Friday, May 14, 2010

"Metropolis" – A Love Affair


A long time ago (the 1980's) in a land far, far away (Toronto, Canada) I was walking up Yonge Street, enjoying the posters glued to every possible empty spot and spotted one for "Metropolis". It wasn't for an official showing; it was for a local set of second-run movie houses that specialized in showing offbeat movies. But it was there and reminded me that I'd yet to see a good copy of the poor beloved beastie.

For those of you not in the know – "Metropolis" was first made in 1927 and detailed the classic science fiction romance story between a rich man's son and a poor girl who toiled in the deep, dark underground that kept the rich man's paradise going. Boy finds girl, boy wants girl, evil scientist builds evil robot, the usual trappings of a good story. To me, one of the first and best science fiction romances, with robots, technology run amok, airships and deep, deep secrets.

But what a movie! The scenery, the buildings – not that impressive by today's standards, but in 1927 it was a startling accomplishment. A silent movie as well, it was the most expensive movie made at the time. But, unfortunately, also one of the longest. Sitting at 153 minutes, it was just too long and complicated for audiences.

Thus began a horrible series of editing and deletions, mangling the original movie over time to the point that it became almost a parody of itself. The prints I remember seeing briefly in a Toronto theater were so faded and washed out as to almost be useless, and the story jumped around so much that you had no idea what was going on.

In 1984 a new version premiered in theaters, adding on some restored footage and a rock music soundtrack. And yes, I liked it. Not loved it, liked it because at least now you could experience more of the original film on the big screen, restored as best as it could be with today's technology.

And now…

Kino International has now added back in 25 minutes of found footage, bringing "Metropolis" back as close to the original as it could be and is releasing it this summer! Check out the offical site and trailer here!

(Youtube here for those who don't get it to work for them!)

Am I thrilled?

You bet! One of the first ebooks I purchased for my Nook was the book, written by Thea von Harbou. I have one early paperback copy that I dare not paw over too much, lest it fall to pieces in my hands.

Let me encourage you to see this new, restored copy of a science fiction classic when it comes to your town, or make a point of renting/buying it when it comes out on DVD. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised and thrilled to see "Metropolis" as it was meant to be. And maybe just a little encouraged to see what people thought the future would be and how it's turned out.

4 comments:

  1. METROPOLIS is a true classic (albeit mangled beyond comprehension). I would love to see a more fully-restored version. It really makes one appreciate how far we have come in narrative film.

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  2. Oh, I'm jumping up and down with excitement! I love that movie, even mangled. The class struggle, the warnings about tech run amok, the message about not closing your eyes to what's going on around you - all very apropos to the era (then AND now)

    Have to see it....

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  3. It is a true classic. They did a great job for the time. I'll be looking for the new version. Thanks for the heads up.

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  4. I have to confess I wasn't aware of Metropolis (oh, the shame!) but I'm intrigued now. :)

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