Remaking Metropolis

Complete but not definitive

Last year I had the privilege of participating in the Blu-Ray restoration of the restored version of Metropolis (the UK Blu-Ray edition at least, from Masters of Cinema), recording an audio commentary alongside Jonathan Rosenbaum.  It was a tremendous thrill to see this once-lost footage brought back into circulation—it makes you think that maybe anything is possible.  But for all that was positive about the experience, there was one point of frustration, centered on how the restored edition was marketed.  And to explain my contrarian position, we need to back up over eight decades and tell the convoluted story of multiple Metropoli.

The first thing that needs saying is that this is a peculiarly paradoxical film.  For a great many people, Metropolis is what they think of when they think of Fritz Lang, or silent film generally—even though it is in no way representative of Lang’s cinema nor a particularly typical silent film.  By the same token, you’re not likely to find a history of science fiction movies that doesn’t single it out for attention, even though it isn’t typical of science fiction either (aside from the killer robot aspect, it’s more of a gothic fairy tale).  But here’s the kicker, and the central fact underlying my thesis: when people think of Metropolis, be it as an outlier example of Fritz Lang, silent cinema, and/or sci-fi, what they are thinking of isn’t the movie now available on Blu-Ray and DVD under that title—it’s one of the altered versions that the new restoration intends to replace.

 The bulk of Fritz Lang’s silent-era career was conducted at the studio Ufa, under the guidance and protection of producer Erich Pommer.  Herr Pommer had a crafty and seemingly insane strategy for making Ufa movies profitable.  This was one of those “it’s so crazy it just might work” strategies.  Where other producers facing limited distribution channels and declining fortunes would reign in expenses and try to squeeze a better profit margin out of cheaper movies, Pommer liberally turned open the money spigot and encouraged directors like Lang and Murnau to go nuts. 

Pommer had sussed out that American films prioritized realism, and so he deliberately opted to fill a different niche in the cinematic ecosphere.  Ufa made films Hollywood couldn’t.  The emphasis on Expressionism was a deliberate commercial strategy, and indulging the idiosyncrasies of his directors was his way to counter Hollywood threat.

The idea was that by cultivating the mad genius of Lang and Murnau and their contemporaries, he made Ufa into the place where Great Art got made, and the international community could come to accept Ufa as a brand name for German Expressionist Cinema.  Pommer was so good at this branding strategy, it works to this day, and critics still use “Ufa” and “German Expressionism” as interchangeable terms. 

Pommer figured that for every overbloated production that lost money, the profits would accrue to the cheaper productions that wound up ennobled by being in their shadows.  So if Lang wanted to spend 6 Million Marks on Metropolis, the most Ufa had ever spent on anything ever, then he did so with Pommer’s (wary) blessing.

The problem was, Ufa didn’t have 6 Million Marks to give Lang.  If he was going to spend that much, it was going to come from somewhere else—in this case, the deeper pockets of Paramount Pictures in the U.S.

Ufa was at the time running operating losses of nearly 36 Million Marks—enough to make Metropolis 12 times over.  Er… that’s not right.  What I mean is, someone else would have to pay them to make Metropolis 12 times over, and they’d then go and not do anything with that money except pay debts, and they could just about break even. 

This at a time when the market for German films in Germany was negligible and shrinking.

Ufa was in a fight for its survival.  They had struck a deal with MGM and Paramount whereby the Hollywood studios loaned Ufa 4 Million Marks—which was put towards the making of Metropolis—and in return Ufa surrendered to their Hollywood partners 75% of the market that they otherwise controlled through Ufa’s own theater chain.  Universal also loaned money to Ufa in exchange for Ufa promising to buy 50 Universal films per year. 

It was survival at a cost—Ufa got short-term cash in exchange for gutting their ability to maintain a long-term business model making films in Germany for German audiences.  And they didn’t even use the money to pay their debts!  They went and blew it on Metropolis—because the plan was to make a blockbuster event that could compete with Hollywood head-to-head and act as a beachhead into the American market.  Metropolis was expected to lose money—but it was supposed to make German films cache in America.  Ufa’s masterplan was to start making films for the American market, so of course they were willing to trade away their German audience in return for access to Hollywood.  Paramount was going to promote and distribute Metropolis in America. Fritz Lang, that visionary artist, was going to make an American popcorn movie.

As far as the people writing the checks were concerned, that’s what was supposed to happen.

Lang’s original cut premiered at Ufa’s prestigious Berlin theater on January 10, 1927 to a crowd of VIPs—“ganz Berlin war da.”  It premiered to a mixed response from the press: the movie looks great, but the story’s a mess.

Meanwhile, at Paramount’s offices in California, anxiety and disquiet was brewing.  The studio was unhappy with the absurd length of the thing—there was no viable way to sell a 150-minute movie to American audiences in 1927.  No one would sit still for anything of that length, and it would cut in half the number of possible showtimes at any given theater compared to a more conventional 90 minute-running time (which is another way of saying, if it was shorter it could potentially make twice as much). 

The Paramount brass though agreed with the German critics: this movie looks great, but the story’s a mess.  If what they needed was a way to trim it down to somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 minutes for business reasons, perhaps that re-editing could impose some sense onto the storyline in a way that would mute the criticism as well?  What if they could engineer the response: looks great, and the story’s a winner?  Wouldn’t that be better both for business and for art?

Enter playwright Channing Pollock, hired by Paramount to rebuild Metropolis, to make it better, faster, stronger.  Pollock in turn hired Julian Johnson and Edward Adams.  They cut out nearly an hour of material, changed the title cards, removed subplots and adjusted motivations.

To understand what they changed and how, let’s go back to the original version for a moment.  Lang’s original cut told the story of a future civilization ruled by a Nietschean dictator named Frederson, who once was in love with a woman named Hel.  His rival for Hel’s affections was a brilliant scientist named Rotwang.  Frederson won the romantic battle and claimed Hel as his wife, only to see her perish in childbirth giving life to their only child, Freder.  In grief for his dead wife, Frederson pours his soul into making the city of Metropolis the most efficient and mechanically perfect machine, even if that perfection comes at a massive human cost to the workers whose near-slave labor keeps the lights on.  Meanwhile, Rotwang nurses his grief by creating an android whom he can give Hel’s likeness, and live out his days in a simulacrum of the life Frederson took from him. 

The unhappy workers below start to rally around a woman named Maria, who serves as a sort of Martin Luther King to them, giving voice to their grievances in powerful speeches while tamping down their rage with a message of non-violent protest.  Worried about what might come of this, though, Frederson figures it would be good idea to discredit Maria, and demands that Rotwang give the robot Maria’s appearance instead, so it can be sent into the undercity in her place to sow chaos. 

