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The Complete Metropolis (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 6, 2010 by  



Magnificent!  Fritz Lang’s masterpiece “Metropolis” is now released in HD incorporating the newly found footage. “The Complete Metropolis” on Blu-ray is simply a must-own title for cinema fans.  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2010 Kino International Corp. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Complete Metropolis

FILM RELEASE: 1927

DURATION: 148 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Kino International

RATED: N/A

Release Date: November 16, 2010

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

Kino International is proud to announce the much-anticipated DVD and Blu-ray releases of the new restoration of Fritz Lang’s 1927 science fiction masterpiece METROPOLIS, now with 25 minutes of previously lost footage and the original Gottfried Huppertz score.

Only six minutes short of the film Fritz Lang premiered in January of 1927 (in Berlin), THE COMPLETE METROPOLIS was made possible due to an essentially complete 16mm dupe negative (struck decades ago, from a now-destroyed nitrate print) discovered by the curator of the Buenos Aires Museo del Cine in 2008.


One of the biggest announcements in cinema in 2008 was the discovering of a 16mm reduction of the original cut of Fritz Lang’s 1927 classic/sci-fi silent film “Metropolis”. Because of this news, many have waited in the highest anticipation of a complete “Metropolis” to be released theatrically and on Blu-ray and DVD.

And now, “The Complete Metropolis” is available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of KINO International.

The original 2001 restoration (which was released in 2002 on DVD from KINO) gave us the best representation of this classic film which has been shown in so many cuts and variations since its release back in 1927 but because only 124 minutes were available and quite a bit of missing footage, the best that Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung could do in the previous restoration was to use intertitles to describe certain scenes indicated in manuscripts or what was shown in still photographs.  That was the best version of the film and no complete version was ever thought to have exist.

As mentioned in July 2008, canisters of a 16mm reduction was found by Paula Felix-Didier, director of the museum Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires.  The company contacted a Germany film publication which then contacted  Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung and amazingly at first, they weren’t interested in checking it out because it was on 16mm but were literally shocked that a complete negative of the film was found.  Unfortunately, because of Nitrate decomposition, the original company in Buenos Aires that took care of the film didn’t have the budget to transfer the nitrate films to 35 mm, so they did transfer it to 16 mm.  And unfortunately, the negatives were in bad shape but the biggest positive for the company was that the complete film were on these negatives and the missing footage that was found can now be finally incorporated to a complete version of “Metropolis” 84-years since the film was released in theaters.

Although 210 minutes of the film were found, only 25 minutes of pertinent footage that were in good enough condition were incorporated to this new 2010 version.  And during the restoration, the Argentina negative actually provided a roadmap of how scenes were to be in order to follow closely of how it was meant to be seen since the film’s premiere back in 1927 (the previous road map was the heavily edited American version re-edited by Paramount) and most importantly, this restoration establishes more character development and scenes that involve the characters of Josaphat, The Thin Man and Georgy, as well as Joh Fredersen and C.A. Rotwang’s rivalry.

“Metropolis” was a sci-fi silent film 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:

“The Complete Metropolis” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1). And I know that for many people, their exposure to this Fritz Lang classic is through shoddy public domain copies and some who purchased KINO’s 2001 authorized restored version.  With that being said, having watched so many versions of this film, “The Complete Metropolis” is absolutely the best looking version of the film to date.

To see it on Blu-ray is quite amazing and I even saw details that I have never seen before.  From Josephat’s getting an earful from Joh Fredersen, you can see the sweat falling down his face.  With the women in the Eternal Gardens, to tell you the truth, I had no idea that the film did have nudity as now, seeing this film allows you to see details much clearly than ever before.  Especially in the caves underground and seeing the rocky detail to seeing the detail in actress Brigitte Helm’s eyes.  There is much more detail that I saw in this release that it’s quite impressive to watch this film in HD.

Blacks are nice and deep.  Contrast for the majority of the film is great and there is a good amount of grain as well.

As for the newer incorporated footage, once again, it’s important to note that this new extra footage does add to the storyline but most importantly, it was not in great shape to begin with.  Also, because it was reduced from a 35mm to a 16mm negative, resolution was lost and whatever scratches or dust that were on the original 35mm, was kept in the 16mm (permanently).  So, when you see the newer incorporated footage, you can tell which is the newer footage due to the reduction in picture quality and the various dust, scratches and degradation from that negative.  For those who want to know where the additional footage was included, you can download the information via PDF here (courtesy of KINO).

But with that being said, seeing this footage incorporated to this film makes a big difference to the overall plot and personally, to not have this footage for over 80-years and to watch “Metropolis” as it was mean to be seen is pretty awesome!

As for “Metropolis”, the film looks absolutely beautiful and one can’t help but be in awe of the special effects and how futuristic “Metropolis” looked, how clear the picture quality this film looks considering it being a nearly 80+ year-old film.  From the special effects to the costume design especially during Freder’s dream of the sacrificial deity to the dream of death and then seeing this metropolis with vehicles and planes circling around the city.  It’s just an amazing sight of what was created during that time period before computers and CG.

AUDIO & INTERTITLES:

This is where “The Complete Metropolis” shines as well.  Because of the newer incorporated footage, a new lossless soundtrack had to be created and thus a new recording of Gottfried Huppertz’s 1927 score is now presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.   The musical score by Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra of Berlin and conducted by Frank Strobel is absolutely fantastic.

