METROPOLIS [ULTIMATE COLLECTOR’S EDITION]

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BLU-RAY REVIEW: METROPOLIS [ULTIMATE COLLECTOR’S EDITION] / DIRECTOR: FRITZ LANG / SCREENPLAY: THEA VON HARBOU / STARRING: ALFRED ABEL, GUSTAV FR ÖLICH, RUDOLF KLEIN-ROGGE, FRITZ RASP, THEODOR LOOS, ERWIN BISWANGER, HEINRICH GEORGE / RELEASED: OUT NOW

We’ve heard Metropolis being referred to as the first sci-fi movie. It isn’t. You might have heard the BBC recently describe it as the first feature-length sci-fi film. Still wrong; it’s not even close. There were some pretty long sci-fi movies well over a decade before Fritz Lang blew five million Reichsmark on this one. Metropolis isn’t really the first anything, so what’s all the fuss about? Glad you asked. You see, this is probably one of the most iconic movies, not just of early cinema, but in the history of film. The best silent movies were all about visual impact (obviously) and there aren’t many films more stunning to look at than Metropolis. Never has a movie been more worthy of a Blu-ray release and with this 2010 restoration you get to see it in all its original 150-minute bum-numbing glory. One can only wonder at what an audience of 1927 thought of it. Well, actually they weren’t particularly impressed: it bombed.

In case the film has passed you by then let’s just say it’s classic dystopian fare; a future living in the grim shadow of uncontrolled continuing industrial revolution where the almost zombified workers toil beneath the gleaming towers that are home to the means-of-production owning elite [Marxist theory this early in the review? – Ed]. Topical stuff in the ‘20s. The story is about the idle son of one of the elite (Fröhlich) descending to the lower city, lustily in pursuit of Maria (Helm) who is a sort of underground leader among the workers. She gets replaced by a robot-double (you know, the one that starts out looking like C3PO) that causes all sorts of counter-revolutionary bother until it all ends with a biblical-grade flood and a witch-burning. In all honesty, it’s a bit tedious. But never mind the plot; it’s still as dazzling to look at as it was then. In fact, possibly more so. Those art deco designs were just reflecting the time when it was made; now they’re part of the past and Metropolis has nearly 90 years-worth of being part of our iconographic landscape to add to its impact: this is the stuff of album covers. That’s probably why the 1927 audience weren’t quite as enamored with it as we are. After all, Star Wars (1977) was only a huge success because of the power of its story. [That was irony, right? – Ed]

So basically, if you’re not familiar with Metropolis then this massively influential piece of cinema is something you need to see (if only because Ridley Scott has); if you already are then you might as well get this version because it’s Blu-ray, has an interesting commentary and a load of documentaries. Mind you, hope you’re interested in Germans talking about film restoration because there’s rather a lot of that on the disc. Oh, and you also get the 1984 Giorgio Moroder version if Bonnie Tyler is your thing. Well, it might be. Who are we to judge?

Special Features: Audio Commentary / Giorgio Moroder’s 1984 version / Three documentaries / 56-page booklet
 

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