Frederson’s son Freder (yes, you read that right) has fallen in love with Maria, and Rotwang realizes that anything he does to hurt Maria will hurt Freder, and by extension Frederson as well, so he happily unleashes the robot as an agent of creative destruction, looking forward to the Hell his lost Hel will raise.

OK.                                                       

Let’s get this out of the way: exactly none of what I just summarized is unambiguously told by Lang’s original film.  It is hinted at, implied, and suggested—and it is part of the overwhelming mastery of cinematic technique displayed by Fritz Lang that this convoluted backstory and character nuance is conveyed through images.  But it was precisely this delicacy and nuance that was forcing the film to take so long—ideas had to be layered up, tweaked, juxtaposed.  If you want a zippier film, you need a simpler premise.

So here’s what Pollock and his team cooked up:

This is a future civilization ruled by a Nietschean dictator who is worried about a nascent worker uprising led by Maria.  His chief scientist has built a humanoid robot, which they give the likeness of Maria.  The robot goes crazy. 

Done and done.  That takes a lot less time to digest. 

Throughout the film, Pollock and his team took Lang’s subtleties and turned them into blunt instruments.  In Lang’s longer version, the class divisions are widely understood and accepted as a fact of life—in Pollock’s recut, the conditions of the undercity workers are a source of shame, and the Master of Metropolis is upset when his son discovers how the underclass lives.  Same footage, different inflections.

And here’s another interesting tidbit: the fact that the Paramount Metropolis is assembled from the same footage as the original means that in recutting it, Pollock and his team changed its editorial style.  In several cases, this was to the film’s benefit—whereby the American cuts created more sophisticated cross-cutting and editorial effects that do not exist in the more stately pace of the original (by way of an example: the recut juxtaposes different characters deciphering Maria’s map so that they all decrypt it together, rather than the same event happening twice at different times).

Some of the biggest changes center around the robot Maria.  As described above, the longer cut suggests that the robot was constructed as a companion to Rotwang, perhaps even a sexbot.

Pollock’s reworded intertitles read:

“My work is done!

A Machine that can be made to look like a man—or a woman—but never tires—never makes a mistake!

Now we can do without living workers!”

Once the film critical establishment started to realize that there were multiple variants of Metropolis at large and that comparing and contrasting them was a worthwhile critical exercise, many writers seized on this change as a corruption of the original intention and pointed out the obvious question, if Rotwang’s trying to make a robot worker, why make it sexy?

But, more or less simultaneously with the film, screenwriter Thea Von Harbou was also drafting the story as a novel, in which she has Rotwang introduce the robot by the name “Parody:”

“In short: it is a woman.  Every man-creator makes himself a woman.  I do not believe this humbug about the first human being a man.  If a male-god created the world, then he certainly created woman first.”

To which Frederson objects:

“I ordered machine-men from you, Rotwang, which I can use at my machines.  No woman—no plaything.”

Rotwang answers:

“No plaything.  Jo Frederson, no.  You and I, we no longer play.  It is a tool. Do you know what it means to have a woman as a tool?”

So the book’s version is a weird hybrid, the missing link between the Lang version and the Pollock version.  Maybe Pollock was on to something when he boasted his cut was closer to Lang’s vision than the original movie.

Wait, what?  you ask?  Yes, Paramount promoted their recut of Metropolis as being closer to Lang’s vision than the German cut.

A New York Times article explained and praised the Pollock revisions, noting that the Germans knew how to make amazing images but were naïve and inexperienced in crafting a solid cinematic story.  The Times went on to say:

“The Germans either have a lack of interest in dramatic verity or an astonishing ineptitude.  Motives were absent, or were extremely naïve.”

Wow!

Ufa took this seriously.  Since the German press had said “looks great, but the story’s a mess,” then if Pollock really fixed the story, then why not go with that—so the Pollock cuts were copied back onto the German version and that’s what went into general release.  Same for copies sold abroad—but each one was cut individually, following Pollock’s decisions but with local variations.

And this was met with a profound irony.  The critical response to the Paramountized Metropolis?  Say it with me:  “looks great, story’s a mess.”

Metropolis tanked.  Ufa had counted on a government bailout, but didn’t get it.  They were 40 Million Marks in debt, and were bought out by Alfred Hugenberg on behalf of the Nationalist Party specifically to get access to Ufa’s theater chain so he could use them for political propaganda.

Erich Pommer was fired—he was to blame for not reigning in the spending habits of Lang and Murnau. 

Ufa also fired Lang.  It was not enough for the board of directors to get together and sign a resolution agreeing to never hire him again, they had to scribble on the margin of the document a handwritten addendum pledging to be rude to him in person if they ever met!

Now, there is an irony here that deserves mention.  Fritz Lang idolized Erich Pommer as his greatest producer, as a model for what a film producer should be.  He measured all other producers against Pommer and found them wanting—and the attribute of Pommer’s he most admired was Pommer’s easy touch. 

There is an anecdote, possibly apocryphal, which Lang told about Pommer:  While shooting The Nibelungen, Pommer was worried that a certain scene would be unnecessarily expensive, asked Lang to consider dropping it.  Lang gave it some thought, and when he came back to the studio the next day was willing to drop it as requested.  However, Pommer had also reconsidered and now said, “I think we should go ahead and shoot the scene just the way that you envisioned it.”

Never mind if this is strictly an accurate recounting of what happened—it is an insight into what Lang liked about Pommer.  Lang had something that was optional, an unnecessary expense over which he was willing to compromise, and Pommer was the kind of guy who’d roll over and let Lang spend that money promiscuously anyway.

The problem was this strategy got Pommer fired, ruined Ufa, and sent Lang adrift.  And he never learned the lesson—never understood that compromise has its place, that the tension between producer and director is a valid part of the creative process—that you need a link between the head and the hands, as it were.

Just imagine if Pommer had told Lang, keep it to 10 reels, pal—Paramount won’t screen anything longer.  How much cheaper the film would have been—easier to consider a success—and maybe there would never have been a need for Pollock ever to intercede… but although this would have been BETTER, Lang would never have seen it that way.

So instead we got this bifurcation of Metropolis—the original cut and the Pollock cut.  And each strand led to subdivisions—Pollock’s version appeared in slightly different forms in each country where it screened.  Meanwhile, in the 1970s, efforts to restore the original cut started to produce new variants of their own. 

In the 1970s, Enno Patalas led the charge to reassembling the longer cut and restoring Lang’s original vision.  In another of the ironies and paradoxes that clutter this tale, this very effort resulted in the Giorgio Moroder version of Metropolis in 1984.  Moroder helped identify and preserve crucial bits of film using the financing generated for his rock-opera recut.

