Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’ needs no introduction. It is indisputably one of the most famous silent films of all time and even those who have just a fleeting interest in cinema will be familiar with the title and the iconic image of Robot-Maria who still ranks as the most alluring motion picture android (or cyborg?) ever created.

The story of ‘Metropolis’ is quite simple: in a future ultra-modern world, society has been thoroughly divided between the rich and the poor. The poor live underground, attending to the machines that keep Metropolis alive. Above ground, the rich enjoy a care-free, hedonistic existence. But when the pampered son of Metropolis’s creator ventures below ground and sees how cruelly the workers are forced to live, and then falls in love with Maria, the beautiful teacher / leader whose stories of hope and a unified world are all that keep that keep the workers going, he vows to help Maria put an end to the social divide.

Unfortunately, his father has other plans. He enlists the help of the mad inventor Rotwang who kidnaps Maria and programmes a hyper-sexualised Maria-replica robot to drive both the rich and poor into a frenzy and incite the workers into a riot that will destroy the city. But Rotwang and Metropolis’s creator have a bitter feud of their own, they both loved the same woman who died while giving birth to the creator’s son.

With all those evocative, intimately human emotions at its centre, it is no wonder that ‘Metropolis’ has endured.

No thanks to the film censors.

After its Berlin premiere in 1927 – the only time ‘Metropolis’ was shown in a completely unbutchered print – the film was withdrawn from circulation and then brutally edited down. The footage that was cut was destroyed and, for more than eighty years, film historians believed that a complete version of ‘Metropolis’ would never be found.

Meanwhile, in the early 1980s, music producer Giorgio Moroder dedicated himself to tracking down as much of the missing ‘Metropolis’ as could be found with the aim of patching together the closest example to a reconstructed print. The result was a colour-tinted ‘Metropolis’ with a pop music soundtrack that divided the critics. However, thanks to Moroder, at least now audiences had a chance to see ‘Metropolis’ on the big screen for the first time in almost sixty years.

The film critic and historian Enno Patalas, who had assisted Moroder, resolved to continue the search for missing footage and put together a version of ‘Metropolis’ that was closest to the film Fritz Lang had intended. He worked on the project in co-operation with the F.W. Murnau Foundation and the version they eventually released – ‘The Restored, Authorised Edition’ – was met with considerable acclaim. There was still a lot of information missing but historians were sure this was as good as it was ever going to get.

Until a few years later, when an almost complete 16mm print of ‘Metropolis’ was found in a Buenos Aires archive containing most of the scenes that had long been considered lost. This discovery was the cinematic equivalent of unearthing the Holy Grail, even though the print was in extremely bad condition. But after a lot of painstaking work, the missing scenes found in the Buenos Aires print were restored to as pristine a standard as possible and edited into the Enno Patalas restoration.

The result is the most complete version of ‘Metropolis’ ever seen, so extremely close to the ‘Metropolis’ that was premiered back in 1927 that the few remaining outstanding omissions pretty much make no odds.

Eureka! Masters of Cinema released that version on DVD and blu-ray back in 2010 and the result was spectacular. Now they are releasing the ‘Metropolis Ultimate Collector’s Edition’, a blu-ray steelbook limited to 4000 copies worldwide, which surpasses even the 2010 printing and must surely be the most definitive, gorgeous, technically superior ‘Metropolis’ we are ever likely to see.

Disc One – the 150-minute 2010 version, complete with original German intertitles, newly translated English subtitles, a feature-length audio commentary and the documentary ‘Die Reise nach Metropolis’ is ported lock, stock and barrel from their earlier release. The film is stunning and powerfully complimented by a 5.1 recording of Gottfried Huppertz’s original 1927 score that is one of the most brilliant examples of music-to-image you’ll ever hear and certainly the best silent movie soundtrack ever written.

But Disc Two is what sets this Collector’s Edition apart: Giorgio Moroder’s maligned re-imagining of ‘Metropolis’, which has admittedly been available on blu-ray for a little while now, is finally where it should be, packaged together with Fritz Lang’s original so that both films can be watched and appreciated side-by-side. For ‘Metropolis’ fans, the comparisons and dissimilarities between the two films are fascinating. Okay, so Moroder’s very occasional, actually quite subtle, use of animation effects doesn’t really work and the pop soundtrack, loaded with artists such as Freddie Mercury, Adam Ant, Pat Benatar and Bonnie Tyler, is more miss-than-hit and – weirdly – makes several scenes of a film made in the 1920s look very 1980s camp (with the exception of the Pat Benatar song played over the meeting with Maria, which is strangely effective) BUT (big but) Moroder’s passion for the project, and respect for Lang’s original, is very apparent throughout and let’s not forget that there are some moments in this version that hadn’t been seen since ‘Metropolis’s initial release. In 1984, when Moroder’s ‘Metropolis’ was unveiled, it was still a ground breaking achievement – silent films (with the exception of Abel Gance’s ‘Napoleon’) – had never been reconstructed before, and arguably Moroder’s ‘Metropolis’ helped encourage the wave of all the fine reconstructions we see today. It is also thanks to Moroder that Enno Patalas was inspired to continue his work and create the ‘Restored, Authorised Edition’ of 2002, upon which so much of the ‘Metropolis’ we are now able to see stands.

For all those reasons, I personally consider Moroder’s film to be almost as important (in its own way) as Fritz Lang’s masterpiece.

Also on Disc Two is a documentary about Giorgio Moroder’s restoration (made at the time of the film’s release) and ‘Metropolis Refound’, a fantastic documentary about the rediscovery of the Buenos Aires print and the frustrating journey the discoverers had to make to convince the F.W. Murnau Foundation that what they had was the real deal.

Finally, Eureka! have included one of their always-excellent booklets to complete the set. The booklet contains archival interviews with Fritz Lang, a 1927 review by Luis Bunuel, and much much more.

And not that it’s necessary – in my opinion ‘Metropolis’ sells itself – but each steelbook comes with the chance to win a ‘Metropolis’ engraved gold bar.

If you don’t already own ‘Metropolis’ this is the edition to buy. If you already own the 2010 edition, I’d still heavily suggest you add this one to your collection. And the steelbook packaging looks beautiful.

Extremely highly recommended.

Blu-Ray Review: Metropolis
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About The Author

Ian White is an author, screenwriter and journalist. His book ‘Witchcraft and Black Magic in British Cult Cinema’ was recently published by Hemlock and he is a regular contributor to ‘Paranormal Underground’ and ‘Starburst’ magazines. He’s currently writing a new book and screenplay and his embarrassingly out-of-date website can be found at http://ianwhitelondon.wix.com/ian-white