on November 22, 2003
I won't repeat what others have already said about the historical significance of this film or its contents. I do want to share my opinions about the Kino restoration vs the Moroder version.
I already owned the Moroder version when I purchased the Kino restoration on DVD. Like many others, I was amazed at the incredible visual clarity of the Kino restoration when compared to the Moroder version, as others have said it looks like it was shot yesterday, not 70+ years ago. Also, seeing it with a performance of the original score provided a different experience.
Some of the other differences are:
1. The Kino version contains some footage missing from the Moroder version, but not a lot more. The scene that stands out most for me is the first scene in Frederson's office - we gain a better understanding of how hard he works and how much he expects from those below him, so the firing of Josephat and Josaphat's reaction makes more sense than it does in the Moroder version. Another scene that is significantly different is the first meeting between Frederson and Rotwang - their rivalry is portrayed in greater depth in the Kino restoration, although it is also perfectly clear in the Moroder version.
2. Many 'purists' have complained about the music in the Moroder version. I disagree, I think that the music and the lyrics greatly enhance the emotional impact of the Moroder version. Don't misunderstand, I think the original orchestral score as presented in the Kino version is great, but words and music together are far more powerful than either alone.
3. The story is a bit different. Personally, I think that the story as presented in the Moroder version makes more sense, why would Frederson want his workers to revolt? But this is his motivation for having Rotwang create the machine-man in the Kino restoration.
4. Many 'purists' complain about the colorization in the Moroder version. I admit, there were places where I found it a bit jarring, but overall I think it adds to the emotional tone of the film. Still, I think the Kino restoration is valuable for what it is, a restoration.
The point I am trying to make is this. The Kino restoration is an incredible piece of work that will be of great value to all who wish to experience as much of the original film as is possible today. But, in my opinion the Moroder version, with its modern lyrical score is also of great value, maybe not as much in a historical context but as a separate film experience. Think of the Moroder version as a new work based on an old work, not as a restoration.
My recommendation? See them both, but see the Moroder version first, the Kino version second. Otherwise, you'll be distracted by the degraded video quality in the Moroder version and you'll miss the incredible soundtrack. Someday when home computers become more powerful and video production software is cheaper and easier to use I'll probably dub the Moroder soundtrack to the Kino video and have the best of both worlds. Until then, the Moroder video isn't that bad, it is about what you would expect from a 70+ year old silent film, but the Kino video, in comparison, is incredible.
And, by the way, the Japanese animated film produced a couple of years ago bears only the most superficial resemblance to the original, I was seriously disappointed.
on November 12, 2003
The saving grace of this version is that it attempts to restore the original vision of Fritz Lang. However, no version will ever be complete since so much of "Metropolis" ended up as scraps on the studio floor with numerous outtakes that will never see the light of day. A good read is Thomas Elsaesser's book on the movie, published by BFI Film Classics.
What one marvels at is Lang's pyrotechnics, which were pretty amazing at the time. The story itself is a rather poor one with over-the-top acting, which was the norm in the age of silent movies. One had to try to connote as much as he could with facial expressions and body language. It is really hard to figure out what all is going on in this movie. But, it has been praised over the years for prophesizing the rise of Hitler.
The movie is ostensibly about a totalitarian state run by an industrialist, John Fredersen, who lives high atop a world built upon layers of society. His son, chasing after a lovely vixen, is made privy to this "underworld" and vows to destroy the great engine of this society, Moloch. But, first he has to get past the evil scientist, Rothwang, who has made his love interest into a robot, which will supposedly placate the masses, which seem ready to revolt. But, Lang didn't seem in control of his vision, as it spins violently out of control leaving as many questions as it does answers.
In its full-length version it is rather boring, and I found myself fast-forwarding through parts which seemed excrutiatingly long-winded. Kind of like reading an Ayn Rand novel. But, the cinematic vision of this futureworld is fantastic, drawing on some of the currents in Modern architecture at the time. Lang's ideas seem to stem more from the rise of Socialism in Europe, than it did the rise of Fascism in Germany. This seemed to be his greatest fear, although he knew to get out of town when Hitler came to power. He politely refusing the Furer's offer to be the chief filmmaker of the Third Reich, and took the next ship to America, where he wasted away his remaining years in Hollywood.
on October 7, 2003
Metropolis is a film which is famous for its images: the titanic city, the freaky robot, the columns of workers marching to their machines. It's no wonder, really--the picture cost a whopping 5.3 million marks, was produced by one of the most technically innovative film studios in the world (Germany's Ufa), and was filmed by one of the most influential directors in all of film history, namely Fritz Lang.
