The Complete “Metropolis” at a theater near you

Scene from new footage of 'Metropolis'In July of 2008, I blogged about the discovery of an almost complete edition of Fritz Lang’s groundbreaking 1927 film “Metropolis” in a museum in Buenos Aires. The footage had just been authenticated by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau Foundation, holders of the rights to “Metropolis”, and restoration was still on a distant and hazy horizon.

Well that day has arrived, earlier than I expected. The movie is now complete with the 25 minutes of additional footage discovered in Argentina plus it’s been re-edited according to the Buenos Aires reels’ blueprint. (Before then there was no original Lang cut, just educated guesses of how he had edited the film.) Although the newly discovered footage is noticeably scratched up by a poor conversion to 16mm from the original 35mm nitrate done in the 70s, it adds a great deal to the movie we know.

Some of the newly inserted material consists of brief reaction shots, just a few seconds long, which establish or accentuate a character’s mood. But there are also several much longer scenes, including one lasting more than seven minutes, that restore subplots completely eliminated from the Paramount version.

For example, the “Thin Man,” who in the standard version appears to be a glorified butler to the city’s all-powerful founder, turns out instead to be a much more sinister figure, a combination of spy and detective. The founder’s personal assistant, who is fired in an early scene, also plays a greater role, helping the founder’s idealistic son navigate his way through the proletarian underworld.

The cumulative result is a version of “Metropolis” whose tone and focus have been changed. “It’s no longer a science-fiction film,” said Martin Koerber, a German film archivist and historian who supervised the latest restoration and the earlier one in 2001. “The balance of the story has been given back. It’s now a film that encompasses many genres, an epic about conflicts that are ages old. The science-fiction disguise is now very, very thin.”

You can read more details about the restoration on the website of Kino International, the theatrical distribution company releasing the complete “Metropolis”. The Kino site also has an awesome photo gallery of stills from the movie, plus behind the scenes shots, unspeakably badass production designs and original publicity posters.

If you’re in New York, you can go see it at the Film Forum until May 20th. It’s showing in select other theaters around the US the rest of the summer.

If you’re not lucky enough to live in or near one of those select theaters, you’ll have to wait until November for the DVD and Blu Ray release.

Metropolis poster, designed by Josef Bottlik, Berlin, 1927

14 thoughts on “The Complete “Metropolis” at a theater near you

  1. Great film. Although my first expirience with it was the night my father and I both had insomnia and turned on a classic movie channel. We narrated the whole thing in funny voice, completely at odds with the actual story line.

    1. 😆 Now that’s a constructive use of insomnia right there. This version restores the full original score too, so who knows what grand voiceovers it could inspire in you.

  2. Great news! I’ll definitly get this one.
    I have a Metropolis DVD where they also tell what’s missing. The entire deal of headshots with reactions isn’t that important for the story but you instantly fell that the two roles described above give the movie a much more complete feeling.

    1. I have that same DVD. It’s the restored authorized edition from 2003, no? They did a great job with the stills, but I can’t wait to see the cut scenes in all their glory.

      1. I don’t have the DVD at hand, but I do think it’s indeed the 2003 version, so you know which parts are missing then. Those scenes that will now be included will certainly make Metropolis even more grand than the 2003-version was.
        It’s rather difficult to find the DVD here so that’s why it took me so long to get my hands on the 2003-version, but what I saw was stunning. This is without a doubt one of the most epic movies ever made. I can’t believe it was shot in 1927! An incredible piece of art.

        1. It really is. Visually stunning, thematically hard-hitting, a masterpiece on every possible level. There’s a reason filmmakers, musicians and artists have been copying it ever since.

  3. I am anxiously awaiting my chance to own “The Complete Metropolis” on blu-ray. The Film Forum in New York City just had an engagement of the fim. It’s ad says “Presented in High Definition”. Does this mean they are showing it in digital projection or are they referring to the quality of the print? I’m sure I share my joy with the world that this film is finally, virtually, complete.

    1. Kino says the film was digitally restored using custom-designed software, so it could refer to the print quality. You’d think so given than there’s going to be a Blu-Ray edition but I don’t know either way.

      You certainly share your joy with me and many myriad film fans. :yes:

  4. Not a big fan of old movies, but after running across this article, and especially the follow-up comments, I shall give this a try.

    Sorry, but it’s hard for me to watch anything not in color. I don’t care what anyone says, there is still many-a great modern movies out there. And more recently, television series.

    You just, have to get past all the bullshit that any old Hollywood production studio tries to make very quickly for a quick buck. Such as all the pathetic superhero movies that are so damned formulaic, and use all the same generic graphical effects that I figured out how to do my first year in college using Adobe After Effects. Such as one plug-in called “Particle World.” I watch these super hero action movies, and all I see throughout the same formulaic fight scenes, are nothing but Particle World physics plug-in for After Effects!

    (See: Hulk, Hulk 2, Hulk 3, Hulk 4, Spiderman, Spiderman 2, Spiderman 3, Spiderman 4, Transofrmers, Transformers 2, Transformers 3, Transformers 4, Ironman, Ironman 2, Ironman 3, Ironman 4, Captain America, Captain America 2, Captain America 3, Captain America 4, Thor, Thor 2, Thor3, Thor 4, Fantastic 4, Fantastic 4 2, Fantastic 4 3, Fantastic 4 4…….and the list goes on and one, and on. And that was just in the last 14 years!)

    Other than that, though, there are some fantastic modern gems that I think are are well-done that it renders the older black-0and-white movies difficult to watch. Not that they are bad in their own right. It’s just almost like going from driving a car, to riding in a horse-and-buggy.

    Examples of modern gems: 12 Years a Slave, Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, and going back further, Forest Gump, Lion King, Cinderella, American History X, and more.

    1. I don’t think it’s an either-or propsition. Great films have been made since the earliest days of the technology all the way through to today. I’d hate not to be able to watch black and white movies, though. That’s a shame. Of course it’s not only old movies that are excluded if you can’t tolerate B&W. Schindler’s List, for example, was shot in the crispest, most beautiful black and white. Or how about the remarkable sepia tone of O Brother Where Art Thou?, which was actually achieved with cutting edge CG technology.

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