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DVD Review

DVD cover

Metropolis (1927)
Giorgio Moroder's Retro 1984 Edition


Starring: Alfred Abel, Brigitte Helm, Gustav Fröhlich and Rudolf Klein-Rogge
RRP: £20.42
Certificate: PG
Available 23 July 2012

Freder, is the carefree son of Metropolis’s master, Joh Fredersen, living a hedonistic lifestyle. His pleasures are interrupted one day when Maria turns up with a collection of filthy and poorly fed children. The condition of the children does not disturb him, but something about Maria catches his imagination and he sets off to find her again. His journey takes him to the caverns below Metropolis, the dwelling place of the workers who endlessly toil at the massive machines which provides the city with its power. Sneaking down to a workers meeting he witnesses Maria talking about a time to come when a mediator will appear to bridge the gap between hand and heart. Her message of peace and hope is shattered when she is kidnapped (by the mad scientist, Rotwang) and a robot, bent on destruction, replaces her...

Metropolis (1927 - 1 hr, 22 min, 59 sec) is a dystopian science fiction film directed by Fritz Lang (Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922), M (1931), The Big Heat (1953)). The story was adapted from an original novel by his wife Thea von Harbou, the couple drew their inspiration after visiting New York, for the first time, and witnessing the skyscrapers.

Metropolis is as famous for its visual look, drawing heavily on German expressionism, as it is for the butchering it got when released, especially in the United States, meaning that no complete version of the film exists. As such it has become one of the holy grails of film historians and restorers. Like many, Giorgio Moroder, better known as an Italian composer of film and pop music (American Gigolo (1980), Cat People (1982), Metropolis (1984)), had a desire to gather together all the surviving fragments of the film to create the longest, most complete version. Luckily unlike many, Moroder had the money to undertake such a project.

Having gathered together what was left of the film, he rotoscoped the movie, to give it some colour and added English subtitles, he then went further by creating an original contemporary score which featured modern artists like Freddie Mercury, Adam Ant, Pat Benatar, Bonnie Tyler, Jon Anderson, Cycle V, Loverboy, Billy and Squier.

It is difficult to understate the influence the iconic visuals of the film continue to have, even today. CP30 would not have existed as he did if not for Rotwang’s robot, even some of the buildings crop up on film, most notably Bladerunner (1982).

The film, although now considered a masterpiece, will look a little odd to a modern audience. First the movie looks like it’s being overcrankeed, meaning that no one runs anywhere, the extra speed looks like the characters are trying to imitate The Flash.

Secondly, this was created in the earliest period of film making and many, if not all, actors would have been drawn from the stage. The down side of this is that they continue to project as if they were trying to emote to the people at the back of the circle. The emotions are overly large as are many of their gestures.

Lastly, as the language of film developed so did camera techniques. Metropolis has an almost completely static camera for much of the film - not something you might notice straight away, but you will be aware that there is something unperceivably wrong with how you are viewing the film. These, though are the products of when the film was made, rather than any criticism of the movie itself.

Gustav Fröhlich (Freder) is everything you would expect from a wealthy and pointless existence. Initially he spends a great deal of his time running around feeling distressed, at the workers conditions, at his inability to get, or even rescue, the girl and is plagued with visions of the seven deadly sins. Through his tribulations he finally grows a backbone in time to save Maria from the mad Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), who originally created the robot to resurrect his dead love, Hel.

The real star of the show is Brigitte Helm as Maria who is able to turn in a performance as sweet as Mary Pickford and as mad as a March hare. In the scene where she is the robot creating an extremely debauched dance she is able to project both desirous sexuality as well as barely repressed threat.

The film is in a combination of sepia and rotoscoped colour with an aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The audio has options for either the original eighties stereo mix or the new 5.1 DD surround sound. The disc has but a single extra, The Fading Image (17 min, 56 sec) which has Moroder discussing the restoration.

I have to admit to a bit of confusion here as Eureka has previously released this as a two disc DVD with more extras and with copies of the films with both the original and Moroder's score. The extra 5.1 is an added bonus, but why not just jazz up the last release with this. Maybe some of the rights have lapsed. With the last version out of print then this is your only option if you want the Moroder restoration.

The film's importance means that you can neither consider yourself a connoisseur of film or a sci-fi geek if you don’t own a copy of Metropolis.


Charles Packer

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