And it is in the snobbish reaction against the Moroder cut that I start to dig in my heels.  That version came out in 1984—when I was 14.  The rambunctious soundtrack, which irks so many hard-liners, was an enormous come-on to me.  Moroder’s Metropolis is how I first saw and fell in love with this film, and it is how I first encountered and fell in love with Fritz Lang.  It is an insupportable position to take that Moroder’s loud 1980s embellishments of Metropolis are inconsistent with an appreciation of silent film or an understanding of Fritz Lang’s artistry—I offer myself up as evidence to the contrary.

I am thrilled beyond measure that Kino-Lorber saw fit to restore the Moroder version for Blu-Ray.  That is right and proper—it deserves to be preserved for future generations.  But what about the Pollock cut?

My concern about how the reconstructed longform Metropolis is marketed is in any suggestion that it is “definitive.”  This is cannot be—and not only because it is still missing fragments of footage.  Even if every single frame were restored to what was first premiered in Berlin in 1927, it would still fall short of being definitive.  Why?  Because that wasn’t Metropolis!

Think about it this way: Enno Patalas and all of the film historians, critics, preservationists, archivists, and sundry crusaders who spent the last 40 years trying to reconstruct Lang’s original cut did so on the basis of two things: a love of Metropolis, and a recognition that it existed in an incomplete form.  That first bit, the love, came from having seen Metropolis—having seen the Pollock cut (or perhaps the Moroder cut or some other altered version).  The second bit, the recognition of absence, came from documentations—scripts, annotated music sheets, studio records.  One thing no one involved in the entire endeavor had was a first-hand experience of seeing the original cut.  In fact, the throngs who showed up at the 2010 premiere of the restored version, the viewers who watched the TV broadcast at home, the fans who have bought the DVD and Blu-Ray—none of them had ever seen it before either.  We are fans of Metropolis because of, not despite, the altered versions.  How dare we disrespect those versions, then?

I’ll happily agree that the longer version of Metropolis is the more accomplished production, and reveals more about Lang as an artist.  By all means, that ought to be your preferred viewing option.  That’s not what I’m arguing.  What I am arguing is that this longer cut should not be completely displacing and usurping the shorter cut. 

Consider this: there are a host of sci-fi creations that owe an obvious debt to Metropolis.  The rampaging gunslingers of Westworld, the skinjob Cylons of Battlestar Galactica, huge swaths of Blade Runner… draw up your own list.  These are stories about humanoid robots who go on killing sprees.  There is an entire strain of sci-fi oriented around conveying the message that making machines that look human, convincing them they are human, and then giving them guns is a bad idea.

But while this strain of sci-fi may trace its origins back to the Paramount Metropolis, it doesn’t comfortably trace back to the longer cut, which spends less time proportionally on the robot Maria and explains the robot’s mischief differently.  The lesson of the original cut of Metropolis is more along the lines of: if you’re going to make a humanoid robot and give it weapons, it’s not best practices to have the robot’s programming controlled by a lunatic with a grudge. 

In other words, the more the longer cut of Metropolis displaces the bastardized Paramount version, the more of a gap is opened up to disconnect the film from its followers.

Suppose that scholars discovered that William Shakespeare’s original published and performed version of Hamlet didn’t have the “to be or not to be” speech in it, and that those words had been shoe-horned in by a later promoter trying to make the play work better for a local audience.  Would it be right to replace all copies of the play in circulation with the older version—even if it represented the author’s true intent? 

What if art historians discovered that Da Vinci had painted the Mona Lisa with a cruel frown, and a later hack had painted over the canvas to add her smile?  A proper restoration of the painting would remove the offending layer and restore the artist’s intended vision—and in the same stroke destroy much of what people like most about the painting.

These are extreme examples, but I stand by the point they illustrate.  Metropolis doesn’t just belong to Fritz Lang—a man who has been dead for most of my lifetime.  The movie has belonged to the world—and for 80 some years it has inspired fascination and love and obsession.  And it had done so in a myriad of denatured forms.  It was the Channing Pollock cut that sent HG Wells to his typewriter to write a wonderfully misguided critique; it was the Channing Pollock cut that enervated a young Forry Ackerman and helped trigger the creation of Fantastic Monsters of Filmland Magazine; it was the Channing Pollock cut that sent Enno Patalas on his decades-long quest to find the missing footage.  It was the Channing Pollock cut that carved out a space in pop culture posterity for this film.  In short, it is the Channing Pollock cut that has the greatest claim of any version to being the definitive Metropolis.

Say that in polite company and you’re likely to get things thrown at you.

0 Response Remaking Metropolis
Posted By jdhcinehistoryresearch : April 7, 2012 11:36 am

2 things: 36 million divided by 12 is 3 million-not 6 million; UFA would have had enough money to remake METROPOLIS only 6 times, not 12, so you might want to check your math.

Second, using your logic, every film that has been butchered by (to paraphrase Erich Von Stroheim) someone for whom the only thing on their mind was a hat, then GREED, THE WEDDING MARCH, NAPOLEON, CITY GIRL, FREAKS, BEZHIN MEADOW, THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS and any other film that was taken away from the person who envisioned it is really the vision and work of the person who butchered it.

Really? Seriously?

The only way this theory really works for me is if you think that because of desecration, a film is only remembered due to it being desecrated and cinema mavens taking up the cause of restoring the filmmaker’s original vision. So METROPOLIS is not “Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS” but “Channing Pollack’s/Enno Patalas’/Georgio Moroder’s/(Sorry-cannot remember the name of all the people who restored Lang’s vision for the 2011 version)’s METROPOLIS?”

Really? Seriously? Because this means that any bit of art that is created is not the idea or vision or brainstorm of the person or persons who originally came up with it but that of the person or persons who merchandise it-sorry, but that makes no sense to me. Using your Shakespeare’s HAMLET analogy, that would mean that whomever would see fit to cut out the “To be or not to be” soliloquy and/or put it back in is the true genius behind the play, EVEN IF THAT PERSON WAS SOME SCHLUB WHO DID NOT LIKE THE SOLIOQUY OR NOT EVEN ALIVE WHEN THE PLAY WAS WRITTEN!

Nope-not gonna fly, because that would mean that art is created by a committee or by someone who wouldn’t know creativity from a a hole in the ground, and we all know what a horse dreamt up by a committee looks like…it looks like “Channing Pollack’s METROPOLIS.”

Posted By jdhcinehistoryresearch : April 7, 2012 11:36 am

2 things: 36 million divided by 12 is 3 million-not 6 million; UFA would have had enough money to remake METROPOLIS only 6 times, not 12, so you might want to check your math.

