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48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The First is Still the Best, August 18, 2002
This review is from: Metropolis (Moroder version) [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Austrian director Fritz Lang and his wife, Thea Von Harbou, made this first-ever science fiction film in Germany in 1926. While all extant copies are in poor to bad condition, the story and cinematography are so wonderful as to still hold the interest of a large audience.
There are many versions of this film on the market, with running times anywhere from 63 to 139 minutes, but this is by far my favorite. While it only has an 81 minute running time, it is actually one of the most complete versions available, because Georgio Moroder went back to the original script, and using still photos from the production, reinserted scenes that were cut from the film for it's American release. (The Nazis destroyed all original German prints of the film, as well as the negative.) The intertitles, which accounted for about 20 minutes of the film's running time, were replaced with subtitles, and his version uses the 24-frames-per-second projector speed that modern films are shown at, while the longer versions are shown at the historically correct 18-frames-per-second. He trimmed more time off by careful editing, to give the film a more contemporary pacing.
He also added a "contemporary" score, as well as subtle washes of color, which actually aids in understanding the film, while not detracting from Karl Fruend and Guenther Rittau's marvelous b&w cinematography. In fact, in some of the scenes where the film has been severely damaged, it helps accentuate the contrast.
There are many classic images in this film, including shots of the city (where monorails and bi-planes coexist), but the best known is probably Brigitte Helm as "Hel" the robot. In fact, people who have never seen, or even heard of the film have seen clips of Rotwang (Hel's creator) and Hel in the laboratory. Brigitte Helm also stars as Maria, the film's heroine, and hers is a standout performance.
Also of interest is the similarity between the character, Joh Frederson (the "master" of the city of Metropolis, played by Alfred Abel), to Adolph Hitler and his Third Reich. Combined with the workers, whose underground city seems like a concentration camp, and whose uniforms bear a startling resemblance to the ones worn in the Nazi concentration camps. This is especially odd considering that the film predates Hitler's rise by almost a decade. Those similarities are just one reason that the Nazis were so keen to destroy any trace of the film. It is truly a shame that Lang did not bring the negative when he escaped from Germany to the USA in the thirties.
In most science fiction, the message is about the human condition, and Metropolis is no exception; the moral is that the brain that plans and the hands that build need a mediator: the heart. That's as true today as it was in 1926.
At this writing, this version is no longer in print, which is a crying shame. Other versions are available, and I can recommend many of them, although some are made from prints that are in horrendous condition, but if you can find an affordable copy of the Moroder version, I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 19, 2013 5:21:01 PM PST
Rivervoice says:
Yes, thanks fricking Nazis for screwing it up for us all. This is great though.

Posted on Jun 29, 2014 9:14:02 AM PDT
Pick Pelf says:
The reviewer tells a distorted history of this film and how it was treated by the Nazis. In reality, Hitler and Goebbels held Metropolis in high regard and offered Lang a lofty position in the Nazi film industry, which he refused. The reviewers contention that the Nazis were "keen to destroy any trace of the film" is pure fabrication.
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