Metropolis: Reconstructed and Restored (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1927)

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Released 15-Jun-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Booklet-Booklet
Featurette-Journey to Metropolis Documentary
Audio Commentary-Dr Wendy Haslem and Dr Angel Ndalianis
Teaser Trailer-Trailer for 2010 re-release
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1927
Running Time 149:58
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Fritz Lang
Studio
Distributor
Transit Films
Madman Entertainment
Starring Alfred Abel
Gustav Fröhlich
Brigitte Helm
Rudolf Klein-Rogge
Fritz Rasp
Theodor Loos
Erwin Biswanger
Heinrich George
Case Gatefold
RPI $34.95 Music Myles Boisen
Sheldon Brown
Beth Custer


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Audio Commentary Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     It is the future, and humans are divided into two groups: the thinkers, who make plans (but don't know how anything works), and the workers, who achieve goals (but don't have the vision). Completely separate, neither group is complete, but together they make a whole. One man from the "thinkers" dares visit the underground where the workers toil, and is astonished by what he sees...

     As the resident Troma expert it would seem I'm not the right person to review a film as important and influential as Fritz Lang's 1927 classic Metropolis, although I think it's worth drawing attention to the themes and subtext of the film; both essential to the film's success and ongoing relevance despite usually being ignored in favour of the influential science fiction style when examined critically. (Listening to this Blu-ray's inane commentary track provides a perfect example of this.) Within Metropolis, Lang creates a paradigm demonstrating the symbiotic relationship between the upper and lower class, but one restricted by a lack of humanity. Joh Fredersen (Alfred Abel) freely exploits his lower class workers and lives amongst the wealthy in his skyscraper wonderland, far above the concealed underground hell in which the workers toil and sometimes die to provide the upper class with their riches. It isn't until his son Freder (Gustav Fröhlich), led by the beauty of an attractive young woman Maria (Brigitte Helm), witnesses these atrocities and confronts his father with the desire to help the less fortunate. Id-driven Joh, consumed by greed, has no empathy for his inferiors and ignores his son, instead taking an interest in a revolution rising within the workers, led by the beautiful woman Freder followed into the underground. His lack of empathy results in every misstep - not just the uprising of the lower class, but the personal hatred of his only confidant, friend Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), whose love he took as his own. In seeking the help of Rotwang he seals the fate of his empire, as Rotwang intentionally sabotages his plans. Meanwhile, Freder as the super-ego resents his father and chooses to leave his wealthy life behind to experience the life of the lower class, but ends up having to fight for the safety of the workers, their children and himself as the conflict between the upper and lower classes reaches melting point, the destruction of the city's machines the centrepiece.

     Critics of the film consider Metropolis' final statement - "The Mediator between the head and hands must be the heart!" - to be laughable and immature, as did indeed H.G. Wells upon first viewing. But consider the idea of Freder's initially sex-driven motivation transforming into that of sadness and empathy, and how the human disconnect between the upper class and lower class thrives today in civilizations across the world, resulting in pain and discord. The ideas presented in dystopian Metropolis are universal - the current political climate in the US suggests psychotic Republicans desiring the very scenario presented here, complete with a lack of empathy and no way for the lower class to escape. Metropolis is just as gorgeous for its style and imagery as for its ideas, and one could discuss and analyse it endlessly.

     Metropolis has a storied history insofar as footage lost and found, with reprints and rereleases, that can be read in some detail here - this Blu-ray package includes the reconstructed and restored version, in far and away the best quality currently available. It is an absolutely fascinating experience; the "rediscovered" footage has been re-edited into the film but is clearly damaged beyond any kind of repair. I don't consider this to be an issue - the new scenes are obvious and more prevalent because of the change in picture quality, and with the missing scene - filled in with title cards - offers the closest possible viewing experience to Lang's original cut available, and it is superb. This is a film that is essential for viewers, and this is currently the best way to experience it.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The video is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio in 1080p.