Second, using your logic, every film that has been butchered by (to paraphrase Erich Von Stroheim) someone for whom the only thing on their mind was a hat, then GREED, THE WEDDING MARCH, NAPOLEON, CITY GIRL, FREAKS, BEZHIN MEADOW, THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS and any other film that was taken away from the person who envisioned it is really the vision and work of the person who butchered it.

Really? Seriously?

The only way this theory really works for me is if you think that because of desecration, a film is only remembered due to it being desecrated and cinema mavens taking up the cause of restoring the filmmaker’s original vision. So METROPOLIS is not “Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS” but “Channing Pollack’s/Enno Patalas’/Georgio Moroder’s/(Sorry-cannot remember the name of all the people who restored Lang’s vision for the 2011 version)’s METROPOLIS?”

Really? Seriously? Because this means that any bit of art that is created is not the idea or vision or brainstorm of the person or persons who originally came up with it but that of the person or persons who merchandise it-sorry, but that makes no sense to me. Using your Shakespeare’s HAMLET analogy, that would mean that whomever would see fit to cut out the “To be or not to be” soliloquy and/or put it back in is the true genius behind the play, EVEN IF THAT PERSON WAS SOME SCHLUB WHO DID NOT LIKE THE SOLIOQUY OR NOT EVEN ALIVE WHEN THE PLAY WAS WRITTEN!

Nope-not gonna fly, because that would mean that art is created by a committee or by someone who wouldn’t know creativity from a a hole in the ground, and we all know what a horse dreamt up by a committee looks like…it looks like “Channing Pollack’s METROPOLIS.”

Posted By Harmon : April 7, 2012 12:45 pm

An interesting take.

But the real question is not which version can lay claim to being the authentic one, but which version is the best movie.

When I saw the 2010 version, it was as if the movie was ten times better than any prior version. That’s what makes it definitive.

Posted By Harmon : April 7, 2012 12:45 pm

An interesting take.

But the real question is not which version can lay claim to being the authentic one, but which version is the best movie.

When I saw the 2010 version, it was as if the movie was ten times better than any prior version. That’s what makes it definitive.

Posted By dukeroberts : April 7, 2012 1:00 pm

I totally appreciate your argument for the Pollock cut. I thought that version should have been included on the Kino Blu-ray. Maybe someday it will. You have influence, right?

What I will disagree with you on is the Moroder cut. That was the first version I saw too and I hated it. I felt the music was a total distraction. While I might have liked some of the music, I felt it added nothing of value to the filmwatching experience at all.

Posted By dukeroberts : April 7, 2012 1:00 pm

I totally appreciate your argument for the Pollock cut. I thought that version should have been included on the Kino Blu-ray. Maybe someday it will. You have influence, right?

What I will disagree with you on is the Moroder cut. That was the first version I saw too and I hated it. I felt the music was a total distraction. While I might have liked some of the music, I felt it added nothing of value to the filmwatching experience at all.

Posted By swac44 : April 7, 2012 1:11 pm

Here’s an interesting bit of U.S. advertising art for Metropolis, taken from Paramount’s 1927 release book (a catalogue for theatres that booked Paramount titles). No sign of the robot! I guess they didn’t want to spoil it for anyone.

http://tsutpen.blogspot.ca/2005/02/selling-silents-1.html

Posted By swac44 : April 7, 2012 1:11 pm

Here’s an interesting bit of U.S. advertising art for Metropolis, taken from Paramount’s 1927 release book (a catalogue for theatres that booked Paramount titles). No sign of the robot! I guess they didn’t want to spoil it for anyone.

http://tsutpen.blogspot.ca/2005/02/selling-silents-1.html

Posted By Tom S : April 7, 2012 1:12 pm

Haha, this has come up with like half of Orson Welles’ filmography- and for Touch of Evil and Mr. Arkadin, at least, it’s resulted in releases with a bunch of different cuts in hopes of being exhaustive and thus definitive by virtue of including everything that has any claim to being definitive. It’s a strategy I’d be happy to see for Metropolis- a triple disc blu with the restoration, the Moroder cut, and the Pollock cut, and maybe SD versions of other cuts where appropriate.

The issue for me is that I think all the other cuts would need commentaries to explain their place in history, how those cuts had been assembled, who was likely to have seen that version, etc. The long cut is, from what I’ve seen, the best version of the movie, so the other cuts have largely scholarly/historical interest- as such, they should have scholarly/historical material. If someone put out that release, I’d but it in a second. But it would cost like $100 and get released to a market where it was pretty remarkable that the gorgeous, miraculously rediscovered long cut got any meaningful publicity.

Posted By Tom S : April 7, 2012 1:12 pm

Haha, this has come up with like half of Orson Welles’ filmography- and for Touch of Evil and Mr. Arkadin, at least, it’s resulted in releases with a bunch of different cuts in hopes of being exhaustive and thus definitive by virtue of including everything that has any claim to being definitive. It’s a strategy I’d be happy to see for Metropolis- a triple disc blu with the restoration, the Moroder cut, and the Pollock cut, and maybe SD versions of other cuts where appropriate.

The issue for me is that I think all the other cuts would need commentaries to explain their place in history, how those cuts had been assembled, who was likely to have seen that version, etc. The long cut is, from what I’ve seen, the best version of the movie, so the other cuts have largely scholarly/historical interest- as such, they should have scholarly/historical material. If someone put out that release, I’d but it in a second. But it would cost like $100 and get released to a market where it was pretty remarkable that the gorgeous, miraculously rediscovered long cut got any meaningful publicity.

Posted By jdhcinehistoryresearch : April 7, 2012 1:29 pm

The Moroder version is one I have a love/hate relationship with-I love that he was able to restore some footage back into it and some of the tinting work was quite lovely. The hate part is the music-when it is instrumental it is pretty good, but when the singing starts…hoo-boy! My favorite moment was when the robot is transformed into Maria-as we see her walk towards us, Bonnie Tyler sings out “Here She Comes.” Gee-really? She is coming towards us? I never would have guessed it considering she is WALKING TOWARDS US. The song scored underneath the scene with the workers slowly making their way to the elevators at the beginning actually worked but the rest-nope.

Posted By jdhcinehistoryresearch : April 7, 2012 1:29 pm

The Moroder version is one I have a love/hate relationship with-I love that he was able to restore some footage back into it and some of the tinting work was quite lovely. The hate part is the music-when it is instrumental it is pretty good, but when the singing starts…hoo-boy! My favorite moment was when the robot is transformed into Maria-as we see her walk towards us, Bonnie Tyler sings out “Here She Comes.” Gee-really? She is coming towards us? I never would have guessed it considering she is WALKING TOWARDS US. The song scored underneath the scene with the workers slowly making their way to the elevators at the beginning actually worked but the rest-nope.

