Metropolis

( 23 )

Overview

The biggest-budgeted movie ever produced at Germany's UFA, Fritz Lang's gargantuan Metropolis consumed resources that would have yielded upwards of 20 conventional features, more than half the studio's entire annual production budget. And if it didn't make a profit at the time -- indeed, it nearly bankrupted the studio -- the film added an indelible array of images and ideas to cinema, and has endured across the many decades since its release. Metropolis had many sources of inspiration, including a novel by the ...
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Overview

The biggest-budgeted movie ever produced at Germany's UFA, Fritz Lang's gargantuan Metropolis consumed resources that would have yielded upwards of 20 conventional features, more than half the studio's entire annual production budget. And if it didn't make a profit at the time -- indeed, it nearly bankrupted the studio -- the film added an indelible array of images and ideas to cinema, and has endured across the many decades since its release. Metropolis had many sources of inspiration, including a novel by the director's wife, Thea von Harbou -- who drew on numerous existing science fiction and speculative fiction sources -- and Lang's own reaction to seeing the Manhattan skyline at night for the very first time. There are some obvious debts to H.G. Wells who felt it "the silliest of films", but the array of ideas and images can truly be credited to Lang and von Harbou. In the somewhat distant future some editions say the year 2000, others place it in 2026, and, still others -- including the original Paramount U.S. release -- in 3000 A.D. the city of Metropolis, with its huge towers and vast wealth, is a playground to a ruling class living in luxury and decadence. They, and the city, are sustained by a much larger population of workers who labor as virtual slaves in the machine halls, moving from their miserable, tenement-like homes to their grim, back-breaking ten-hour shifts and back again. The hero, Freder Gustav Froehlich -- the son of Joh Fredersen Alfred Abel, the master of Metropolis -- is oblivious to the plight of the workers, or any aspect of their lives, until one day when a a beautiful subterranean dweller named Maria Brigitte Helm visits the Eternal Gardens, where he spends his time cavorting with various ladies, with a small group of children from the workers' city far below. They are sad, hungry, and wretched looking, and he is haunted by their needy eyes -- something Freder has never seen or known among the elite of the city -- and by this strange and beautiful woman who tells all who hear her, workers' children and ruler's offspring, that they are all brothers. He follows her back down to the depths of the city and witnesses a horrible accident and explosion in the machine halls where the men toil in misery. Haunted by what he has seen, he tries to confront his father, only to find that the man he loves and respects believes that it is right for the workers to live the way they do, while he and his elite frolic in luxury. Freder decides to do something about it, but he must first learn more, and also locate Maria. With help from Josaphat Theodor Loos, Fredersen's recently dismissed office manager, he goes below again and takes over the job of one of the workers, in order to find Maria. Meanwhile, Fredersen is concerned about the rumblings of unrest among the workers, and his son's sudden interest in their plight; he assigns "Slim" Fritz Rasp, his investigator, to follow Freder. Meanwhile, he goes for advice to an old acquaintance, the inventor C.A. Rotwang Rudolf Klein-Rogge. Rotwang once was a rival to Fredersen for the love of the woman Hel, who married Fredersen and died bearing his son, Freder. Rotwang still feels the loss, but he is a cunning and practical man, and is willing to help his old "friend," but not before showing off his latest creation -- a robot that he has modeled in the image of his beloved Hel, that he may have her again. Rotwang answers Fredersen's question by taking him to the catacombs below the modern city, where they see Maria preaching the gospel and counseling patience, in the hope that a "Mediator" -- who will be able to reconcile the "head" and "hands" of society i.e. the ruling and working classes -- will come among them. Fredersen will hear none of it, and sees the need to break the workers' resistance and destroy Maria's influence among them. He arranges with Rotwang to make his robot creation into a duplicate Maria which requires his kidnapping her, and to send her out among the workers to incite them to violence, so that Fredersen can use force against them. But he doesn't reckon with Rotwang, who despises Fredersen and his ruling class, and has commanded the robot to obey his orders and follow a plan that will destroy the city, both above and below ground. Fredersen also doesn't reckon with his own son Freder, who not only believes in what Maria is preaching but is beginning to see himself as the "Mediator," and is right in the midst of the conflagration when the workers' uprising starts. Soon, fires and floods spread, threatening to doom the children of the workers, abandoned in their parents' frenzied attack on the machines, and the city of Metropolis faces an impending disaster of biblical proportions. Meanwhile, the now-mad Rotwang tries to reclaim his lost Hel, and Maria and her evil robot twin are both stalked by crowds of workers driven to a murderous rage. When it was premiered in Germany in January 1927, Metropolis ran 153 minutes when projected at 24 frames per second. That complete version was heavily cut for release in America, removing a quarter of the movie -- this included the personal conflict between Fredersen and Rotwang; a subplot involving double-dealing, espionage, and the mysterious "Slim"; a section taking place in the "red-light" district of the city; a good deal of the symbolism in the movie's original dialogue; and a large chunk of the chase at the end. In Germany in the spring of 1927, an edited version modeled roughly on the American edition, though running slightly longer, was prepared and released, and that became the "standard" version of the movie, for both domestic i.e. German distribution and export. In subsequent years, other editions were circulated and still others were found deposited in various archives; in a surprising number of instances -- including that of a source stored at the Museum of Modern Art in New York -- there were tiny fragments to be found of the lost, longer version of Metropolis. The movie's reputation was further compromised with the lapsing of its American copyright in 1953, after which countless copies and duplicates, in every format from 8 mm to 35 mm and, later, VHS tape and DVD came to be distributed in the U.S. by anyone who could lay their hands on a print, of whatever quality and with whatever music track they chose or didn't choose to put on it. While several versions of the movie from these sources -- each with plot elements missing -- circulated, various restorations of the movie were attempted over the decades by responsible parties, as well. The BBC did a very effective one in the mid-'70s that was a hit on public television in America, utilizing an electronic music track that sometimes mimicked some of the industrial images on the screen. Also, there was the Giorgio Moroder version from 1984, heavily tinted and re-edited, with a rock score grafted onto it, which introduced the movie to a whole new generation of fans and turned it into a modern pop-culture fixture. The copyright was re-established in 1998 by the F.W. Murnau Foundation, and a restoration in 2002 brought the movie back to a 127 minute running time, in addition to utilizing a full orchestral score based on Gottfried Huppertz's original 1927 music. In 2008, it was reported that a significant part of the "lost" footage from the 1927 153-minute version of Metrpolis had been found in Argentina. The newest restoration of the complete Metropolis was on-going as of 2009, and a theatrical premiere was anticipated for 2010.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Dan Jardine
Set around the apocalyptic year of 2000, Metropolis has had a seminal influence on science fiction and futuristic movies as diverse as The Bride of Frankenstein, Blade Runner, and Dark City. Featuring literally a cast of thousands, Metropolis creates a reality so complex and artistically unified the viewer gets swept away to this future world. Director Fritz Lang's surreal and occasionally incomprehensible storyline is overwhelmed by a visually spectacular exercise in German expressionism. Master cinematographer Karl Freund fills the screen with an array of stylized shadows, oblique camera angles, geometric images, and nightmarish labyrinths. The film's dialectical theme may seem dated in these post-Marxist times, and its message that the head and the hand can do no good without the heart may seem a little romantic to more cynical ages, but the warnings about techno-demagoguery continue to have modern relevance. The actors give typical silent-film performances, full of exaggerated expressions and broad gestures, but they express their characters' fragile humanity despite these mannerisms. Rudolf Klein-Rogge's unforgettable work as the evil genius Rotwang became the template for all subsequent mad-scientist performances. Despite being a critical and popular disappointment on its initial release, the film eventually gained cult status and was rediscovered by critics and audiences alike. When it was re-released in the 1980s, some missing footage was restored and a synthesizer-heavy soundtrack by Giorgio Moroder was added, to much gnashing of critical teeth.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 2/19/2002
  • UPC: 089218331601
  • Original Release: 1927
  • Source: Alpha Video
  • Format: VHS