So Metropolis is a great film, right? Well, almost. Despite its action and eye-popping visuals, Metropolis is still a political fable which is so naive, so patronizing and shallow, that anyone attempting to take the plot seriously is either going to become apathetic or irritated. Moreover, the cutting of the film from 4,189 meters to 3,421--only those who were present for the first run in Berlin saw the entire film--has hobbled Lang's ordinarily impeccable storytelling.
Nevertheless, the film is a must-see for film students, and it can now even be recommended to the interested casual viewer. The reconstruction in Kino's edition resuscitates a story which was often downright confusing in its previous incarnations, and finally you can actually see what is going on. Anyone who has suffered through one of the many inferior versions of the movie will be ecstatic, and if you haven't seen Metropolis before, forget what you think you know about silent films!
Overall the Kino on Video edition is very well done, with a clean picture (taking into consideration that these images were made 77 years ago) and a great documentary; this should become the definitive edition. The only criticism is that the commentary--or at least the portion that I had the patience to sit through--is utterly devoid of content. Apparently all the good material was used in the documentary, and so the commentary limits itself to being observations about of what is happening on the screen.
The only other thing to mention here is that one reviewer complained that the film was not shown at the correct speed because it occasionally appeared as if it were still speeded up. He then went on to say that he happened to know that certain scenes were actually undercranked for emphasis, apparently thinking that this meant that they would go slower than normal in the finished film. Just the opposite: when film was undercranked (fewer film exposures per second) things appear to go FASTER than normal when screened. So the bits where a character seems to run at inhuman speed across the screen were done on purpose. No need to blame the restorers there.
Fans of Metropolis who want to see Fritz Lang at his best should check out M and Dr. Mabuse the Gambler.
on June 17, 2003
Here it is! The restored Authorized Version with the original 1927 orchestral score. I have only seen bits and pieces of "Metropolis" on many film montages and documentaries. Some of the clips have been used to define "heaven" or a "futuristic city". Now for the first time you can see the film in all that was found and able to restore. For this generation, you might recall seeing some scenes in the intro for the Fred Savage tv series "Working" (1997-1999). I am not able to give this film a fair review because I do not favor silent films, especially of German origin. But I can respect how they can restore and preserve film these days. Would you believe this 1927 film actually has a scene where a person talks on the phone and can see the other person on screen? (a video phone?) There is Audio Commentary by Film Historian Enno Patalas, an 8-minute featurette on the restoration of badly needed scenes and film. The Metropolis case is a 43-minute documentary behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film, including special effects. Oh, by the way, there is no Superman in this Metropolis. (Ha-Ha)
on June 11, 2003
The original "Metropolis" as conceived by Fritz Lang in 1926 is, regrettably, lost. The wholesale gutting by Channing Pollock of the original in the US and the UFA (in Germany) hatchet job of 1927 have ensured that the most ambitious German film of the 1920s (and the most expensive) is lost. The Kino version is the most comprehensive reconstruction possible with existing resources, without resort to the use of stills as Giorgio Moroder did in his mid 1980s iteration. Kino is to be congratulated in reviving the original score and including a feature of rare stills and explanatory notes to the DVD.
A couple of observations first, the quality of the film is excellent thanks to an assiduous remastering. Sound is good for the score (it is a silent movie after all), titles are the originals as printed, and the whole effort has been to recreate authentically a truncated masterpiece. I've seen a number of different prints of the film over the last twenty years, but the quality of this presentation is unbeaten. The only negatives are the scanty biographies of the principals, which any devotee would dismiss as insubstantial, and the failure to use some of the stills Moroder used back in 1986. There is at least one tracking shot in the Moroder colourised version, of the Hel sculpture (and that is spelt "Hel"), which has been left out of the Kino disk.It can be argued that using stills would only detract from the objective of re-creating as fully as possible the "moving picture" of Metropolis. A more fulsome extract of the original plot at the end would have been appreciated. There are a number of out of print books (by Ace SF and Lorrimer Classic Film Scripts) including the screenplay and the novelisation which could have been used for an explanatory synopsis.
These are minor misgivings, the disk recaptures the wonder of the original as much as possible. It is unlikely that any devotee could acquire a better record of this relic of the silent era. I can heartily recommend it, and hope all viewers experience the enjoyment I felt as a teenager going to a midnight showing in a seedy part of town of the renowned "Metropolis"...
on February 25, 2003
This DVD restored version is the best version of this classic movie that this reviewer has seen. It does has its good and not so good points, but what doesn't?
