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Giorgio Moroder presents Metropolis (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 28, 2011 by  



“Giorgio Moroder presents Metropolis” is the original 1984 film presented in HD.  Unlike the 2010 “Complete Metropolis” release, this film is 82-minutes long, color-tinted and possibly the most significant difference is its ’80s soundtrack featuring music by Academy Award winner Giorgio Moroder (“Flashdance…What a Feeling” from “Flashdance”, “Take My Breath Away” from “Top Gun”) and music featuring Freddie Mercury, Pat Benatar, Adam Ant, Bonnie Tyler, Billy Squier and others.  While this version may not be for everyone, for those who grew up watching this film may find it to be a welcomed, nostalgic addition to their cinema collection.

Images courtesy of © 2011 Kino Lorber Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Giorgio Moroder presents Metropolis

FILM RELEASE: 1927 (Moroder’s version – 1984)

DURATION: 84 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: Color Tinted, 1920x1080p High Definition (1:33:1), DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

COMPANY: Kino Classics

RATED: N/A

Release Date: November 15, 2011

Based on a novel by Thea von Harbou

Directed by Fritz Lang

Screenplay by Thea von Harbou

Producer: Giorgio Moroder, Erich Pommer

Music by Gottfried Huppertz

Cinematography by Otto Hunte, Erich Kettelhut, Karl Vollbrecht

Costume Design by Aenne Willkomm

Starring:

Alfred Abel as Joh Fredersen

Gustav Fohlich as Freder

Brigitte Helm as Maria/The Robot

Rudolf Klein-Rogge as C.A. Rotwang

Fritz Rasp as The Thin Man

Heinrich George as Grot

Theodor Loos as Josaphat

Erwin Biswanger as 11811/Georgy

In 1981, three-time Academy Award-winning composer Giorgio Moroder began a three-year endeavor to restore the science fiction classic, Metropolis. During this process, Moroder made the controversial decision to give the film a new, contemporary score, and added a pop music soundtrack featuring songs from some of the biggest stars of the early MTV era, including Pat Benatar, Billy Squier, Freddie Mercury, Bonnie Tyler, Adam Ant, Jon Anderson and more. In addition to the new score, missing footage was re-edited into the film, intertitles were removed and replaced with subtitles and sound effects and color tinting were added, creating an all new experience…and an all-new film! But for more than a quarter century, this version of Metropolis has remained out of print – until now. A new HD transfer was created from one of the few remaining prints available, and Kino Lorber is presenting the film in the best possible quality – just as it was seen in its original release in August 1984.

It’s the version of “Metropolis” which introduced many people to silent cinema and also to Fritz Lang’s 1927 classic film.

Giorgio Moroder, the Academy Award winning composer known for his music in films such as “Scarface”, “Top Gun”, “Inglorious Basterds”, “Flashdance” and “Midnight Express”  has achieved many accolades as a musician/composer but one personal project that he wanted to do was to compile a new restoration for “Metropolis” (note: At the time, only edited versions of the film were to be found) and to also bridge a gap between modern moviegoers and those who appreciate silent cinema by providing a contemporary soundtrack.  But also to feature music tracks featuring Pat Benatar, Adam Ant, Freddie Mercury, Jon Anderson, Loverboy, Billy Squier and Bonnie Tyler.

Also, adding intertitles and playing the film at 24 frames per second.

Needless to say, by doing so, film critics were split when it came to the film’s release.  But for those not familiar with silent cinema and seeing this film for the very first time, Giorgio Moroder’s “Metropolis” was their introduction to silent cinema.  And for 27-years later, Giorgio Moroder’s long-awaited version of “Metropolis” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Classics.

Kino has chosen to present the film exactly as it appeared in 1984, mastered from an archival 35mm print.  Nearly a year ago, Kino released the latest restoration/remaster of “The Complete Metropolis” featuring the newly found footage on Blu-ray which was fantastic.   So, what we have is the version that people saw in 1984, the 82-minute version of the film.  Presented in Moroder’s vision, color-tinted and also featuring the contemporary music at that time.

According to Giorgio Moroder, “A decade into my career as a composer for motion pictures, I began a three-year endeavor to restore the film, with an eye towards introducing it to new audiences.  It was 1981, and by then “Metropolis” had almost disappeared from circulation.  I gathered elements of the film from all over the world to create and restore the most complete version of ‘Metropolis’ possible (at the time).”