Posted By dukeroberts : April 7, 2012 1:32 pm

Right, Tom. And wouldn’t David Kalat, renowned film commentarian, be THE ideal person to record all of those commentaries?

Posted By dukeroberts : April 7, 2012 1:32 pm

Right, Tom. And wouldn’t David Kalat, renowned film commentarian, be THE ideal person to record all of those commentaries?

Posted By jennifromrollamo : April 7, 2012 9:14 pm

This article to me was very interesting. A tale of business vs art. I also thought it was interesting that in 1920s Germany, a business would approach the government for a bailout. Was Ufa the company that produced The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari? When I think of German expressionism in film, that movie is the first one that I think of.

Posted By jennifromrollamo : April 7, 2012 9:14 pm

This article to me was very interesting. A tale of business vs art. I also thought it was interesting that in 1920s Germany, a business would approach the government for a bailout. Was Ufa the company that produced The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari? When I think of German expressionism in film, that movie is the first one that I think of.

Posted By John Maddox Roberts : April 7, 2012 11:34 pm

What I find mind-bending is that the Fritz Lang who made METROPOLIS was also the Fritz Lang who made THE BIG HEAT. They might as well have been made by creatures from different planets. Well-made at that.

Posted By John Maddox Roberts : April 7, 2012 11:34 pm

What I find mind-bending is that the Fritz Lang who made METROPOLIS was also the Fritz Lang who made THE BIG HEAT. They might as well have been made by creatures from different planets. Well-made at that.

Posted By davidkalat : April 8, 2012 7:50 am

@jdhcinehistoryresearch:

I wasn’t saying that art was made by the merchandisers–my point is art is made by the audience. The greatest work of art ever made, if buried in a cellar and never witnessed by another person, doesn’t really count as art. Personal expression depends on “expression,”: on communication–with reception by another. What makes the Channing Pollock cut to me definitive is that it is the one with the more significant audience response. But I absolutely agree with everyone who says the 2010 restoration is the superior movie–no question on that score.

The restoration isn’t marketed as “the best METROPOLIS,” but as “the definitive METROPOLIS.”

I did advocated to the producers that the Pollock cut be restored as an extra on the Blu-Ray–but Transit shot this down, because of marketing reasons! In order to justify the enormous expenses invested in the restoration, they need to position this (expensive) METROPOLIS as a competitor to the cheap public domain bargain basement versions floating around.

To do that, their official stance was that this version rendered all those other copies irrelevant and worthless. They were worried that if they showed any respect for any version other than the one they spent money making, it would undercut their own advertising strategy.

This was never a battle of art vs. business, but business vs. business.

Posted By davidkalat : April 8, 2012 7:50 am

@jdhcinehistoryresearch:

I wasn’t saying that art was made by the merchandisers–my point is art is made by the audience. The greatest work of art ever made, if buried in a cellar and never witnessed by another person, doesn’t really count as art. Personal expression depends on “expression,”: on communication–with reception by another. What makes the Channing Pollock cut to me definitive is that it is the one with the more significant audience response. But I absolutely agree with everyone who says the 2010 restoration is the superior movie–no question on that score.

The restoration isn’t marketed as “the best METROPOLIS,” but as “the definitive METROPOLIS.”

I did advocated to the producers that the Pollock cut be restored as an extra on the Blu-Ray–but Transit shot this down, because of marketing reasons! In order to justify the enormous expenses invested in the restoration, they need to position this (expensive) METROPOLIS as a competitor to the cheap public domain bargain basement versions floating around.

To do that, their official stance was that this version rendered all those other copies irrelevant and worthless. They were worried that if they showed any respect for any version other than the one they spent money making, it would undercut their own advertising strategy.

This was never a battle of art vs. business, but business vs. business.

Posted By Dan Day, Jr. : April 8, 2012 11:57 am

Great article by Mr. Kalat. He does have a point: just about everyone who loves this film (including me) more than likely first encountered it as the “edited” version on a lousy-quality public domain VHS tape. Yet the film’s power was still able to show through.

Posted By Dan Day, Jr. : April 8, 2012 11:57 am

Great article by Mr. Kalat. He does have a point: just about everyone who loves this film (including me) more than likely first encountered it as the “edited” version on a lousy-quality public domain VHS tape. Yet the film’s power was still able to show through.

Posted By jdhcinehistoryresearch : April 8, 2012 5:22 pm

As far as I am concerned, the 2011 restoration makes all other ones irrelevant, because it is the closest we will probably get to Lang/von Harbou’s vision of the film. If another 5 minutes was found, the current version would be irrelevant because that would be even closer to the artist’s concept. I saw NAPOLEON up in Oakland last week, and even though I loved the 4 hour version that Kevin Brownlow presented to us in 1981, the one I saw last week will now stand-for me-as the definitive version, at least until the supposed Cinematheque Francaise “restoration” unearths more footage.

Posted By jdhcinehistoryresearch : April 8, 2012 5:22 pm

As far as I am concerned, the 2011 restoration makes all other ones irrelevant, because it is the closest we will probably get to Lang/von Harbou’s vision of the film. If another 5 minutes was found, the current version would be irrelevant because that would be even closer to the artist’s concept. I saw NAPOLEON up in Oakland last week, and even though I loved the 4 hour version that Kevin Brownlow presented to us in 1981, the one I saw last week will now stand-for me-as the definitive version, at least until the supposed Cinematheque Francaise “restoration” unearths more footage.

Posted By Tom S : April 9, 2012 1:13 am

Did you miss Kalat’s entire point? The issue isn’t whether or not the current resto is the best available version of the movie- I think everyone here is agreed that it is- but one of historical interest, in that one of the things that makes Metropolis a major work is the other works upon which it has had influence over the years. The version that exerted that influence is not the current resto. As such, the other versions, mutilated and less interesting though they may be, still hold a lot of interest for those who care about film history.

Posted By Tom S : April 9, 2012 1:13 am

Did you miss Kalat’s entire point? The issue isn’t whether or not the current resto is the best available version of the movie- I think everyone here is agreed that it is- but one of historical interest, in that one of the things that makes Metropolis a major work is the other works upon which it has had influence over the years. The version that exerted that influence is not the current resto. As such, the other versions, mutilated and less interesting though they may be, still hold a lot of interest for those who care about film history.

Posted By jdhcinehistoryresearch : April 9, 2012 3:26 am

I understand that it will still hold a lot of interest and I also feel that it should be available (since it is PD-good luck in NOT finding it). My disagreement is over calling the mutilated version the “definitive” version-to me, definitive has always meant the one that cannot possibly be bettered. Let’s face it-the Pollack version of METROPOLIS is still the one that the vast majority of people have seen, but if they are like me after seeing the latest restoration, that version just fades away and one that is coherent and that makes sense-finally-is the one that will stay with you. I cannot even look at shorter versions of the film anymore. Before the restoration, METROPOLIS was a film I admired but didn’t really like-now it is in my top 10 silent film list.