     This is the best transfer we've seen of Metropolis and will likely remain the best, though due to the conditions in which it was found and has been restored this means considerable changes in quality across the viewing experience. Others have gone into much more detail about the source and remastering of the footage, so I will summarise quickly and say that the majority of the film, from American masters, looks amazing: the image is strong with little low level noise, pristine focus and little in the way of artefacts. The other footage, from the 16mm negative of the original cut of the film found in Buenos Aires in 2008, is the exactly opposite: it is damaged beyond repair and shows frequent scratches and artefacts.

     Because this is the most complete version of the film, an assembly of the best quality footage from the original butchered release with the poor found footage, it is still instantly recommendable - indeed, as someone who has seen Metropolis many times, the harshly degraded quality of the found footage even helps identify the new scenes and separate them from the previously available cut. Despite not being "perfect" in the usual way, this offers an amazing experience, especially for those familiar with the film and its history, and thus deserves high recommendation despite featuring serious flaws.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio is presented in German Dolby LPCM 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 (Stereo).

     Metropolis has never sounded better, with an incredibly strong soundtrack throughout, delivered in amazing quality utilizing the full ability of the Blu-ray format. Both the 5.1 and 2.0 feature the newly-recorded original, full-length Huppertz score with the amazing quality you'd before only experience in a cinema - or with the orchestra beside you. As a silent film this score is incredibly important, and I can't imagine anyone disappointed in what this BD offers.

     Gottfried Huppertz's score is a triumph for Metropolis, and one can see why Fritz Lang would work with him repeatedly.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Audio Commentary by Dr Wendy Haslem & Dr Angela Ndalianis, School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne

     I really did not enjoy this. The very worst commentary tracks are those featuring cast and crew that don't have a lot to do with the actual creation of a film describing onscreen scenes and providing witless anecdotes that offer little value to the viewer. This is the exact problem suffered by this track, in which two "experts" who clearly know less about the film than I do gush and explain what's happening onscreen with little actual information to offer. They spot references and discuss how this cut of the film came to be but offer little that could be called engaging or interesting. Genuine insight is so far and few between that it makes the entire two and a half hour track exhausting: both have little to say but take a long time to say it, and the track frequently seems to be a weird contest between who can spot the most images referenced in other films. (One of the two even seems to cut the other off frequently and rudely.) Spending 10 minutes online reading about the film's history and ideology will yield much more information, and a much better time, than trying to sit through this commentary.

Journey to Metropolis (52:00)

     Unfortunately this documentary feels less like a genuine article and more like a puff-piece on the film. The film's history is discussed quickly and without much detail, with more substantial time devoted to the discovery and restoration of this version. There have been much better documentaries on this film on previous releases, unfortunately.

Trailer

     This trailer has been recut specifically for this restored version, and it is perfectly acceptable.

Booklet

     Y'know, I don't really know why all of the extras on this edition are so lacklustre - there have been some seriously great features on previous releases of Metropolis. The booklet here features the same kind of disappointing rhetoric from people who clearly love the film but have no idea why, making their writing basically meaningless. The highlight is Terry Gilliam and Oshii Mamoru discussing the film and its influence, but otherwise it should be ignored.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     There are so many versions of Metropolis worldwide, and nearly all offer different features. The American version of this release lacks the poor commentary and includes an interview with Paula Felix-Didier, curator of the Museo del Cine, in Buenos Aires, so it is preferable to our version - however there are previous releases with far superior extras that only include the previous 90-minute version of the film. Completists need to own multiple versions, though I feel the American release beats our own due to the additional interview.

Summary

     Metropolis is an amazing classic, and this new edition demands to be viewed.

     The video and audio transfers are both very exceptional, offering the most engaging and compelling experience of the film to date. The extras are disappointing.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ryan Aston (Bioshock)
Monday, October 03, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDSony Playstation 3 (HDMI 1.3) with Upscaling, using Component output
DisplayPhilips 47PFL9732D 47-inch LCD . Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderLogitech 5500 THX.
Amplification"Onkyo TS-656"
SpeakersLogitech 5500 THX

Other Reviews NONE
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Audio Commentary - Fritz REPLY POSTED
We can thank Citizen Kane for Roger's new 'voice' - NewcastleBoy (read my bio)