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Review: ‘The Complete Metropolis’

1927 Sci-Fi Classic Restored… Again

Above: The latest restoration of the Fritz Lang sci-fi classic "The Complete Metropolis"

The good thing about skyrocketing Hollywood budgets is that it can make re-releasing old classics seem financially attractive so here once again is Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” (opening June 4 at Landmark’s Ken Cinema).

Striking a new print, cleaning up an old soundtrack or generally polishing up a past gem is a fiscally sound move in the unpredictable movie market. It’s not that expensive to do and the studios already know the merit of their product. The latest film to be reissued and to receive a digital facelift is Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent classic “Metropolis,” this time it’s resurfacing in what’s being touted as “its most complete version ever, with 25 minutes of lost footage not seen since the film’s debut in 1927.” This latest restoration has been called "The Complete Metropolis," to distinguish it from previous restorations.

According to the press materials, “a cache of lost footage” and “an essentially complete copy of Fritz Lang's ‘Metropolis’” had been found. When the film debuted in January of 1927, it ran well over two hours but was then trimmed in the hopes of making it more marketable – reminding us that such pressures have always weighed on filmmakers.

Although passing the three-quarter century mark, “Metropolis” arrives in the new millennium as an amazingly topical and still cogent work. We may have more technology at our disposal in terms of special effects but I doubt anyone today could improve on Lang’s brilliant sci-fi meditation on man and machine.

The film has been restored to supposedly the length of Lang’s original premiere version in Berlin. Five years ago it arrived in theaters restored to what had then been its most complete version with its negative digitally restored for amazing clarity and the original orchestral score re-recorded. This latest version clocks in at 147-minutes, and with Gottfried Huppertz’s original score.

Anyone who has only seen the film on video or in its bastardized 1984 version with the rock soundtrack, will marvel at this new version. And if you’ve never had a chance to see it, prepare to be dazzled—it’s still a fresh vibrant work with themes that can speak to contemporary audiences.

Metropolis, which is unrated, is a film that’s timely and has the power to stir the imagination. Its lasting power is evidenced by the fact that it influences filmmakers today. The robot created for the film has been the inspiration for such diverse projects as George Lucas’ Star Wars (note C3PO’s design) and Japanese anime works such as Rintaro’s Metropolis.

Companion viewing: “Star Wars,” Rintaro’s “Metropolis,” “Blade Runner”

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