This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

Category Science Fiction Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1926 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 139 minutes Other Extras Film Facts
Menu Audio
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 0 Director Fritz Lang

Force Video
Starring Alfred Abel
Brigette Helm
Gustav Frohlich
Rudolph Klein-Rogge
Heinrich George
Theodor Loos
Hans Leo Reich
Erwin Biswanger
Fritz Rasp
Olaf Storm
RRP $29.95 Music Peter Osborne

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None Dolby Digital 2.0
16x9 Enhancement No Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 2.0, 224 Kb/sec)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.37:1
Macrovision ? Smoking No
Subtitles None Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Well, just exactly where does one start with respect of this epic of the silent era? Fritz Lang has made some films that have achieved almost legendary status in film history, but is doubtful that any approach the magnitude of this epic, either on or off the screen.

    Metropolis is a city of the future controlled by industrialist John Federsen (Alfred Abel), which appears to be some sort of dream city, at least on the top. Underneath is a whole different situation, where workers are subjugated mercilessly to keep the vision of Metropolis alive. Like most apparent utopias, the seething resentment is slowly building up and the workers are only kept relatively in check by Maria (Brigette Helm) who preaches patience to the workers. However, when inventor Rotwang (Rudolph Klein-Rogge) invents a robot, Federsen sees this as a way of really putting the workers in their place. He orders Rotwang to make the robot in Maria's image, kidnaps Maria and lets the robot loose in the underground workers city to incite the workers to riot. Obviously this is counterproductive to both the workers and the industrialist, and with the help of Maria and Federsen's son, reconciliation is achieved.

    Whilst the story line is hardly original, and forms the basis of many a political manifesto, it has to be said that the vision with which Fritz Lang brought this film to the screen is, like his later film M, quite staggering for its time; indeed, it is fair to say that this was a little too far ahead of its time and the vision really could not be realized with the available technology of 1926. The parallels with the later M are quite astounding and Metropolis is even more groundbreaking for the 1920's than M was for the 1930's. It is also not difficult to see why Adolf Hitler and Josef Goebbels were so impressed with the film, as it provides some eerie parallels to the raison d'être of National Socialism in Germany in the 1920's. Just about everything to do with the film is huge for its day, and it is doubtful that we will ever see such a staggeringly influential film again - the expense would simply be too overwhelming. This apparently cost in excess of $2 million in 1926; what that equates to in late 1990's terms I do not know but we would have to be talking dollars in excess of even Titanic proportions.

Transfer Quality


    1926? Remember that is 73 years ago. The chances of this being a pristine transfer are so far less than nil that it isn't funny. I doubt that you will ever see a more flawed transfer on a DVD - but that has absolutely nothing to do with the efforts of Eureka Video; the source material is simply too old to expect miracles.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

    Overall, the general transfer is quite dull, quite murky and lacking in definition - exactly what I would have expected in a 73 year old film. Clarity is very variable indeed and ranges from almost atrocious to barely acceptable, with the latter part of the film being far too over bright and most difficult to watch. Shadow detail is, as to be expected, pretty awful - exactly as I expected. There is significantly less variability in the transfer than that of M, probably because it is more uniformly poor. However, I was surprised by the degree of vertical stability, unlike the later M.

    This is a very dull black and white transfer and there is a significant lack of depth to the black and white tones. Again, this simply has to be expected in a film of this vintage as it is doubtful that anything close to a pristine print would be available as a master.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts. Video artefacts were not a problem either. Once again however, this is a veritable encyclopaedia of film artefacts. Obviously these are very distracting at times, but it is fair to say that in a film of this vintage it is no worse than I would have expected.

    Note that whilst the film is chaptered, during playback on the Pioneer DV-515 the display shows "play" during the whole film and you do not really know which chapter you are in the film. Similarly, when skipping chapters forward, there is no number shown for the next chapter.


    Errrr, its a silent bad can the audio be???

    The film is accompanied by a new music score (from 1998) from Peter Osborne which is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. It is a stereo soundtrack and would seem to be in the best tradition of the silent film era - when I understand films were accompanied by organs and so on in the theatre. Personally, I found it easier to watch the film with this turned down quite low; others may want it off all together, but at least we have that choice.


    Nothing to get excited about here, although the menu does have audio enhancement!


Film Facts

    Actually just a repeat of the cover notes in essence, but at least Eureka Video (through Force Video) make the effort.

R4 vs R1

    Region 4 misses out on:     Region 1 misses out on:     Since this is a Madacy Entertainment release in Region 1, I think that I would willingly forgo their extras in favour of the more complete Region 4 version of the film.


    Metropolis is another DVD that definitely is not a demonstration disc. However, there is little doubt that this is a staggering film for its day and its release on DVD is praiseworthy indeed - even allowing for the very poor quality of the original print. Just remember that this is a film from 1926 and we cannot expect much better than we have got: any DVD is only as good as the source material, barring some magical restoration techniques coming to the fore (which may yet happen, just like they have in music CDs). Whether it is worth the asking price remains problematical, but doyens of cinema history will rejoice at the availability.

    The overall video quality is passable for a film of this vintage.

    Audio quality is a bit irrelevant in a silent film, but the music soundtrack was okay.

    I would really like to see more effort on the extras, as films of this magnitude deserve greater historical contexts.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris
12th October 1999

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL