By Dennis Hartley
(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on December 11, 2010)
The Complete Metropolis – Kino Lorber Blu-ray
For film buffs, the news that a “complete” print of Fritz Lang’s visionary expressionist 1927 sci-fi masterpiece had been discovered languishing on a dusty shelf in a film historian’s personal collection in Argentina in 2008 was akin to hearing that the Holy Grail had turned up at a church rummage sale. A box-office flop upon its first run, it was famously butchered for time by its original U.S. distributor, and censored for content by German authorities. Happily for fans, the film is now likely as close as it is ever going to get to its original presentation as intended by Lang.
Kino has one-upped their previous “definitive” DVD version with this new Blu-ray transfer of the Murnau Foundation’s latest re-tweaking, which now shores up previously choppy scenes by incorporating 20+ minutes of the Argentine footage. A recently discovered copy of the censor’s notes (containing all of the original inter-titles) was an equally valuable tool for the restoration team (especially for syncing up the original music score, which has been beautifully re-recorded). This all adds up to a new total running time of 147 minutes (compared to the tacky 90-minute Georgio Moroder-scored version that floated around for years, this is a godsend).
There is one caveat you should be aware of. The recovered Argentine footage was a 16mm copy of a tattered 35mm print. They cleaned it up as best they could without compromising image; be warned that these new inserts are relatively “gauzy”, albeit essential. Still, this (nearly) complete version, with its absorbing companion documentary, makes it a worthwhile investment for collectors.