For those not familiar with “Metropolis”,  the sci-fi silent film was directed by Fritz Lang (“M”, “The Testament of Dr. Mabuse”, “Die Nibelungen: Siegfried”, “Fury”) and is based on the novel by Lang’s wife at the time, Thea von Harbou. Upon its release in Germany in 1927, needless to say the film didn’t do that well. In fact, in 1927…the film which was very expensive for its time could even make 25% of what the film cost and it was a box office disaster. To make things worse, because of the film’s theme, various countries asked for various edits of the film and so, different countries had different versions of the film (the negative found in Argentina back in 2008 was a version that was not edited).

So, “Metropolis” ended up being cut and re-edited against Fritz Lang’s permission. And because the film was costly and nearly bankrupted the film company, it was important to make money through this film and with many theaters not so enthusiastic of films longer than 90 minutes, the film was shortened even more, especially the version show in the United States.

“Metropolis” is a film that takes place during a time where the rich and people who work in a management function live high above the Earth in skyscrapers while other people are just workers who live the same routine everyday, same routine and live a hard and difficult live in the underground. Their movements are the same and their blood, sweat and tears are required to power the city.

After the young Freder (played by Gustav Froelich) had won a successful track competition and now about to celebrate his monumental win with a few beautiful women at the Eternal Gardens, Freder who happens to be the son of Joh Fredersen (played by Alfred Abel), the main man responsible for building the Metropolis, sees a woman who catches his attention. The woman is accompanied by a large group of children but as she tries to introduce them to the gardens and tells Freder about the brothers he has that live in the city dwellings, she and the children are kicked out.

This leads Freder wanting to seek the young woman out and venturing to an area that he is not allowed to but most of all, to know more about this life…this dwelling where other people live.

The underground is where the majority of the workers live. These workers are responsible for keeping the city working but but are seen as the lowest in the economic social totem pole and they are kept away from those who do have money and are stuck living down below.

For Freder, he sees how these workers have the same routine at work. They are worked hard at 10 hours a day to near exhaustion and sees as one worker is unable to keep up and collapses due to exhaustion. Because he is unable to man the machine, the machines start to explode and several workers are killed. While watching this take place, immediately Freder starts imaging this monstrous deity appear while its tribe takes the workers into be sacrificed.

When Freder comes to, he immediately goes to his father’s office to share what he had seen. He tells his friend Josaphat (played by Theodor Loos, who is the assistant of his father) about what happened but because Josaphat was unaware of the news, he begins to worry and Joh Fredersen admonishes him for not knowing about what happened at the factory and having to learn from his son.

Then we see Grot (played by Heinrich George), the guardian of the heart machine and oversees the workers, come into the office and show Joh Fredersen diagrams that came from the pockets of those who died at the factory. Again, Fredersen is upset that he had to learn from another person and not Josaphat about these diagrams and fires him. Josaphat is now in shock because that means that without being in management, he is now forced to become a regular employee and must live and work in the underground.

Freder is angered that his father had done this but its too late. Freder runs after Josaphat and gives him a job in order to save Josaphat from working underground. But Freder wants to know how the life of those in the underground truly is and is willing to swap places with someone. As for his father, Joh Fredersen doesn’t trust his son now that he is venturing out to the underground and hires the Thin Man (played by Fritz Rap) to watch over his son.

As Freder goes underground, he manages to swap places with another worker named Georgy (played by Erwin Biswanger) and by working his job, learns of how torturous the work hours and work is for an employee working down below and can’t believe his father had subjected these workers to exhaustive and difficult work. Meanwhile, on the first day of the job, some of the workers have encouraged Freder to join them in the underground tunnels for a secret meeting.

As for Joh Fredersen, he goes to the Metropolis inventor, C.A. Rotwang to look at these diagrams found in the dead employees pockets. We learn that Rotwang and Fredersen are rivals who were in love with a woman named Hel. Hel died giving birth to Freder and Rotwang despises Joh. But Rotwang has been hard at work in trying to create a robot in the image of Hel in which he shows to Fredersen. Also, Rotwang finds out the diagrams are actually maps to the underground and thus he and Joh Fredersen go down the underground in a hidden entrance to spy on the workers.

We learn than the workers have been going to secret meetings that are led by the woman that Freder had seen in the garden. Her name is Maria (played by Brigitte Helm) and she tries to fight for the worker’s dignity and tells them that she awaits the mediator who is supposedly going to bring together the workers and the management. When all the workers leave, Freder meets with Maria and immediately they fall in love. Maria realizes that Freder is the mediator.

