Archived Pages from 20th Century!!
This page was last updated on 3 February 1997
"To begin with, I should say that I am a visual person." -- Fritz Lang
Welcome to the Metropolis Home Page!
You've found the central clearinghouse for information on the World Wide Web related to Fritz Lang's classic 1926 film, Metropolis. Within, you will find lots of cool graphics, background information, commentaries and reviews, as well as hot-links to related pages of interest. This home page is purely a labor of love, designed and kept with the sole purpose of introducing those who don't yet know about the film to the first big budget science fiction movie ever made, and to provide an arena for exchange of information for those who do (so please don't sue me). Come on in and look around! Just don't break any of the big machines...
Internet Movie Database Metropolis Page
The Filmmuseum Munich Home Page
Weimar Film Page (Video Clip of Metropolis)
Augusto C.B. Areal's Metropolis Page
Will Jayroe's Film Examination & Criticism Page
Damian Cannon's Review of Metropolis
Rebecca Arwen Sim's Papers on Metropolis
Chris W. Morris's Metropolis Image Page
Fritz Lang Biography Page
Thea von Harbou Biography Page
Hyde Flippo's page on Fritz Lang and Metropolis
The Internet Source for Early German Film Metropolis Page
The Basement Metropolis Film Review
Dan Newman's Metropolis Page
Time Magazine's "From Metropolis to ID4" Metropolis Page
Cal Berkeley Film Critisism Class Review of Metropolis
Sci-Fi Weekly's "Classic" Metropolis Page
What It Is
It is the future, and humans are divided into two groups: the thinkers, who make plans (but don't know how anything works), and the workers, who achieve goals (but don't have the vision). Completely separate, neither group is complete, but together they make a whole.
Or, at least, that's what the blurb on the back of the video cassette box says. In point of fact, Fritz Lang's highly experimental (and hugely expensive) 1926 sci-fi film suffers from more than one major theme, an artifact from Lang's collaboration with his wife, Thea von Harbou, who wrote the script for the film. For Lang, Metropolis was primarily an exploration of the conflict between the magical and the occult (represented by Rotwang, the film's evil scientist and necromancer) with the modern and the scientific (embodied by Joh Fredersen, the Master of Metropolis), a theme which was at odds with von Harbou's vision of the "heart mediating between the head and the hands," a vision which was not received uncritically when the film was released in '26. Even though these competing themes run parallel throughout the film, most critics tend to focus on the more sentimental moral that von Harbou brings to the film (especially at its conclusion), which strays far from Lang's darker vision of competing human forces lurking at the heart of even our greatest accomplishments -- a theme which was later to be taken up by such directors as Stanley Kubrick , who would echo this vision in his own sci-fi film, 2001: A Space Odyssey. The management-and-worker theme which has come to predominate the existing versions of the film was really the counter-melody of the story and not the major theme of the work as Lang had envisioned it. Indeed, Lang had originally planned several scenes which thrust the occult vs. the scientific theme to the fore of the movie, but which for various reasons never made it to the released version of Metropolis. Lang had originally planned much more powerful visions of evil forces being loosed by the creation of the robot (such as demons breaking free of the Catholic Church, which in the final version of the film is relegated to Freder's fever-induced dream), but was fearful that the film's audience wouldn't be able to understand his vision and would be turned off. Lang's failure to better express the mystical symbolism of his story is why the sentimental symbolism of von Harbou has come to predominate the modern understanding of the movie itself.
