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Giorgio Moroder presents Metropolis: DVD review

Moroder's Metropolis
Moroder’s Metropolis

The mediator between the head and hands must be the heart, and so the popular affection for the 1984 revamp of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis has finally led to a 2012 DVD release. It’s 85 years since this film was made, but 28 years since it was made over by Giorgio Moroder – so will the original film or its renovations have dated more?

On the face of it, we really don’t need Moroder’s Metropolis on DVD. This may be the version that turned a generation of film fans into silent movie buffs, turning the fledgling early-80s silent film renaissance into a mainstream movie moment, but surely we’ve moved on since then? We’re still waiting for many silent classics to appear on DVD, but among those that are available there are some absolute beauties: masterpieces of restoration, with audio commentaries, informative notes and sensitive, sometimes even historically accurate, scores. In this country, many such DVDs and Blu-Rays have appeared on the Masters of Cinema imprint, part of the Eureka Entertainment group that has released Moroder’s Metropolis.

Moroder's Metropolis
Moroder’s Metropolis

Most salient of these releases is The Complete Metropolis, the almost-full restoration of Fritz Lang’s film: a product of skill, patience and the great fortune to find the missing footage in an archive in Buenos Aires. At a stroke, the movie was rehabilitated: no longer a grand mess, a gorgeous design pocked with plotholes. Simultaneously, Moroder’s idiosyncratic restoration was rendered obsolete.

But silent film fans don’t fear obsolescence. It’s our stock-in-trade. Nor are we averse to the first faltering steps towards new technologies. We embrace part-talkies, Pathécolor, Polyvision and undercranking. Moroder’s Metropolis should be viewed in this spirit. Would we restore a film this way again? No, but what will they think of our “state-of-the-art” digital restorations in 2040? Very little, perhaps, particularly if those digital copies become obsolete themselves, incompatible with new projection technology.

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Moroder’s Metropolis – the people have spoken

Metropolis, circa 1984
Metropolis, circa 1984

Ach, it’s no fun being a silent cinema purist sometimes. And while I wouldn’t necessarily describe myself that way very often, I was pretty sure I was in the fun-hating minority when the UK DVD release of Moroder’s Metropolis was first announced. Just to make sure, I ran a poll here on Silent London to find out what you guys think.

If you need to refresh your memory, Giorgio Moroder’s version came out in 1984 and looks very different to the latest restoration. Working with the most complete version of the film he could find at the time, Moroder added a rock soundtrack, washed some different scenes with bright tints and made the whole thing run faster by removing the intertitles and using the text for subtitles. It’s a strange beast, and perhaps needless to say, a cult favourite.

You ruddy love it. Well, some of you do. Quite a few of you like it, and while there’s a solid 20% with me, arms crossed and tutting in the outraged camp, you have convinced me to give Moroder’s Metropolis another go. What’s the worst that can happen? I first saw it many moons ago, on a worn-out VHS borrowed from the college library. Since then, I’ve seen the beautiful new restoration of the original film, and my appreciation for Metropolis has only grown. I hope I have lightened up a little, and I have even learned to play a Pat Benatar song on Guitar Hero.

So I’ll definitely be taking a look at the DVD when it is released on 23 July this year. Apparently it’s arriving in a smart “steelbook” edition, and interestingly, you’ll be able to stream it on demand from www.metropolismovie.co.uk too.

In 1984, Oscar-winning composer Giorgio Moroder (Top GunMidnight ExpressFlashdance) reintroduced Fritz Lang’s 1927 science fiction epic METROPOLIS to a new generation of moviegoers. He colourised scenes, added new subtitles, plus a throbbing rock soundtrack to Lang’s iconic imagery. Featuring songs from some of the biggest stars of the early MTV era: Freddie Mercury, Pat Benatar, Adam Ant, Bonnie Tyler, Loverboy, Jon Anderson and others, it became a dramatic vehicle for Moroder’s visionary music and a beautiful retro-futurist timepiece. Through faithfully maintaining Lang’s intriguing and timeless storyline, today, it is this version of METROPOLIS that first comes to mind for millions around the world.