Joh Fredersen gives Rotwang an order to use the robot he made and make her in the image of this woman Maria to destroy those workers who are following her and sure enough, Rotwang kidnaps Maria and immediately creates the robot in her image. Now an evil Maria (“the robot”) is out and causing havoc, while Rotwang keeps the real Maria locked up.

Rotwang, who despises Joh Fredersen, programs evil Maria to not only destroy the workers’ confident in Maria but he wants the robot Maria to command the workers to destroy the entire city.

As for Freder, he must find the real Maria and hopefully stop the madness that Rotwang had unleashed on the city.

VIDEO:

“Giorgio Moroder presents Metropolis” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1).  It’s important to remember that the picture quality is not to be compared to the 2010 Blu-ray release, nor should it be compared to the 2001 DVD restoration.  If anything, what we have is the color-tinted version of “Metropolis” from 1984 mastered from an archival 35mm print.

With that being said, despite the film being shorter than the 2010 release, the picture quality for the film is very good considering its age.  According to Moroder, “Kino Lorber have created a new digital transfer, from one of the few existing prints, in order to present ‘Metropolis’ to you as it was seen in 1984.”

So, with that being said, comparing this Blu-ray release with the 2010 release is like comparing apples and oranges, both may be fruit but they are still different.  The 2010 release of “Metropolis” was remastered and restored extensively, newer found footage, newer music was included and the duration is now 149 minutes.

Back then, Moroder’s 82-minute version was possibly the best film at the time to actually make “Metropolis” comprehensive for viewers as the previous restoration tried to incorporate so many newer footage (and possibly cut footage) that the film was not too easy to follow.

So, with Moroder’s version, he made quite a few edits to accompany the ’80s music but most importantly, to make the film understandable for viewers.

While doing his research for “Metropolis” for restoration, Moroder found an Australian print that was color-tinted and when watching a silent film using color, Moroder was inspired to do the same.  So, Moroder added about 4-5 minutes more of color via Rotoscope to his version of the film.

Moroder’s version features  brownish/orange or blue sequences, certain scenes may be in black and white but feature a single color but for the most part, for a 1984 film, the picture quality was much better than I was expecting.

I was expecting some softness but for the most part, the film looks very good.  Bare in mind, even music videos including MTV experimented with color tinting during that time, as it was retro-cool in some way or form, back in the early ’80s.

Another difference with Moroder’s version compared to other versions of “Metropolis” is that Moroder eliminated all title cards and added subtitles.

AUDIO:

“Giorgio Moroder presents Metropolis” is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 stereo.  According to Giorgio Moroder, the musical score for this film was one of the first uses of digital recorded music at the time.

For those who loved the ’80s soundtrack back then, will definitely love how this film sounds on Blu-ray via HD.  The musical tracks are absolutely crystal clear through the front channels and the music is also used through the surround channels.  For example, when Freder is kept in Rotwang’s home and is trying to escape, a good use of percussion to showcase Freder banging on the walls or doors.   But for the most part, the music soundtrack sounds incredible and no sign of pops, hiss or clicks.

Personally, I’m so used to the 2010 soundtrack by Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra of Berlin, conducted by Frank Strobel which for me was absolutely fantastic.  Despite the fact that I grew up in the ’80s and enjoyed the artists that were featured, hearing the music today is not the same. Granted, I was not expecting Billy Squier’s “The Stroke”, Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend” or Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield”, but suffice to say, hearing the Moroder version of “Metropolis” was rather an interesting experience, but I’m sure hearing the music again for many others viewers would be a nostalgic experience.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Giorgio Moroder presents Metropolis” comes with the following special features:

  • The Fading Image – (17:50) A rare 1984 documentary about the preservation of the film and the restoration and scoring of “Metropolis”.
  • Gallery – Featuring the promotional art for Moroder’s “Metropolis”.
  • Trailer – The original theatrical trailer to Moroder’s “Metropolis” and for “The Complete Metropolis”.

EXTRAS:

“Giorgio Moroder presents Metropolis” comes with a slipcase and a sheet which includes a personal message from Giorgio Moroder.

With the release of “Giorgio Moroder presents Metropolis”, I’m not going to go so much into the actual film, because I have praised and raved about it in my review of Kino’s 2010 “Complete Metropolis” Blu-ray release and the 2002 Restored Authorized “Metropolis” DVD release.

But what I will discuss in my review is how many people have been waiting for this release and who it may be for.

