEF films. The cover says it is a "newly restored version", but image quality is so bad that I would rather call it "newly destroyed version". It has actually more missing scenes than both Kino's and Moroder's versions, but runs longer because of slower frame speed."
Lang deserves better than this.
J. T. Nite | Mesa, AZ USA | 01/08/2001
(2 out of 5 stars)
"When I bought this DVD, I was actually expecting less-than-perfect picture quality. After all, $10 for a DVD is cheap. I reasoned it would at least have some version of the movie on it, and thus it's worth the money. But now, having watched it, I'm not convinced.There are no issues with tinting/no tinting, new score/old score. Here it's just that the transfer is downright painful to watch -- grainy, scratchy, at times out of focus, at times so dark you can barely see the action. The gorgeous production design and innovative filmmaking is buried under layers of artifacts from a bad transfer. It looks like someone videotaped it off of a TV (using a camcorder through a dirty window), then watched the tape about twenty times, then put it on the DVD.I know, the film's 80 years old, we can't expect a pristine presentation. But I know that better transfers exist, I've seen them on VHS. Not to mention the fact that The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu have beautiful Criterion DVDs -- why haven't they done Metropolis yet? Surely a film that influenced everyone from Ridley Scott to George Lucas deserves preferential treatment.The sound is good, a full orchestra instead of just a piano, but that's about all this sad little disc has going for it. If you want to see Metropolis (and everyone should see it at least once), you're better of getting it on VHS for now."
Review of the Kino DVD
keviny01 | 02/25/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Released in 1927, amid the golden age of the silent film era, Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS is a stylistic tour-de-force that has remained influential for the rest of the century, inspiring films like 1931's FRANKENSTEIN as well as 1997's DARK CITY. With its imaginative set design, elaborate photography, bold editing, and its then groundbreaking special effects, this German silent classic exemplifies the highly inventive period of German Expressionism, which also include such film masterworks as THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, NOSFERATU, THE LAST LAUGH, and DIE NIBELUNGEN (which Lang made prior to METROPOLIS).This Kino Region 1-only DVD offers an almost pristine-looking video transfer of the film. The untinted, black-and-white image is clean and sharp throughout, the result of a mostly manual frame-by-frame restoration started in 1998 by Germany's F.W. Murnau Foundation. The included jacket essay gives a brief account of its efforts, as well as the work of other restorationists in the past, notably Munich Filmmuseum and film historian Enno Patalas. The DVD supplements also include an excellent mini-documentary that explains some of the technical details in the restoration.The film's running time on this DVD is 118 minutes (not 124 as printed on the case). It is shown at the speed of 24 frames per second, an unusual frame rate for a silent film. But according to F.W. Murnau Foundation, this was the projection speed used at the film's premiere in 1927. Some viewers may find the motion a bit too fast at times due to the high frame rate. But some believe this was director Fritz Lang's way to intensify some of the action. (For those who want to watch METROPOLIS at a slower speed, there is a PC DVD player called WinDVD 4.0, which lets you extend or shorten a DVD's running time without affecting the pitch of the audio.)This DVD only has English intertitles (supported by French and Spanish subtitles). The style, typeface, and the occasional animation in the intertitles were all re-created according to the original film. The original score by Gottfried Huppertz was also "adapted" from its 153-minute original length to the current, shorter length. This is the first time I have a chance to listen to Huppertz's elaborately orchestrated score, and it sounds terrific.This latest restoration, unfortunately, did not recover a lot of film footage that had been missing over the years. Major sequences that were lost, such as Maria's escape from Rotwang, are still lost. To make up for this, and to make the film's plot more coherent, new intertitles were inserted to summarize the story lines of the missing footage. These intertitles are frequently seen in this restored version, a constant reminder of the large amount (a quarter of the film) of lost footage.I did a brief side-by-side comparison between the Kino DVD and a few old video versions, and discovered the DVD actually has "alternate scenes" that were utilized for this restoration. In other words, Lang apparently shot some of the scenes *twice* (probably for domestic theaters and abroad), resulting in two versions of a scene looking slightly different. For instance, in the running competition early in the film, the winner wins by a big margin in all older video versions that I had seen. But on the Kino DVD, the winner only wins by a hair.The DVD's audio commentary by Enno Patalas is mild disappointment. As in the Kino DVD of THE BLUE ANGEL, the comments are too sparse and not too in-depth. And long stretches of silence are frequent. The commentary is largely analytical, and it points out some of the key themes and visual motifs of the film.The other DVD supplements include an involving 45-minute documentary that covers the making of the film, the German Expressionist period, the "unmaking" of METROPOLIS by censors and Hollywood, and a few interview segments of Lang. The still gallery contains about 90 production photos and design sketches, including about 27 photos taken from missing scenes."
Swooping Epic of a Film killed by an unsympathetic modernity
Johnny S Geddes | Enlgand | 12/04/1999
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Metropolis the movie and Metropolis the video are two entirely different entities. The former represents a genesis in science fiction film-making and should be respected universally as being the fruit of a team of visionary geniuses (principally in terms of art-direction). In 1926, this two hour-plus release was a swooshing epic of light, machinery and action, taking audiences who had been only used to watching films in the cinema with tinny piano accompaniment into the far future world of robotics, mass-transit, etc. The actors were good but they didn't have a chance of flourishing in the shadow of the sheer excellence of set design and production. This was the world of the year 2,000 (so far off back then that the comma means something in the writing of the figure). Lang's direction brought out a sci-fi exposition fused with parable fused with philosophy. Grandiose by the standards of any time, the film cost over 2 million USD (in 'then' money) and nearly bankrupted UFA, the backing company. That alone proves that this was a work of intense sacrifice and conviction: a mind-blowing excursion into the far-future (then a lifetime away) which, despite its explicit critique of both Marxism and Capitalism, revealed the likely development of a mammoth pleasure era to come. The spoilt offspring of the Commercialist dictator sights the beauty of the People's girl and is smitten to the point that he will try to change his side of the machine. At the same time, the girl becomes known to the dictator who, in turn, commissions Rotwang the inventor (analagous as being the amoral scientific community) to construct a mechanical replica of the girl to undo the damage and keep the rumblings low. The girl is abducted, duplicated and retained for the pleasure of the scientist. Her robotic alter-ego malfunctions and becomes a Lenin-Hitler, inciting the workers to rise up and destroy the metropolis of their enslaver......and their own. That is the meaning of 'Metropolis' the film. Sadly, not many people have been able to afford the same respect to 'Metropolis'. In terms of its versions on video, only 2 are worth seeing at this time. This tape and its brethren listed here are not amongst them. What you should search for is either the 1984 Giorgio Moroder film (85 mins including a hard rock soundtrack-score, tinting, visual additions and a brilliant general score which I recorded onto a 90-min audio tape it was so good) or the 1992 release by the British Eureka corporation (on PAL, sadly). The latter claims to have all 139 minutes and although I haven't yet bought it (after buying 3 'Metropolis' VHS tapes, I'm becoming a little weary of waste), I can see from the thickness of the reel that there really could be all 139 minutes on there. All others are a waste of money and should be avoided like the plague. This tape has an unsuitable soundtrack which kills the aesthetics of the film and the print itself lacks high resolution and is grained in areas. For the 1920's, an orchestral or piano soundtrack had to do but 'Metropolis' should not be classified as being a silent film per se. It is a generic 'Metropolis-film' and demands better academic appreciation. It is sad to see that the minds behind doing the re-releasing of 'Metropolis' just lack that respect. Either that, or......or perhaps it's a conspiracy to assassinate the film's image."