Throughout a film’s history, particularly that of a silent film, the piece in question may or may not take various shapes when being shown in theaters or on home video throughout the world. Time may take its toll or even lose some portions of a respective film, or those who hold a film’s rights may decide to cut respective portions. One film to see a little bit of both is Fritz Lang’s masterpiece, Metropolis.
Be it the various reels of film lost to history (some of which were subsequently found for the recent re-release of the actual film), or in the case of what Kino Classics is releasing this week, a man re-cutting his own version of the film, Metropolis is both one of the most influential films ever made, and also one of its most chopped. And one of those men who happened to take his hands at releasing the film is ‘˜80s music maven, Giorgio Moroder.
Using a soundtrack featuring the likings of Queen, Pat Benatar, Adam Ant, Bonnie Tyler and Loverboy, and the inclusion of subtitles instead of intertitles, what has now become known as the Moroder Metropolis (as it is billed with this new Blu-ray release) is both an odd time capsule of a film, and yet one of the best ways to be introduced to what is one of, if not the, greatest sci-fi film ever made.
As far as a film goes, this version is rather entertaining. The subtitles make the film flow easily, and while you don’t quite get the lengthy narrative you would from the completed Metropolis cut, it’s still very much an entertaining and engaging film. A moving tale of class struggle that is more pertinent now than ever, Metropolis is, without a doubt, beyond anything one can write today to try and critique it. It’s simply one of the greatest films ever.
However, any discussion of this specific cut of Metropolis is only worthwhile when taking it on one aspect. It’s impact.
Released in 1984, for a generation far removed from the golden age of silent films, there was no better way to be introduced to a film of this ilk. The cut itself isn’t groundbreaking for introducing new footage, it’s groundbreaking for introducing the existing footage to a generation of people who otherwise likely would have skipped it, and honestly, keeping this film alive. Moroder’s cut is notable for many other reasons, but one of the most interesting is that it opened with a title card explaining the plight of the complete Metropolis cut, and subsequently sparked even greater searches for those sequences which had been lost.
The changes that were made were also not without some merit. While I’m obviously a fan of the complete Metropolis cut and think it’s really the best and only way to see the film, the idea of reading subtitles instead of title cards is really enticing. Metropolis is an otherwise quite talkie silent film, if that makes sense, and subtitles really just make the film flow shockingly well. I’m not a fan of the film being altered period, but with the ability for those uninterested in silent films to really dig into this specific release, be it for nostalgia or sheer sociological interest, this definitely has its merits.
However, the one thin promoted above all here, is also its weakest link. Born in 1989, this writer doesn’t have much nostalgia for the likes of Loverboy or Adam Ant, so the soundtrack really fell flat. Far too sonically bombastic and beyond dated, the film itself is done in by a score that is more than distracting. There are a few solid cuts here, but save for the Freddie Mercury track, this soundtrack is one that should have been left as a supplement for another release of the film.
Honestly, that’s kind of how one should view this release. With only a trailer, a written message from Moroder and a really interesting look into the film’s restoration, there isn’t much meat here. The film looks absolutely stunning, particularly the color used here, to further make the film enjoyable for those opposed to silent features, and the soundtrack does kill here. However, this should, by no means, be the only way a person sees Metropolis. If one must use this as a launching pad, getting one’s interest in the piece up, fine. But see this as a supplement in the history of Fritz Lang’s complete masterpiece. That said, it’s a jarring and somewhat entertaining supplement.