Before the 2010 Blu-ray release, I had the opportunity to ask many silent film fans about the Moroder version and despite knowing how purists were horrified by hearing contemporary music with the film, its important to note that many before that, watched the film with no music whatsoever.  And those who did watch this film, watched it in the theater at a young age or when they were in high school or college.

For one to understand Moroder’s involvement at the time, people knew his music from “Flashdance” (1983) for “Flashdance…What a Feeling” by Irene Cara, a significant song in 1983 (the #1 Billboard Hot 100 hit, the #3 song of the year, Academy Award and Golden Globe winner for “Best Original Song” and placed #26 in Billboard’s “All Time Top 100”.  The year that “Metropolis” came out, he wrote the theme song for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Moroder also won an Academy Award for “Best Original Score” for “Midnight Express” in 1976 and even after “Metropolis” was released, he would win another Academy Award for “Take My Breath Away” for the 1986 film “Top Gun”.  And even today, people still love Moroder’s music as people have heard his “Scarface” and “From Here to Eternity” and “Chase” music on the “Grand Theft Auto” video games.

Needless to say, Giorgio Moroder is a significant name in American cinema and pop culture for his music.  So, to have someone of his caliber, working on a personal project because of his passion for Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” was quite intriguing.  And it was a three year effort for him to restore and score this film but also bring in a few of the top talents at that time.  From QUEEN vocalist Freddie Mercury, Pat Benatar, Adam Ant, Bonnie Tyler, Loverboy, Billy Squier and a few others, that’s a pretty solid lineup for musical talent in 1984.

And as I questioned silent film fans back in 2010 about the Moroder version of “Metropolis”, these fans who did see the film back in 1984 talked about how they would love to see the film released on DVD or Blu-ray.  But a few of them doubt it would ever happen, especially when most people were buzzed about the release of “The Complete Metropolis”.

But interesting enough, Kino must have listened to these fans because a year after the Blu-ray and DVD release of “The Complete Metropolis”, here we are with a Blu-ray release of “Giorgio Moroder presents Metropolis”.

Sure, the film is 82-minutes long but considering before 2010, fans have always known that “Metropolis” is a film that many people saw different versions of.  Different cuts and obviously storyline plots that were missing, especially about the worker which Freder replaces and the Thin Man who was sent by Freder’s father to spy on him or the storyline about Josaphat helping out Freder and fighting against the Thin Man.  These were finally included in the 2010 Blu-ray release but back then, there were so many cuts and storyline plots that made no sense that fans could only wonder what was missing.

What Moroder did for this film was to eliminate all that guest work.  To keep the story focused on Freder, Maria, Joh Federsen and Rotwang.  To keep things focused on the key plots.

And yes, this Moroder version features the film via color-tinting but that was big in the ’80s.  Colorization of black and white films, colorization on MTV and thus color-tinting for a silent film, to make it hip for a young audience. But most of all, keeping things hip by the use of its pop rock soundtrack.

As mentioned, it was an interesting experience to watch this film with the ’80s soundtrack and I’m so used to the orchestral version used in the 2010 Blu-ray release that I’m just not used to watching the film with ’80s music, but because it may have not worked for me, the audience that are nostalgic for this film, it may work for them as they were the ones who really appreciated the film. But I do feel the ’80s soundtrack dates the film, considering this film was made in 1927, the soundtrack makes it feel like an early ’80s film because of its synth musical soundtrack.

And the fact that these fans who grew up with the film can watch this film in HD but also hear and enjoy this soundtrack in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, that’s a major plus!  In fact, the lossless soundtrack sound amazingly clear on Blu-ray!  I was impressed!

The Blu-ray release comes with a rare 1984 documentary which further explains the restoration and scoring of the film but I think what will matter most to the fans of the Moroder version is the fact that they are getting a video release and for it to be on Blu-ray and in HD is magnificent.

“Giorgio Moroder Presents Metropolis” is the third version of “Metropolis” from Kino and fans have two choices on Blu-ray depending on their taste.  While hardcore “Metropolis” fans will probably buy it regardless, if you had to buy one, “The Complete Metropolis” is still the version to buy!

And while this version may not be for everyone, for those who grew up watching this film may find it to be a welcomed, nostalgic addition to their cinema collection.

So, for those who are nostalgic and loved this 1984 version of “Metropolis”, its release on Blu-ray is great news for fans because now they can own the definitive version of  Moroder’s “Metropolis” on Blu-ray!






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