Metropolis (1927)

Germany, 1926
80m (Giorgio Moroder version), 93m (video and reissue version), 115m (restored East German version), 150m (version restored by Filmmuseum Munich), 153m (original release), 210m (original director's cut at premiere)
35mm film, black and white, colourised version also available, 1.33:1
silent, Dolby Digital (1995 restored version), German intertitles

A German science fiction film directed by Fritz Lang.

Plot Summary

In the year 2026, the population of the city of Metropolis is divided between the wealthy elite and the repressed workers. A popular uprising is forming, lead by the courageous Maria and the Master of Metropolis, Joh Fredesen is getting worried. He calls on the services of the brilliant but deranged scientist Rotwang who has designed a beautiful robot in female form that can assume the appearance of anyone he chooses – someone like Maria…

Credits

Crew
Directed by: Fritz Lang
Ufa
Produced by: Erich Pommer; Giorgio Moroder [1984 version]
Written by: Fritz Lang, Thea von Harbou
Idea: Thea von Harbou
Director of Photography: Karl Freund, Gunther Rittau
Music by: Gottfried Huppertz [original accompanying score] *; Konrad Elfers [2nd cutting]; William Fitzwater [electronic score for BBC transmission]; Alloy Orchestra [new score]; Giorgio Moroder [1984 version]; Peter Osborne [1998 restoration]
Costume Designer: Anne Willkomm
Schufftan Process Photography: Helmar Lerski
Model Photography: Konstantin Irmen-Tschet
Art Directors: Otto Hunte, Erich Kettelhut, Karl Vollbrecht

Cast
Alfred Abel (John Fredersen)
Gustav Frohlich (Freder Fredersen)
Brigitte Helm (Maria/The Robot (aka Futura))
Rudolf Klein-Rogge (Rotwang)
Fritz Rasp (Grot)
Theodor Loos (Josaphat)
Heinrich George (Groth, machine foreman)
Fritz Alberti (robot)
Erwin Biswanger (Georg (No. 11811))
Grete Berger, Olly Boeheim, Ellen Frey, Lisa Gray, Rose Lichtenstein, Helene Weigel (working women)
Max Dietze, Georg John, Walter Kuehle, Arthur Reinhard, Erwin Vater (working men)
Beatrice Garga, Anny Hintze, Hilde Woitscheff, Helen von Munchhofen (women in Eternal Garden)
Heinrich Gotho (master of ceremonies)
Margarete Lanner (woman in car/woman in Eternal Garden)
Hanns Leo Reich (Marinus)
Olaf Storm (Jan)

See also
Dark City (1998)
The Fifth Element (1997)
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
Total Recall (1990)

Extracts included in
The Android Prophecy (2001)
A Century of Cinema (1994)
Cinema Europe: The Other Hollywood (1996)
My Science Fiction Life (2006)
Special Effects: Anything Can Happen (1996)
Universal Horror (1998)

Press

1999
Empire no.122 (August 1999) p.146
A fantastical monument to Fritz Lang's megalomania, this sci-fi silent remains one of the gems of the genre. The democratic message was fudged to the extent that it became a Führer favourite but the visual ingenuity is evident in everything from the futuristic cityscapes to the lab where Rotwang creates Maria. – from an illustrated review by Ian Freer

2003
Empire no.164 (February 2003) p.49
At once the 2001 and Heaven's Gate of 1926, this sci-fi epic gave generations a fixed vision of and came close to bankrupting its studio. […] It has some silly-even-for-the-silents performances and a plot that nearly collapses along with the city. But many sequences, characters and images are indelible: the shuffing slaves changing shift, the electrical creation of the robotrix, the hero strapped to a giant clock, Rudolf Klein-Rogge's Frankenstein of the future, Brigitte Helm's mechanical femme fatale driving men mad with lust or leading a riot, Still overwhelming, particularly in this must-see restored print. – from an illustrated review by Kim Newman

Film Review no.627 (February 2003) p.74
Before 1984, before Brave New World, before Blade Runner (1982), there was Metropolis. […] [T]his is still awesome. That it has inspired such visions of the future, as replicated to a degree in films such as Blade Runner and Akira, shows its continued influence on the genre, while still being a strong warning of the dagers of multi-national corporations' control of politics, something still relevant. – from an illustrated review by Neil Corry

Film Review no.627 (February 2003) p.92
Fritz Lang's Art Deco German Expressionist cinematic vision of the future was the Blade Runner (1982) of its day (): poorly received at the time but finding resonance with generations to come. It features film's firet ever robot (female), extraordinary special effects and a daunting vision of man's subservience to machinery. – from an illustrated DVD review by Mike Fillis

2005
Empire no.188 (February 2005) p.150
Metropolis has been rated as spectacular but simplistic science-fiction, but now we can see that the futuristic setting isn't so much prophetic as it is mythical. Elements of '20s architecture, industry, design and politics mingle with the medieval and the Biblical to produce lastingly strange images – a robot burned at the stake, a mad scientist who's also a wizard, trudging factory workers chewed up by a machine that is also the ancient god Moloch… Gustav Fröhlich's performance as the hero remains wildly overdone, but Rufolf Klein-Rogge is a definitive mad scientist, and Brigitte Helm is astonishing as both saintly saviour and metal femme fatale. With much story and character restored, the wild plot finally makes sense, as much twisted family drama as epic of repression, revolution and reconciliation. – from an illustrated review by Kim Newman

References

Periodicals

  • American Cinematographer vol.80 no.3 (March 1999) p.106 – illustrated article (Metropolis: Karl Freund, ASC and Gunther Rittau)
  • American Cinematographer vol.84 no.6 (June 2003) pp.17-18 – illustrated review (DVD playback by Stephen Pizzello)
  • Australian Journal of Screen Theory no.1 (January 1976) pp.3-50 (Australia) – article (Genetic structuralism and the cinema: A look at Fritz Lang's Metropolis by John Tulloch)
  • Cineaction! no.66 (2005) pp.12-23 (Canada) – illustrated article (Metropolis: Restoration, Reevaluation by Susan Smith)
  • Cinema Business no.47 (July 2008) p.4 – article (Metropolis found)
  • Cinematographie Francaise no.2135 (6 November 1965) p.21 – review
  • Classic Images no.327 (September 2002) p.37 – illustrated article (Metropolis restored by Frederic Lombardi)
  • Classic Images no.356 (February 2005) pp.34-35 – DVD review
  • Empire August 1999 p.146 – review (by David Parkinson)
  • Empire no.164 (February 2003) pp.49; 134 – illustrated review (The reviews by Kim Newman); illustrated DVD review by AM [Alan Morrison]
  • Empire Sci-fi Special (June 2003) – illustrated article (The ten most influential sci-fi films ever made by Ian Freer et al)
  • Empire no.188 (February 2005) p.150 – illustrated DVD review
  • Empire no.223 (January 2008) p.216-217 – illustrated article (The top 10 mad by Alan Morrison)
  • Empire no.228 (June 2008) p.94-101 – illustrated article (True originals by Simon Crook et al)
  • Film-Echo/Filmwoche no.7 (17 February 1995) p.11 – illustrated short article (Metropolis mit Jazz)
  • Film-Echo/Filmwoche no.13 (31 March 1995) p.20 – note (Vielbewubderte Metropolis)
  • Le Film Français no.3038 (2 April 2004) p.9 – illustrated article (“Metropolis” en salle et en DVD le même jour by Anthony Bobeau)
  • Film Heritage vol.3 no.2 (Winter 1967-1968) pp.22-28 – illustrated article (Metropolis by Paul Jensen)
  • Film History vol.7 no.3 (Autumn 1995) pp.277-290 – illustrated article (Restoration, Genealogy and Palimpsests: On some historiographical questions by Giorgio Bertellini)
  • Film History vol.17 no.2/3 (2005) p.168-178 – illustrated article (Annus Mirabilis: The Film in 1927 by Kevin Brownlow)
  • Film Quarterly vol.27 no.4 (Summer 1974) pp.17-24 – illustrated article (Structures and narrativity in Fritz Lang's Metropolis by Alan Williams)
  • Film Review no.627 (February 2003) pp.74; 92 – illustrated credits, review (New movies by Neil Corry); DVD review (Home entertainment: DVD to buy by Mike Fillis)
  • Film Review Special no.53: Alien v Predator pp.48-63 – illustrated article (Top 10 sci-fi babes by Tom Fox)
  • Filmfax no.95 (February/March 2003) pp.56-60, 82-83 – illustrated article (Metropolis reborn! by Harry H. Long)
  • German Films no.1 (2008) p.4-15 – illustrated article (Silent Cinema by Ralph Eue and Michael Esser)
  • German Films no.1 (2010) p.25 – article (News. The Complete Metropolis by Eric Stahl)
  • Image et Son no.214 (1968) pp.101-112 – illustrated article
  • The Independent Film and Video Monthly vol.25 no.2 (March 2002) p.15 – illustrated article (Alloy Orchestra sounds off by Patricia Thomson)
  • Journal of Popular Film & Television vol.33 no.4 Winter 2006) pp.178-186 – illustrated article (Lost in Space: Television as Science Fiction Icon by J.P. Telotte)
  • Kinetoscopio no.83 (August/October 2008) p.9 – illustrated article (Metropolis dormia en Buenos Aires by Ivan S. Gallo)
  • Metro no.146/147 (2005) p.170-174 – illustrated article (Metropolis in Black and White: The Art of Percy Benison by Michael Organ)
  • New Musical Express 1 December 1984 p.23 – review (by Nigel Matheson)
  • Realtime no.89 (February/March 2009) p.19 – illustrated article (Film by design by Wendy Haslem)
  • Science Fiction Film and Television vol.6 no.3 (Autumn 2013) pp. 422-428 – DVD review (Metropolis – multiple editions by Leo Enticknap)
  • Showreel no.7 (Spring 2005) pp.44-47 – illustrated article (The Nightmare Factory by Paul Murphy)
  • Sight & Sound Supplement no.5 (February 1946) pp.7, 8 – credits, review
  • Sight & Sound vol.2 no.6 (October 1992) p.68 – review
  • Sight & Sound vol.2 no.7 (November 1992) p.63 – illustrated letter (A cut too far by Brad Stevens)
  • Sight & Sound vol.2 no.8 (December 1992) p.63 – letter (Cut up by Philip Jenkinson)
  • Sight & Sound vol.13 no.2 (February 2003) p.68 – illustrated DVD review (Home movies: reviews: silents by Brad Stevens)
  • Sight & Sound vol.15 no.3 (March 2005) p.84 – DVD review
  • Sight & Sound vol.18 no.1 (January 2008) p.11 – illustrated article (Rushes: Fistful of five: Dystopias)
  • Sight & Sound vol.18 no.9 (September 2008) pp.26-29 – illustrated article (The Metropolitan mystery by Karen Naundori)
  • Sight & Sound vol.20 no.10 (October 2010) pp.16-20 – illustrated article (Remake remodel by Kim Newman)
  • Starburst no.307 (February 2004) pp.18-30 – illustrated article (Top 50 sci-fi movies, books and tv series ever!)
  • Starburst no.334 (March 2006) p.66-67 – illustrated article (Top 10 Future Visions)
  • Starburst no.365 (October 2008) p.14 – illustrated article (Things to come: Metropolis found)
  • Velvet Light Trap no.4 Spring 1972 pp.18-22 – illustrated article (THX 1138 vs. Metropolis by Nancy Schwartz)

Books

  • 500 Essential Cult Movies: The Ultimate Guide by Jennifer Eiss with J.P. Rutter and Steve White p.160 – illustrated credits, synopsis, review
  • The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction by Phil Hardy (ed) pp.74-75
  • BFI Screen Guides: 100 Science Fiction Films by Barry Keith Grant pp.109-110
  • Censored Screams: The British Ban on Hollywood Horror in the Thirties by Tom Johnson p.12 – note
  • The Encyclopedia of Epic Films by Constantine Santas, James M. Wilson, Maria Colavito, Djoymi Baker pp.642-644
  • English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema by Jonathan Rigby pp.17, 47
  • Euro Gothic: Classics of Continental Horror Cinema by Jonathan Rigby pp.36
  • Film Review 1985-1986 by F. Maurice Speed pp.86-87 – credits, synopsis, review
  • Heroes, Monsters and Values: Science Fiction Films of the 1970s p.71
  • Lexikon des Phantatischen Films 2 by Rolf Giesen pp.84-105
  • Looking for a New England: Action, Time, Vision: Music, Film and TV 1975-1986 by Simon Matthews p.200
  • Movies of the 20s and Early Cinema by Jürgen Müller pp.292-301 – illustrated credits, review (by PB [Phillip Bühler])
  • by Walt Lee pp.299; 301 – illustrated credits; still
  • Sci-fi Chronicles by Guy Haley (ed.) pp.64-65
  • Silent Films, 1877-1996: A Critical Guide to 646 Movies by Robert K. Klepper pp.423-424
  • Spectacular! The Story of Epic Films by John Cary, edited by John Kobal p.154 – credits
  • The Stop-motion Filmography by Neil Pettigrew p.447
  • Vintage Science Fiction Films, 1896-1949 by Michael Benson p.164

Other sources

  • BFI Southbank Guide February 2012 p.8 – illustrated listing
  • BFI Southbank Guide May 2019 p.19 – illustrated listing