Posted By jdhcinehistoryresearch : April 9, 2012 3:26 am

I understand that it will still hold a lot of interest and I also feel that it should be available (since it is PD-good luck in NOT finding it). My disagreement is over calling the mutilated version the “definitive” version-to me, definitive has always meant the one that cannot possibly be bettered. Let’s face it-the Pollack version of METROPOLIS is still the one that the vast majority of people have seen, but if they are like me after seeing the latest restoration, that version just fades away and one that is coherent and that makes sense-finally-is the one that will stay with you. I cannot even look at shorter versions of the film anymore. Before the restoration, METROPOLIS was a film I admired but didn’t really like-now it is in my top 10 silent film list.

Posted By Qalice : April 9, 2012 6:42 pm

There’s nothing like a passionate film restoration fight! I’m just glad that I’m not the only one who, when I saw the newer, longer, truer-to-Lang version of METROPOLIS, kind of missed the shorter, punchier, more confusing version that I first fell in love with.

Posted By Qalice : April 9, 2012 6:42 pm

There’s nothing like a passionate film restoration fight! I’m just glad that I’m not the only one who, when I saw the newer, longer, truer-to-Lang version of METROPOLIS, kind of missed the shorter, punchier, more confusing version that I first fell in love with.

Posted By dukeroberts : April 9, 2012 6:47 pm

Unfortunately, I have never seen the shorter cut without that god awful Moroder soundtrack.

Posted By dukeroberts : April 9, 2012 6:47 pm

Unfortunately, I have never seen the shorter cut without that god awful Moroder soundtrack.

Posted By Tom S : April 10, 2012 1:03 am

It’s worth pointing out that the restoration cut of Metropolis also incorporates a physical restoration of all the non-Argentina parts of the movie which is unbelievably gorgeous, and in of itself makes watching the film a more pleasurable experience than it had ever previously been. And I agree that the movie benefits enormously from both aspects of restoration- it went from a movie I enjoyed to a movie that almost floored me.

To me, though, seeing earlier cuts is useful if only because without them I can’t understand critiques of the film people have made over the years- they all seem off base and misinformed- nor why some of the incredible imagery has been harvested so much and other parts left alone. Knowing what people actually _saw_ is invaluable.

Posted By Tom S : April 10, 2012 1:03 am

It’s worth pointing out that the restoration cut of Metropolis also incorporates a physical restoration of all the non-Argentina parts of the movie which is unbelievably gorgeous, and in of itself makes watching the film a more pleasurable experience than it had ever previously been. And I agree that the movie benefits enormously from both aspects of restoration- it went from a movie I enjoyed to a movie that almost floored me.

To me, though, seeing earlier cuts is useful if only because without them I can’t understand critiques of the film people have made over the years- they all seem off base and misinformed- nor why some of the incredible imagery has been harvested so much and other parts left alone. Knowing what people actually _saw_ is invaluable.

Posted By CHANGELING : April 12, 2012 7:42 am

This movie has always given shivers up my spine!! You cannot dig sci – fi if you don’t dig Metropolis….waaaay ahead of its time :) :)

Rob

Posted By CHANGELING : April 12, 2012 7:42 am

This movie has always given shivers up my spine!! You cannot dig sci – fi if you don’t dig Metropolis….waaaay ahead of its time :) :)

Rob

Posted By TimH. : April 12, 2012 3:55 pm

My first exposure to Metropolis was a 16mm (?) showing with verbal translation of the title cards into English and live music accompanist at a science fiction convention in Vancouver BC in the early ’70′s. Awesome experience even though I couldn’t tell you which cut it was.

(ps. Forry’s mag was Famous Monsters of…)

Posted By TimH. : April 12, 2012 3:55 pm

My first exposure to Metropolis was a 16mm (?) showing with verbal translation of the title cards into English and live music accompanist at a science fiction convention in Vancouver BC in the early ’70′s. Awesome experience even though I couldn’t tell you which cut it was.

(ps. Forry’s mag was Famous Monsters of…)

Posted By Jeff Nelson : April 17, 2012 4:13 am

I agree with the good Mr. Kalat that the butchered Pollock cut and slightly less butchered Moroder version should be preserved for historical purposes, and the former should have been included as an extra in the recent Blu-ray of the (mostly) complete version, but I’m afraid that I must part ways with him at his ridiculous assertion that the Pollock cut is the definitive one. The most widely seen until recently, sure. Definitive? Please. The original uncut version is the only one that could possibly be definitive, and the latest restoration is the closest we’ve got. From the Online Dictionary (please see definition 3):

de·fin·i·tive (d-fn-tv)
adj.
1. Precisely defined or explicit.
2. Supplying or being a final settlement or decision; conclusive. See Synonyms at decisive.
3. Authoritative and complete: a definitive biography. See Usage Note at definite.
4. Biology Fully formed or developed, as an organ or structure.

I’m afraid the Channing Pollock cut is neither authoritative nor complete. Mr. Kalat, I rest my case. You’ll have to call the Pollock cut something else; it, by definition, is most certainly NOT the definitive version of METROPOLIS.

Posted By Jeff Nelson : April 17, 2012 4:13 am

I agree with the good Mr. Kalat that the butchered Pollock cut and slightly less butchered Moroder version should be preserved for historical purposes, and the former should have been included as an extra in the recent Blu-ray of the (mostly) complete version, but I’m afraid that I must part ways with him at his ridiculous assertion that the Pollock cut is the definitive one. The most widely seen until recently, sure. Definitive? Please. The original uncut version is the only one that could possibly be definitive, and the latest restoration is the closest we’ve got. From the Online Dictionary (please see definition 3):

de·fin·i·tive (d-fn-tv)
adj.
1. Precisely defined or explicit.
2. Supplying or being a final settlement or decision; conclusive. See Synonyms at decisive.
3. Authoritative and complete: a definitive biography. See Usage Note at definite.
4. Biology Fully formed or developed, as an organ or structure.

I’m afraid the Channing Pollock cut is neither authoritative nor complete. Mr. Kalat, I rest my case. You’ll have to call the Pollock cut something else; it, by definition, is most certainly NOT the definitive version of METROPOLIS.

