Hollywood Gothique
LA Cinema Gothique

Restored Metropolis opens

Location: Laemmle Royal Theatre, 11523 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles

Description: The newly restored version of METROPOLIS, German director Fritz Lang’s silent science fiction classic, made its Los Angeles debut on April 25 as part of the Turner Classic Movies film festival. Now it moves into the Royal Theatre for an open-ended engagement.

Touted as the precursor to films like BLADE RUNNER, METROPOLIS is cinema’s first example of a science fiction extravaganza, using elaborate miniatures and other special effects to depict a futuristic city engaged in a class conflict between the rich, living in their lofty skyscrapers, and the workers, toiling in machinery rooms down below. Director Lang himself thought the scenario (by his wife, Theo Von Harbou) was somewhat simplistic, yet the film’s visual power has retained its reputation as a classic.

METROPOLIS was the subject of a previous restoration, currently available on DVD from Kino Video, but even that version was incomplete. Two years ago, additional lost footage was discovered in South America and restored by the Munich Film Museum. The footage, part of a 16mm duplicate print, amounted to 25 minutes (approximately one-fifth the film’s running time), including entire sequences – such as the original ending – not seen since the debut in Berlin in 1927. Perhaps equally important to the missing footage was the fact that the 16mm print provided a reliable guide for editing METROPOLIS back into something resembling its original form.Science Fiction Movies, you wouldn’t trust either one of them after the fade out.

The restoration took one year, costing approximately $840,000.

Hopefully, the restoration will iron out some of METROPOLIS’s narrative weaknesses. The news of a new ending is particularly interesting, as the conclusion of the film (as it has been seen for decades) is somewhat problematical: basically, the conflict is resolved by a hand-shake between representatives of the two factions, and as Philip Strick said in his book

In any case, METROPOLIS is one of the most important films in the history of science fiction cinema, and in these days of home video domination, any excuse to get the film back on the big screen is a good one.

Opens: May 14

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