Firstly the picture transfer and restoration can be considered a success. I compared this version to the Laserdisc Moroder(spelling?) version. My conclusions are that the reduction in the frame rate speed and the inclusion of additional footage make this DVD preferrable. Whether or not the film was shown with color tints, I definitely think that this film works better with the tinting, which adds to the the effect of having two separate worlds - that of the workers and that of the elite who inhabit the surface.
The frame speed as played back here has been controversal. I tried several experiments using the variable playback speed. At 20 frames per second the action is still not true to life. One has to get to .65X to make it so. This speed would be the most preferrable. The audio, however, does suffer at these reduced speeds.
The audio is a disappointment. The score adds little value to this film. I felt myself not being drawn in emotionally as much as with the Moroder version. In this case - and I may be in the minority here - I think that a modern (read pop or rock)score, in particular the Moroder score works much better than the classical score, after all it is a futuristic vision we are being shown. Also, Moroder's use of silence and sound effects are much more effective and at times stunning.
The most useless part of this new release is the commentary. Granted I did not hear it all but what I heard was someone describing what they thought the religious symbolism was during a scene. This was, in my opinion, not appropriate. This is only someone's impression or opinion. Commentary on *how* the film was made or what happened during the shot is what should be the commentary subject.
I'm glad I bought this for the study but I'm keeping my Moroder version for the impact.
on April 11, 2003
A small but rising chorus of concerned voices in the U.S. suggest that in an age when we are eagerly surrendering our freedom for the illusion of more security, Big Brother may not be so far off.
1984, Michael Radford's adaptation of George Orwell's depressing premonition stars John Hurt and Suzanna Hamilton as lovers who must keep their affair a secret. Richard Burton, in his final role, is a government agent who exposes Hurt to the concept of resistance.
Oceania is a country that outlaws sex, fabricates reality and reconstructs history so it can suppress the masses, who are brainwashed via TV.
Sound familiar? Orwell was off a little on his dates, but some of his ideas have been boldly mirrored ... An almost great film that deserves to be reconsidered because of it's timely and relevant ideas.
on February 18, 2003
Per a lengthy review at DVD Talk, this DVD is at 24 fps because that apparently is how the movie was originally shown in the 1920s -- sometimes at 25 or 26 fps, likely because the movie was so long that the distributors feared they'd lose people, so they sped up the film to shorten the viewing time. The original score was made to go with the movie at 24 fps. So, this IS the original Metropolis -- at least as far as the first theatergoers saw it. But, as the DVD Talk reviewer notes, the movie definitely should be viewed at 20 fps. But this is the best we have for now, until someone spends the $$ to rescore it and re-DVD it at 20 fps. Any volunteers?
on January 10, 2003
Despite what H.G. Wells, (a favorite author), writes about this film by Fritz Lang, (a favorite director), and understanding his disgruntled feelings, it is a masterwork. When one views Metropolis, one isn't looking at a sad-face clown portrait, but at a Renoir or Dali. This film is beautiful, with a poignant look at how society works. The robot Maria is indeed one of the most alluring robots ever to grace a film.
The story is well done, and the filming superb. The acting, as with most silent films, is very expressive. Keeping this in mind, the actors do an excellent job. In particular Joh Fredersen, the master of Metropolis is fantastic and plays his concern for his son against his despotic abuse of the workers. Thea Von Harbou, the author of the original book, unfortunately joined the Nazi party later on. In viewing Metropolis the film, it is obvious that Nazism was on the extreme opposite of its intention.
This DVD print is exceedingly disappointing, with many scenes washed out beyond recognition. Despite some fun extras and nice packaging, it just doesn't make up for the poor quality print. Fortunately, it has recently been restored and made available, which is a costlier version, but well worth the money. If you'd prefer to not spend the money, this edition will serve you fine. The film I give 5 stars, but this edition I give 1 star, which averages to a three overall, but I'll give the film another star, because it's great anyway, and that makes 4 stars.
on December 13, 2000
When looking for a copy of Metropolis, there are many who would tell you one version is better than the other. By and large, they will all have powerful arguments to make about how Helm is not profiled right in this shot or how this particular scene is actually 3 seconds longer in version "X" released in 1972.
All entitled to an opinion.
This particular version may not be the best, but it *does* give the viewer an excellent experience for the money.
No, this disc is not loaded with poster art or running commentary, but it does present an excellent cut of the film by nearly any standard.
The DVD quality is good, but the print seems to be a bit used.
Let's face it, you could do much worse than this edition. If you are a hardcore fan of Fritz Lang, there are better to be had. But for a guy like me who simply enjoys the film, the style, the story, this was an wonderful disc.
Turn it on, turn all the lights off, turn down the soundtrack, and enjoy the movie.