 Yeah, that last sentence does still grate a little… watch this space.

Moroder’s Metropolis – masterpiece or monstrosity?

Giorgio Moroder
Giorgio Moroder, at the controls of his own 'heart machine'

Last year, we reported that Kino Lorber was releasing Giorgio Moroder’s musical re-edit of Fritz lang’s Metropolis on Blu-Ray in America – followed by a limited theatrical release. Now, Eureka Entertainment has announced a UK DVD/DVD steelbook release for the movie on 23 July 2012.

If you need to refresh your memory, Giorgio Moroder’s version came out in 1984 and looks very different to the latest restoration. Working with the most complete version of the film he could find at the time, Moroder added a rock soundtrack, washed some different scenes with bright tints and made the whole thing run faster by removing the intertitles and using the text for subtitles. It’s a strange beast, and perhaps needless to say, a cult favourite.

So – after all the recent excitement over the “complete” Metropolis, are you horrified by the thought of watching Moroder’s hard-rocking version? Or do you have fond memories of this “retro-futurist” experiment? Perhaps it was the the first silent movie you saw and it holds happy memories of your first steps into early cinema? Maybe you’re just a big Freddie Mercury fan. Let us know what you think by completing our poll, or commenting below

Moroder’s Metropolis – coming soon to a cinema near you?

Giorgio Moroder's Metropolis (Kino Video)
Giorgio Moroder's Metropolis (Kino Video)

UPDATE APRIL 2012: Eureka Entertainment has announced a UK DVD release of Moroder’s Metropolis for 23 July 2012

For some people, the Complete Metropolis will never be enough. They want more. To be precise, they want Pat Benatar. And those people are about to be very, very happy.

Inexplicably to many of us, Kino Video is following up its recent release of Fritz Lang’s restored, almost-full-length masterpiece with a DVD/Blu-Ray issue of the version that musician Giorgio Moroder made in 1984. If you don’t know this cut, believe me, it’s not for the purists. For a start, it’s only 80 minutes long. Moroder ran the film up to 24fps, sped it up some more by removing the initertitles and replacing them with subtitles, tinted the film and added a contemporary rock soundtrack. Yes, Freddie Mercury, Bonnie Tyler, the aforementioned Benatar and Adam Ant are all there – if the 80s revival is real, this should be a smash hit.

But there’s more, there’s going to be a theatrical release too. Kino is planning a limited release for the Moroder Metropolis, starting with midnight screenings at the Landmark Sunshine cinema in New York City, on 14 and 15 October 2011 and visiting other US cities over the following two months. The US DVD/Blu-Ray release should make its appearance on 15 November.

The thing is, the Moroder Metropolis is more than just a cult favourite. For a great number of people, it was their first introduction to the world of silent cinema – or at least the first silent film they really enjoyed. And heck, lots of people like the music too. It may not be an authentic silent film experience, but the other versions of Metropolis kicking around when it was made were hardly the real deal either. The film had been heavily cut on its release – so much so that Lang himself refused to watch it – and was languishing in an archive unloved for years. There was still a lot of footage missing, and as now, the intended frame speed was a mystery. So you could argue that Moroder did the film more good than harm, and that we wouldn’t have the subsequent loving restorations without the work he did to make Metropolis popular.

We know that London is home to hundreds of fans of what we call “cult cinema”, the weird and wonderful stuff that is at the heart of the Scala Forever programme, or on show at film clubs all over the city. So I’m assuming we will see some screenings of the Moroder Metropolis in our neck of the woods. It seems like a natural next step doesn’t it? Particuarly if the demand is there.

Would you like to see the Moroder Metropolis on the big screen here in London? Are you keen enough to book a ticket to New York? Or is this travesty a crime against cinema that is best forgotten? Let me know what you think.