Posted By JackFavell : April 20, 2012 9:42 am

I feel this way about zoos. If it hadn’t been for visits to the zoo, I would not love or appreciate animals the way I do. However, keeping animals in captivity is an abhorrent practice. It’s a conundrum I can never figure out the answer to. Do I condone the purposeful captivity of wild animals? No. Will I always treasure my endless visits to the zoos of my childhood? Absolutely. That inspiration cannot be overlooked, nor can I pretend it didn’t happen, or worse, erase the history of it completely. I wouldn’t want to, since it is a huge and wonderful part of my life.

Many histories have been revised since I was a kid, too. I would not have a love of the past without them, but they were flawed or out of date. Should we study or learn history from them? Or should we purposely burn all those books that are “incorrect”? I wouldn’t want my daughter to start out reading history from a 1930′s viewpoint, necessarily, but I certainly don’t advocate burning those books, since it might be useful to explain how viewpoints have changed over the years. It’s a difficult question. I believe that putting the modern and the antique side by side would be a very good way of enhancing the status of the newer version, and shed light on what has changed since the original came out.

All in all, as far as Metropolis is concerned, I think there are two questions with which we are dealing. One is a question of semantics. No movie with a history like Metropolis can be called the definitive version, until the last fragment is found of Lang’s original, and even then, perhaps not, due to the fact that very few audiences had ever seen that version in the first place. Do we want the original director’s vision (which in itself might not have satisfied the director himself), or the film as released to the public originally? Or would we like to see both? I know where I stand. Firmly in the middle. I want both. :D

Secondly, to discount the actions of a producer, requesting cuts when needed to form a more cohesive whole is to discount part of the true history of the film. Film is collaborative, and simply because a director has a vision does not mean that that vision is actually the best one. Zanuck was a great producer, generally speaking, knowing when to cut and when to leave alone. Are we to discount his influence on Ford’s films at Fox? At the same time, I’d love to see a version of Wuthering Heights without the ghostly walk added at the end. But part of me loves that scene. The director should have final say, but we are all flawed, directors and producers are too. So who’s to say until the movie is screened? Even then, different audiences will see different things at different times. Heck, I can’t even keep a favorites list from changing, week to week.

There is a line to be drawn somewhere – or we’d end up with director’s cuts all over the place. “Weekend at Bernie’s – The Director’s Cut”…..the director had a beef with how the studio cut his film, and now we have the ‘definitive’ Weekend at Bernie’s…. Really? I don’t think it’s appropriate to go back and reconsider every film from this angle.

Again, putting the two films side by side with commentary would greatly benefit the public. And create new audiences with appreciations for both the new and the old.

Posted By JackFavell : April 20, 2012 9:42 am

I feel this way about zoos. If it hadn’t been for visits to the zoo, I would not love or appreciate animals the way I do. However, keeping animals in captivity is an abhorrent practice. It’s a conundrum I can never figure out the answer to. Do I condone the purposeful captivity of wild animals? No. Will I always treasure my endless visits to the zoos of my childhood? Absolutely. That inspiration cannot be overlooked, nor can I pretend it didn’t happen, or worse, erase the history of it completely. I wouldn’t want to, since it is a huge and wonderful part of my life.

Many histories have been revised since I was a kid, too. I would not have a love of the past without them, but they were flawed or out of date. Should we study or learn history from them? Or should we purposely burn all those books that are “incorrect”? I wouldn’t want my daughter to start out reading history from a 1930′s viewpoint, necessarily, but I certainly don’t advocate burning those books, since it might be useful to explain how viewpoints have changed over the years. It’s a difficult question. I believe that putting the modern and the antique side by side would be a very good way of enhancing the status of the newer version, and shed light on what has changed since the original came out.

All in all, as far as Metropolis is concerned, I think there are two questions with which we are dealing. One is a question of semantics. No movie with a history like Metropolis can be called the definitive version, until the last fragment is found of Lang’s original, and even then, perhaps not, due to the fact that very few audiences had ever seen that version in the first place. Do we want the original director’s vision (which in itself might not have satisfied the director himself), or the film as released to the public originally? Or would we like to see both? I know where I stand. Firmly in the middle. I want both. :D

Secondly, to discount the actions of a producer, requesting cuts when needed to form a more cohesive whole is to discount part of the true history of the film. Film is collaborative, and simply because a director has a vision does not mean that that vision is actually the best one. Zanuck was a great producer, generally speaking, knowing when to cut and when to leave alone. Are we to discount his influence on Ford’s films at Fox? At the same time, I’d love to see a version of Wuthering Heights without the ghostly walk added at the end. But part of me loves that scene. The director should have final say, but we are all flawed, directors and producers are too. So who’s to say until the movie is screened? Even then, different audiences will see different things at different times. Heck, I can’t even keep a favorites list from changing, week to week.

There is a line to be drawn somewhere – or we’d end up with director’s cuts all over the place. “Weekend at Bernie’s – The Director’s Cut”…..the director had a beef with how the studio cut his film, and now we have the ‘definitive’ Weekend at Bernie’s…. Really? I don’t think it’s appropriate to go back and reconsider every film from this angle.

Again, putting the two films side by side with commentary would greatly benefit the public. And create new audiences with appreciations for both the new and the old.

Posted By jdhcinehistoryresearch : April 20, 2012 10:32 am

The post just before this one by JackFavell had me up to the line “Do we want the original director’s vision (which in itself might not have satisfied the director himself)…”

Whuh?

Considering that a film as unique as METROPOLIS was not put together by a committee (albeit a collaboration between director/husband and writer/wife), I would have to say that Lang must have been satisfied with his “vision” of the film to mourn its disappearance in the years since it had happened. Certain directors have/had unique visions of what their work should consist of (Stroheim, Griffith, Murnau, Lubitsch…the list could go on) due to the fact that either the seed of the idea came from them or that their own style was so recognizable that you can tell it is their film within a minute or two.

You certainly can tell the look of a Ford film right away, and yes, Zanuck did have a lot of influence on how the film was edited, but a director like Ford-with his own unique way of shooting-would leave very little wiggle room for someone to fool around with his vision of a film IF HE CARED AT ALL FOR IT.

There were directors and producers and studios that each had their own “look”, with the third mentioned usually precluding anything unique and personal (see: MGM), but since I believe that the director is the one most responsible for how a film is finally perceived and a great one has a definite “world view” that makes their work stand out-unless they are a complete dunderhead and didn’t know what the hell they were talking about (see: Michael Bay)-I will go with their “original vision” every time.

I also believe that different versions of films that have been seen by the public should be preserved and available for viewing (see: the original STAR WARS films the way they were originally released), if for no other reason than to compare them and have the audience see either the refinement of the creative process or how it can be really f*cked up (see: Stroheim’s MCTEAGUE vs. MGM’s GREED…oh,no-you really can’t).