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Alfred Abel Joh Fredersen
Gustav Froehlich Freder
Rudolf Klein-Rogge Rotwang
Theodor Loos Josaphat/Joseph
Heinrich George Grot (Foreman)
Brigitte Helm Maria/Robot
Fritz Alberti Robot
Grete Berger Female Worker
Erwin Biswanger Georg, No. 11811
Max Dietze Working man
Erik Frey Female Worker
Heinrich Gotho Master of Ceremonies
Lisa Gray Female Worker
Georg John Worker
Margarete Lanner Woman in Car
Rose Lichtenstein Female Worker
Fritz Rasp Slim
Hans Leo Reich Mafinus
Arthur Reinhard Worker
Olaf Storm Jan
Erwin Vater Working man
Technical Credits
Fritz Lang Director, Screenwriter
Karl W. Freund Cinematographer
Thea von Harbou Screenwriter
Otto Hunte Art Director, Production Designer
Gottfried Huppertz Score Composer
Erich Kettelhut Art Director, Production Designer
Erich Pommer Producer
Günther Rittau Cinematographer
Eugen Schüfftan Special Effects
Karl Vollbrecht Art Director, Production Designer
Anne Willkom Costumes/Costume Designer
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 23 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(18)

4 Star

(2)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Great movie

    I was lucky enough to see this version of Metropolis on the big screen at a local theater a few months ago, and it immediately became one of my favorite movies of all time. The visual effects, while out-dated now, still had the effectiveness of more modern movies like The Matrix. If you see one silent film in your lifetime, make it this one.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Oh My !

