Metropolis: Restored Authorized Edition (1926/Kino
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.