The musical score definitely enhanced my enjoyment of the film (which is surprising since I enjoyed the film a lot) but the score really brought the sense of dire, especially when the film shows the tension between son and father, in some ways, it kind of reminded me of “Star Wars” in the sense when we hear Darth Vader’s theme and we know that darkness is nearby.  The same can be said with this score, we feel the sense of happiness when Freder and Maria are together, we know something is not right when The Thin Man’s theme starts to play but the score of “Metropolis” is just fantastic and how the score literally conveys the mood of the characters and the danger that take place throughout the film.

I loved the score for this film and typically, I would love to see additional soundtracks.  Originally, KINO did commission The Alloy Orchestra for a secondary score (the group performed it live at the TCM Film Festival) but read that under the conditions made by Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, only the one soundtrack could be included. For fans who wanted to hear the new score from The Alloy Orchestra score, you can purchase an MP3 CD from their website.

But despite there only being one musical score included, I don’t think anyone will be disappointed by this score from Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra of Berlin.  And to hear it in DTS-HD Master audio 5.1 is fantastic!

As for the intertitles, these are new intertitles used for the film.  Also, certain scenes such as Rotwang visiting Hel’s statue, the engraving on the stone, KINO presents translates those portions in subtitle format.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“The Complete Metropolis” comes with the following special features:

  • Voyage to Metropolis – (54:42) A documentary that features the discovery of the 2008 negative in Argentina and the making of “Metropolis” and how it did after it’s theatrical release and the various edits and restoration the film has gone through in the last 80-years.
  • Interview with Paula Felix-Didier – (9:31) – Paula Felix-Didier, curator of Museo del Cine in Buenos Ares talks about finding the missing footage, why the films were transferred to 16mm from 35mm nitrate and why they were not in good condition and more.
  • Trailer -(2:01) The 2010 re-release theatrical trailer.

EXTRAS:

“The Complete Metropolis” comes with a special slipcase (with a lenticular cover).  Also, included is an 8-page booklet on the restoration of “Metropolis”.

Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” is just incredible.  What is amazing is that this 84-year old film has literally caught the attention of cinema fans from various generations throughout several decades.

With each restoration, there is always something new to find in this film and literally, within these last 80+ years, we get closer and closer to the complete “Metropolis” and now, in 2010, what we have now is probably the final complete version of “Metropolis”.   If for some reason a negative exists of the film out there in complete format without nitrate degradation, I would be surprised but for now, this is the best we have and frankly, I’m not disappointed.

In my last review of “Metropolis” for the 2002 KINO DVD, I talked about how I wished we could have seen the storyline that revolved around Georgy and the Thin Man.  How we could have seen the confrontation between Joh and Rotwang and although we still don’t get the latter, we pretty much get nearly everything else.  And no matter what footage is missing, we still get enough to know what is going on as the main portions of the film are in tact and they still manage to awe us, to give us a first hand view of how ambitious Fritz Lang was when it came to the overall production, set design and what he wanted to get from the actors.  It’s a shame that people at that time just didn’t get the film but this early sci-fi film was indeed ahead of its time.  One of the final masterpieces of the Golden Period of German cinema, German Expressionism portrayed in magnificent fashion.

The cinematography as it captures humans grouped in unison, slaves being overworked but the way they are choreographed, the humans were used architecturally.  Their movements, their expressions and how everything flows together quite seamlessly.

The film does have its religious overtones combined with German expressionism to create a scenery of dreamy, dark situations but also a film that provides hope.   It’s easy to believe why this film cost way over budget in 1927.  Could you imagine the vast miniature and large sets that were built to create the look and feel of this huge city where the management live and then this underground worker’s city that seems dark and dismal.   With over 25,000 extras and such elaborate setups way before CGI and green screen, one can only be in awe of German Expressionism and Lang and Harbou at their very best.

And this film has had its share of dangers as children were in the middle of rising cold water, while actress Brigitte Helm during her robot lady scenes was put near hot flames.  We get the sense of dire straits and sure enough, Fritz Lang knew how to get the talent to react as if something terrible has happened.

In 2002, with the KINO Video release of “Metropolis – Restored Authorized Edition” was released, this DVD was the definitive version to own.  But yet, not Fritz Lang’s complete version.  Even with the new footage circulating at the film festivals, because of degradation, we are still a bit away from having a 100% complete copy of “Metropolis”.  But he fact is, the chances of getting 100% is probably slim to none but at least with this 2010 version, we are now closes to having the most complete version of the film ever.  We may not have the Joh and Rotwang fight on video but the Argentina negative still provided the roadmap to where scenes go and how the storyline was presented back in 1927 versus to the re-edited versions that appeared in the US and other countries.  This is as good as it gets and as a fan of “Metropolis”, I was quite pleased.

The restoration done on the film is absolutely amazing and picture quality looks on Blu-ray is just fantastic.  The music was spectacular (once again, what a wonderful soundtrack and to hear it in lossless audio).  And the documentary included is even more in-depth with video and photo footage not seen even on the 2002 DVD release.  This is a fantastic release and watching this film once again, it was a like a brand new experience on Blu-ray.

For those who have only seen public domain copies of this film or the older 2002 DVD release, just forget about those previous releases.  And watch “The Complete Metropolis” (on Blu-ray or DVD) and not only will you appreciate Fritz Lang’s masterpiece even more, you will agree that no other version can come close to this release. (note: I’m sure many of our European readers (or those who own an all-region player) will say that the Masters of Cinema Blu-ray and DVD release comes with a 56-page booklet and a commentary track and thus has more content and is the definitive version but its important to note that the MoC version is Region B and most people in the US do not own all-region players.  So, for Region A, the KINO International version is the definitive version to own).

“The Complete Metropolis” is a must-own Blu-ray release for those who truly appreciate cinema.  Highly recommended!

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