    How could anyone give anything BUT a 5-star review for this movie ?!? Kino Video has restored this video to near-perfection and heaped many extras, as well. The DVD is well worth the price.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Great....

    Brigitte Helm is wonderful in this film, and the special effects are beyond their time. Fritz Lang did a great job with this political thriller. It's provocative and thought provoking. Definitely a must have for ANYONE who loves MOVIES period.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Wow

    This movies turned me on to silent films. They know how to make them back then.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    This is a terrible print!

    Metropolis is one of the defining moments of the 20th century. Beatifully shot, and choreographed. The visual effects set the standard and influences film makers even today. However, this wonderful film is done a disservice on this DVD. The screen is cropped at the top and left. It is so contrasty, that you can't see the faces or any of the elaborate and beatiful sets. Much of the impact of the coreography is lost. The music is nice, but it does not go with the picture. Were it not the only Metropolis on DVD I can find, I would have returned it. The print is very bad. I've seen better on VHS. Please tell me if you have found a good print on DVD!

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 27, 2012

    Metropolis - A great classic!

    I love this movie! A piece of early Science Fiction motion pictures! Fritz Lang's last silent movie is brilliant! The cast, and the special effects, are wonderful (especially th lovely Brigitte Helm)! There were moments of graininess in the film. But, don't let that take away the enjoyment of watching it! Do I recommend it? YES!

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  • Posted June 18, 2011

    Poor copy

    My DVD copy was terrible. Every other scene was streaked. I am not sure if the good scenes were the "missing 25 minutes" redone from 16mm or were the original. Very disappointing.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    a must own

    In 1927 my mother was 17 years old. Like most of the country at that time she would have been living a largely agrarian lifestyle, a countrified life, filled with cornpone and over-cooked green beans. Her simple cotton clothes would have smelled of some borax-like detergent and her nails would have been short and split from hard work around the farm. Had she made it to town to see this picture show on some muggy Saturday night in 1927 with my father, she would have stared agog at the screen as the phantasmagoric images swam past in futuristic splendor. For a brief hour and a half or so it would have lifted her away from the washboards and wringers and pump handles and udders and brooms and clotheslines. When she came out she would have shaken her head in disbelief and laughed with wonder that such a world could have been created. Imagine yourself in 1927 when you see this film and share the wonder of this, one of the very first films in (and the likely fertile progenitor of) the cinematic genre called science fiction. Its cost, they say, was over $200 millions in adjusted dollars – quite an extravagance for the time, two-thirds the cost of Titanic.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Silent sci-fi

    Definitely a must see for film buffs and sci-philes. The sets and costumes are confoundingly prophetic, as are the special effects. But, for all of the astonishingly advanced film techniques, one of the most crucial is missing, the sound.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Innovation to the fullest!!!!

    This movie is not only the greatest science fiction film of all time but in my opinion it is also the greatest silent film of all time. You can't explain the feeling this movie gives you, all you can say is this is something you need to see!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Masterpiece

    This is by far one of the most memorable movies ever made. Metropolis has influenced everything from "Citizen Cane" to "Blade Runner" to Japanese anime like, "Akira" & Osamu Tezuka/ Rintaro's anime remake of the same name even a Madonna's "Express Yourself" music video! Silent film or not, everyone must see this movie.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Insight to life.

    I have always been interest in this poster that hung above ,heads inside the seattle science center. My curiosity grew after finding out where this Icon was from. The 1920's, silent film era had become attractive .SO I rented metropolis in October 2003 with my son ,who is eight. he liked it,but thought it was very freaky .this was his first silent film .He loves sci.fi..Thou ,I did cover his eyes during the robot's seduction of man . This film was an insightful piece of art,entering the History of MAN'S seemingly constant demise. Frits Lang,thank you! for your vision of architectecture and design. That has, captured are minds,and Imaginations. Amplified Angel Sea Wash. {She still lives}.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    The First Classic Science Fiction Film

    I saw this version on the big screen ot my local art center. It is far more complete and compelling than the cheap DVD which I own. The restoration adds immensely to it the power of the film, and having the original score is a huge benefit. One can fault Lang on his particular vision of the future which owes much to Marx and Engels, but the power of the visuals takes you to this future. Silent film is a lost art and this is easily one of the ten greatest silents. Metropolis has influenced endless science fiction films, and many non-genre works as well. Watch it, and its' many decendents will leap into your brain. (I'm certain the lustful men watching the dancer scene inspired Tex Avery in Swing Shift Cinderella and Red Hot Ridinghood.)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    wow!

    This is one of those movies were your just like wow and then you fall asleep before the movie ends.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews