Reviews

Metropolis: Reconstructed & Restored

3

Fritz Lang’s bionic woman, rebuilt at last...

Here’s a double dip that’s impossible to be annoyed by. When a hefty chunk of a movie classic is rediscovered, 80 years after it was believed to be lost forever, it’s not just understandable to get it out on disc again as quickly as possible, it’s downright essential.

Metropolis has finally been made (almost) whole, and it’s a dream come true for film fans everywhere. It's now extended by around 30 minutes, with the scenes assembled in the correct order. 

Synchronised to a new symphonic performance of Gottfried Huppertz’s original score, this is as close as you’re likely to get to sitting in a 1927 Berlin cinema as the lights go down for the first time...

However, this isn’t a Blu-ray to choose if you’re a stickler for visual perfection.

A film of this age, with so many bits and pieces culled from various sources all over the world, is never going to look pristine. You might be surprised at just how good it does look in high definition, though.

This is a detail-rich movie, employing hundreds of extras and vast sets, so the 1080p transfer often unearths fresh delights in Lang’s densely populated frames.

The new footage is often dark and scratchy, but it’s perfectly watchable and fits in well with the existing material.

When you consider that the lost footage comes from a muddy 16mm print, left in a rusting can for decades, it’s a miracle Metropolis cleaned up as much as it has in this new print. The impact it has on the movie is enormous.

Characters such as The Thin Man, briefly glimpsed in previous edits, are now elevated to full supporting character status. A pivotal scene, at the statue of Hel, adds depth and understanding to the film’s themes.

This is, in almost every sense, the complete Metropolis.

Sadly, the rest of the disc doesn’t really live up to the momentous occasion.

Both commentary and documentary are fine, tracing the tortuous task of reassembling a film that had been snipped to pieces and scattered to the winds of history, but what of the bonus material from the previous DVD?

Where is the Enno Patalas’ documentary or the gallery of production images? Why not use the capacity of Blu-ray to archive, compare and contrast, the various versions of the movie over the years?

Hopefully a definitive boxset will appear one day. For now, though, having this classic film whole again is reason enough to celebrate.

 

Verdict:

A true classic of cinema, restored to its original glory. Pity the disc isn’t as comprehensive as the restoration, though.

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