Eureka Entertainment // 1927 // 84 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // July 5th, 2012
"The mediator between head and hands must be the heart."
In 1984, composer and disco pioneer Giorgio Mororder released a new cut of Fritz Lang's legendary science fiction movie Metropolis. For its original American release, Metropolis had been severely truncated, which ultimately led to entire sequences being lost -- seemingly forever. Moroder's love for the film, which he had seen as a boy, led to him searching the globe to find as much missing footage as possible.
Having restored Metropolis to something a little closer to Lang's original cut, one would think Moroder's work was done. But no, Moroder's vision went further, the results of which were controversial, to say the least.
In a city of the future, society is divided into the working class and the powerful elite, with the two groups rarely meeting.
However, a chance encounter between Freder Fredersen (Gustav Frohlich) -- son of city ruler Jon Fredersen (Alfred Abel) -- and Maria (Brigitte Helm) threatens to disrupt the status quo, when Freder leaves behind his life of privilege to be with Maria. Maria believes the workers and the city's rulers can come together, but only if a mediator can be found to join the "head" (the social elite) and the "hands" (the workers).
However, Freder and Maria's hopes for social revolution are put in jeopardy, when Jon Fredersen -- who staunchly disapproves of their plan -- calls on the assistance of a reclusive scientist (Rudolf Klein-Rogge).
Fritz Lang's Metropolis is among the most important works in cinematic history. Whether or not you hold the film in high regard, one cannot underestimate the influence it's had on science fiction; as a technical achievement, it is simply staggering with few peers. Giorgio Moroder must have balls the size of Faberge eggs to have even considered altering such a beloved and revered film. One cannot doubt Moroder's love for Lang's picture. The sheer amount of work he put into restoring the film was simply too exhaustive for anything but a labor of love. But the fact remains, in tampering with a classic, no matter how good the intentions, Moroder leaves himself open to criticism.
One aspect of this new vision I truly do not care for is the film's colorization. Admittedly this is only apparent in a handful of scenes, but it's not a technique I am fond of, a practice that purposefully alters a filmmaker's intended vision. Would it go over well, if I were to paint a Groucho Marx-style moustache on the Mona Lisa? I think not. In reality, the colorized sequences appear much more dated than the scenes which retain their black and whiteness, a reflection on the technology of the time. Less distracting is Moroder's use of subtitles, which take the place of silent era title cards in several scenes. Yet somehow even these feel out of place, especially as they crop up so randomly.
Arguably the most controversial facet of Moroder's Metropolis is his inclusion of a soundtrack. While the sparse use of sound effects is rarely troubling, the 1980's score is. Featuring the likes of Adam Ant, Loverboy, and Freddie Mercury, alongside with his own synth-heavy compositions, Moroder's attempt to amalgamate 1920's cinema with 1980's pop is sporadically brilliant and frequently jarring. When it does work -- such as with Pat Benatar's "Here's My Heart" which plays during the introduction of Maria -- the decision is a stunning achievement. All too often, though, it's not only unnecessary, but quite distracting. I'm far from being Fritz Lang's biggest fan and Metropolis is not a film I hold especially dear, but even I feel uneasy seeing it turned into a 84-minute music video.
Rightly or wrongly, Moroder's cut is such that the film itself is almost forgotten beneath the garish colorization and soundtrack. The emotions the music evokes is often in contrast to the mood of the film, so the viewer is left with a very different take on Metropolis than what was originally intended.
The film's standard definition 1.37:1 full frame transfer is a mixed bag. Moroder restored the film using numerous prints, the quality of which differs drastically from one shot to the next. Still, one comes away with the sense this is just about as good as Metropolis is ever going to look on DVD. Upon loading the disc, the viewer has the choice of playing the film with either a Dolby 2.0 stereo or 5.1 surround mix. Both are excellent, the controversial soundtrack being delivered with the utmost clarity.
Eureka's DVD bonus material is limited to just one extra: "The Fading Image," a 17-minute documentary on the making of Giorgio Moroder presents: Metropolis. With Moroder himself contributing, the viewer is given a real (albeit brief) insight into the lengths he went to restore Lang's film. Among the more interesting tidbits is how the Nazi's were responsible for losing many of the scenes excised from the film.
In an age where anyone with a PC can cut their own fan-edits of their favorite films, a title such as this feels less dramatic than it should. Whether you consider it an abomination or a work of genius, Giorgio Moroder presents: Metropolis is a fascinating creation worthy of preservation.
Not Guilty. For completists and fans only.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Eureka Entertainment
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Year: 1927
MPAA Rating: Not Rated