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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > German Expressionism > Silent > Metropolis (1926/Kino DVD/2002 Restored Version)

Metropolis: Restored Authorized Edition (1926/Kino DVD Set)


Picture: C+     Sound: B     Extras: B+     Film: A



PLEASE NOTE: Kino has since issued a longer, more complete version of this classic on Blu-ray and you can read more about it at this link:





Now, the original review…




So many films go around claiming to be important and great, but only a very small handful of films can ever truly claim that honor.  Metropolis is one of the few films in history worthy of such note.  The film remains one of the most butchered, censored, abused, cut-up, incorrectly translated, rescored, unnecessarily tinted, fragmented, and yet seen films of all time.  Yet, in all this, though Fritz Lang’s definitive version has never truly existed, this silent classic is the most well-known and successful silent film ever made.  Its influence and accomplishments are immeasurable.


Now, the film has been brought back as close to Lang’s vision as possible in one of the most remarkable restorations ever completed.  As is the case with so many classics that have been neglected, the usual worldwide search was conducted with some pleasant surprises in the missing footage that was found.  The reconstructors even turned up special effects matte fragments in fine condition.  A quarter of the film is still considered missing, possibly forever, but what has been brought together here is a landmark reconstruction that is outright stunning.


This new reconstruction of the film was first re-issued in theaters, where all great films belong.  It was a stunning re-issue, shocking audiences in the U.S. and worldwide with how fresh it looked.  It was clean; it looked nowhere near its age, and was often stunning in its fidelity and detail.  The film was often fixed frame-by-frame, various shades of monochrome had to be matched seamlessly, substantial research had to be done before one frame of film was approached, years of painstaking work was invested, but one of the greatest films that will ever be made is now out on DVD as one of the best discs that will arrive all year.


The 1.33 X1 full frame image offers fine video black and gray scale throughout.  So many great silent films have been deemed restored, but this sets a new high watermark matched only by the preservation and restoration the Charles Chaplin estate has done on Chaplin’s classics.  However, thanks to the Chaplin Estate, his films have had a better history of preservation than Metropolis has.  Even with the extensive salvaging, Metropolis still shows some small glitches here and there, but they are minor and although there is the occasional shot that shows the digital work, this was often the only way to save the film.


The image was preserved frame-by-frame in digital files at anywhere from 2K to 4K digital high-definition resolution apiece.  Then, it was reprinted on new film stock, where it was carefully cleaned up via computer to the last detail.  Obviously, well-preserved film stock would beat any digital work out there, but the entire film was simply not in the condition to allow for this.


Wetgate labwork has filled in many of the scratches, while digital frame-by-frame correction, covering whatever the wetgate process misses.  Often, lazy and unknowing persons in DVD mastering and even restoration will just flip on a digital video noise reduction (DNR) button, and expect that to make the film look better.  What actually happens is that the system is “dumb” and cannot distinguish between actual noise, and fine picture detail. The result is that vital picture information is also erased.  By doing this very carefully frame-by-frame, the original glory of the film is kept instead.  It is clean, clear, and incredibly vivid.


The original 1926 score has been re-recorded here, presented surprisingly in Dolby Digital 5.1 sound! Of course, there are those who might immediately jump to the conclusion that the DVD features Giorgio Moroder’s 1984 New Wave score.  That version was even issued in 70mm blow-ups with Dolby Magnetic 6-track 4.1 sound, but those tracks are nowhere to be found on this edition.  The new version is also much longer and the fidelity here blows away the sources used for the 70mm version.  The sound is good, but not very bass-heavy. A 65-piece orchestra was used for this re-recording, and it is a remarkable piece of work, making sense in how it integrates into the story.  A great early film score lives again.


Moroder’s version notwithstanding, a trend that past restorations of silent films from Turner/Warner, Blackhawk Films, and Killiam Releasing have followed is to rerecord the original score or a new score in simple electronic sound.  This was to get a new younger audience to enjoy silent films, but it has backfired.  It actually made these films duller by offering dulled-down music.  The arrival of 5.1 sound offers a new opportunity for audiences to enjoy these films as they originally were meant to, while film and video companies have a new excuse to restore the full orchestra work to the films themselves.


Finally, it should be noted that on the review copy, the German titles and German translation of the commentary noted on the back of the DVD box are missing.  However, Kino has said that it was only a problem on a small batch of screener-only copies, so retail copies will not have this problem.  Kino would be happy to hear otherwise, though, if there are any problems with this DVD release.


Many of the extras available on this disc reflect the extra fruits gained by the heavy research that went into saving the film in the first place.  There is a stills section that features 29 Making-of shots, plus sketches of the architecture (16), Costume design (13), Posters (5), and stills of still-missing scenes with text (27).  There is also a terrific featurette covering the film’s restoration (8:48), showing how the film was fixed, along with how much damage had to be taken care of.  An extensive biography section on 13 of the principals involved on making the film, as well as each person’s filmography, is also included.  These add up to 82 frame-pages in all, with 5 additional frame-pages for the Facts and Dates also included.  They offer historic points about the film and its players, as well as other amazing items on the film itself.


The audio commentary is outstanding.  Hardly any silent films have ever featured an audio commentary, so that alone was a reason to want to hear what would be said.  This commentary does not take pauses that put the listener to sleep like many an audio commentary still does, running runs pretty much non-stop.  It always offers fine insight into the film, plus observations that the viewer might not catch on the first few viewings, if ever. The history is interesting, with more sound film deserving this kind of visual analysis, which might help those annoying dead spots on other DVDs.


The Metropolis Case documentary (43:49) rounds out this very comprehensive supplements section that makes this one of the most impressive single DVDs to date.  It is a fine featurette that could not run long enough, but has priceless footage and information to offer.


The film stars Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel, Gustave Frohlich, Rudolph Klein-Robbe, Fritz Rasp, and Heinrich Georg.  The screenplay is by Thea Von Harbou, from her book of the same title, Music by Gottfried Huppertz, Cinematography by Karl Freund & Gunther Rittau, Special Visual Effects by Eugen Schufftan, Art Direction by Otto Hunte, Erich Kettlehut & Carl Vollbrecht, Directed by Fritz Lang.  DVD supervision by Philipp Friederichs at DVD Fabrik.


Kino has delivered a DVD that fully complements the incredible film, and its monumental restoration.  Kino has been re-issuing all the major German Expressionist classics, with this as the most remarkable classic film DVD releases yet.  This is as loaded a silent film DVD as has ever been issued to date.


Prior to this DVD, Image’s DVD of the original 1926 silent The Cat & The Canary was considered an impressive restoration.  That DVD had a decent print of the film, despite the many scratches that also desperately need wetgate treatment, as well as stronger-than-usual Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo music.  Now, that film looks like it needs an update as compared to what is achieved here.


Science Fiction, Horror, and epic fans of today finally have a great copy of the film to add to all the films of the genre on DVD, including the ones to come, all of which owe much to this picture.  Kino’s Metropolis is a must-have DVD for so many reasons. The DVD is technically superior, the transfer of picture and sound is exemplary, and the extras are very archival.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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