Posted By jdhcinehistoryresearch : April 20, 2012 10:32 am

The post just before this one by JackFavell had me up to the line “Do we want the original director’s vision (which in itself might not have satisfied the director himself)…”

Whuh?

Considering that a film as unique as METROPOLIS was not put together by a committee (albeit a collaboration between director/husband and writer/wife), I would have to say that Lang must have been satisfied with his “vision” of the film to mourn its disappearance in the years since it had happened. Certain directors have/had unique visions of what their work should consist of (Stroheim, Griffith, Murnau, Lubitsch…the list could go on) due to the fact that either the seed of the idea came from them or that their own style was so recognizable that you can tell it is their film within a minute or two.

You certainly can tell the look of a Ford film right away, and yes, Zanuck did have a lot of influence on how the film was edited, but a director like Ford-with his own unique way of shooting-would leave very little wiggle room for someone to fool around with his vision of a film IF HE CARED AT ALL FOR IT.

There were directors and producers and studios that each had their own “look”, with the third mentioned usually precluding anything unique and personal (see: MGM), but since I believe that the director is the one most responsible for how a film is finally perceived and a great one has a definite “world view” that makes their work stand out-unless they are a complete dunderhead and didn’t know what the hell they were talking about (see: Michael Bay)-I will go with their “original vision” every time.

I also believe that different versions of films that have been seen by the public should be preserved and available for viewing (see: the original STAR WARS films the way they were originally released), if for no other reason than to compare them and have the audience see either the refinement of the creative process or how it can be really f*cked up (see: Stroheim’s MCTEAGUE vs. MGM’s GREED…oh,no-you really can’t).

Posted By JackFavell : April 20, 2012 10:56 am

I agree with you, for the most part. The director’s vision is what should be seen, granting that the director has a vision to put out there. He takes ultimate responsibility. But I do think that film is a collaboration, you can’t get away from it, and frankly, the producer has input, just as the cinematographer does, and the writer, and all the people whose work goes into a film.

I was literally asking the question… “Do we want to see the director’s cut or the commercial release?” not making a statement that director’s cuts are bad. It’s all in what we want from a film when we watch that particular version. It depends on whether you are interested in the vision of a film or the history of a film. I personally DO want the director’s cut, but I also am interested in what audiences of the time saw, or, if there was a later version that had previously been considered definitive, I would like to see that too. But frankly, I love being able to make up my own mind about a movie or which version I like better, not following what someone else says is “definitive”.

That all being said, the recent Metropolis release is by far my favorite version, It flows so beautifully, and actually makes sense. :D

Posted By JackFavell : April 20, 2012 10:56 am

I agree with you, for the most part. The director’s vision is what should be seen, granting that the director has a vision to put out there. He takes ultimate responsibility. But I do think that film is a collaboration, you can’t get away from it, and frankly, the producer has input, just as the cinematographer does, and the writer, and all the people whose work goes into a film.

I was literally asking the question… “Do we want to see the director’s cut or the commercial release?” not making a statement that director’s cuts are bad. It’s all in what we want from a film when we watch that particular version. It depends on whether you are interested in the vision of a film or the history of a film. I personally DO want the director’s cut, but I also am interested in what audiences of the time saw, or, if there was a later version that had previously been considered definitive, I would like to see that too. But frankly, I love being able to make up my own mind about a movie or which version I like better, not following what someone else says is “definitive”.

That all being said, the recent Metropolis release is by far my favorite version, It flows so beautifully, and actually makes sense. :D

Posted By jdhcinehistoryresearch : April 20, 2012 11:20 am

IMHO, the only one who can declare something “definitive” is the person who signed their name to it.

And I totally agree with you about the latest reincarnation of METROPOLIS-it finally makes sense and I finally love it!

Posted By jdhcinehistoryresearch : April 20, 2012 11:20 am

IMHO, the only one who can declare something “definitive” is the person who signed their name to it.

And I totally agree with you about the latest reincarnation of METROPOLIS-it finally makes sense and I finally love it!

Posted By Killer Meteor : May 25, 2012 10:01 am

I first discovered Metropolis via the Moroder cut at the age of 10, and besides loving the film, it made me a Bonnie Tyler devotee – so bear in mind I’m quite possibly loopy!

Now, I agree with Mr Kalat that films can exist in differing forms for the Creator and for the Audience. And even the creators can change their minds – Stanley Kubrick recut 2001 and The Shining after their premieres and that’s what we have today, and Carl Dreyer cut down Vamypr by a reel after a very harsh public reception. Fantasia, the Lon Chaney versions of Hunchback Of Notre Dame and Phantom of The Opera, the Lugosi Dracula, the Karloff Frankenstein, the silent The Lost World, The Big Boss – all exist only in truncated versions due to the studios shortening the films for general release, or overzealous censors, and I expect the films still work even with these alterations.

In my book, the definitive presentation of a film would be how it was at its premiere in its country of origin, warts and all. So I’d argue Channing Pollock’s Metropolis is not the definitive one – it’s a re-write and an adaptation – but it deserves to be preserved as the Classic Metropolis, the one that had the impact and the influence on Pop Culture.

I have a similar thing about Nosferatu, that I’ve been meaning to sum up….I’ll do that for the next post.

Footnote: I’ve never seen the Pollock Metropolis. Even the public domain transfers I’ve seen use the character names and story from the original film, with the Hel subplot removed obviously.

Posted By Killer Meteor : May 25, 2012 10:01 am

I first discovered Metropolis via the Moroder cut at the age of 10, and besides loving the film, it made me a Bonnie Tyler devotee – so bear in mind I’m quite possibly loopy!

Now, I agree with Mr Kalat that films can exist in differing forms for the Creator and for the Audience. And even the creators can change their minds – Stanley Kubrick recut 2001 and The Shining after their premieres and that’s what we have today, and Carl Dreyer cut down Vamypr by a reel after a very harsh public reception. Fantasia, the Lon Chaney versions of Hunchback Of Notre Dame and Phantom of The Opera, the Lugosi Dracula, the Karloff Frankenstein, the silent The Lost World, The Big Boss – all exist only in truncated versions due to the studios shortening the films for general release, or overzealous censors, and I expect the films still work even with these alterations.

In my book, the definitive presentation of a film would be how it was at its premiere in its country of origin, warts and all. So I’d argue Channing Pollock’s Metropolis is not the definitive one – it’s a re-write and an adaptation – but it deserves to be preserved as the Classic Metropolis, the one that had the impact and the influence on Pop Culture.

I have a similar thing about Nosferatu, that I’ve been meaning to sum up….I’ll do that for the next post.

Footnote: I’ve never seen the Pollock Metropolis. Even the public domain transfers I’ve seen use the character names and story from the original film, with the Hel subplot removed obviously.

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