During the Weimar years, between the end of the First World War and the rise of the National Socialist movement, German cinema was preoccupied with images and stories of the growing industrialization of labor, where the individual worker was becoming more and more a cog in the giant machine of progress. (The horrid state of economic affairs brought about by having to rebuild their industrial base fed this fear rather dramatically.) Metropolis capitalizes on this fear of the worker becoming a part of the machine itself; in the film, workers are faceless drones who march in unison, slaves to the huge machines which lurk under the city of Metropolis and perform functions beyond their ability to understand. The stratification of the society between the rich management types (the "head" in von Harbou's vision) who live in luxury in the glittering city skyline, and the desperately poor and oppressed workers (the "hands") who live in gray vaults far below even the levels of the machines, clearly comments on the growing separation between the very rich and the very poor in post-war Germany (and in modern America, as well). Interestingly enough, the film also lacks the communist worker theme which characterized other films with similar messages during the same time period. Rather than the worker's revolt being a success, when at the end of the film they destroy some of the machines which run the city, they flood their own living areas and almost kill their own children -- who are saved, predictably, by the worker heroine and the management hero, who also happen to be in love (the "heart"). It is Freder (the hero) together with Maria (the heroine) who in the end manage to bridge the gap between the workers and the managers, the "hands" and the "head," through their understanding that they must live and work together in love (the "heart") -- an ending which, even at the time the film was made, seemed silly and overly sentimental, not to mention disconnected with Lang's vision of human duality struggling at the heart of modern society.
Metropolis Film Clips!
NEO Magazine, an Italian online magazine, had these movie clips on their web page for several months. Since they've revamped their e-zine, the clips vanished, but not before I found them and rescued them from electronic oblivion. Both files are in-line flattened QuickTime movies, so you'll need Apple's QuickTime Video plug-in to view them. Just click on the image and away you go!
Directed by Fritz Lang
Produced by Erich Pommer
Written by Fritz Lang & Thea Von Harbou
Cinematography by Karl Freund & Guenther Rittau
Music by Gottfried Huppertz
(1984 re-release score by Giorgio Moroder)
Production Design by Otto Hunte & Erich Kettelhut & Karl Vollbrecht
Costume Design by Aenne Willkomm
Model and Sculpture design by Walter Schultze-Mittendorf
Metropolis originally ran 2 hours 30 minutes, an outrageously long film by the standards of the day. Over his objections, Lang's film was shortened by the distributer, UFA (Universum Film Aktiengesellschaft), to 63 minutes for its American release. No original prints of the complete film exist, although there are several restored versions. In 1928, a year after its initial release and shortening, Lang put together a longer re-edit of the film, known as the '28 German version. Currently an American video publisher, Good Times Video, is distributing the 1928 German re-edit of the film. Another restored but shorter (87 minute) version was re-released in 1984, featuring a soundtrack produced by Giorgio Moroder. This version is also color tinted, supposedly according to Fritz Lang's original vision. The version prepared by the Filmmuseum Munich, restored according the original script, has the lost scenes replaced either with stills or titles, and runs 138 minutes. (As far as I know, the Filmmuseum version is not available commercially, although the original American UFA 63 minute version, the 93 minute German re-release version and the Moroder version are all available in the U.S.)
1927 Original version (no longer existant): 150 minutes (approx.)
1927 American/German release: 63 minutes
1928 German re-release (later distributed in the U.S. and abroad): 93 minutes
1984 Giorgio Moroder version: 87 minutes
1995 Filmmuseum Munich version (not commercially available): 138 minutes
Alfred Abel .... Joh Fredersen
Gustav Froehlich .... Freder
Brigitte Helm .... Maria / The Robot
Rudolf Klein-Rogge .... Rotwang
Heinrich George .... Grot
Theodor Loos .... Josaphat
Hanns Leo Reich .... Marinus
Erwin Biswanger .... Georg (No. 11811)
Olaf Storm .... Jan
Metropolis: The Musical
Yes, boys and girls, there was indeed a musical version of Metropolis,
which was first preformed at the Piccadilly Theatre
(Denman street, Piccadilly Circus, London) on the 8th of March, 1989.
Music by Joe Brooks
Book and lyrics by Dusty Hughes & Joe Brooks
Additional material by David Firman
Produced by Michael White
Production musical supervisor David Firman
Musical director Mark Warman
Assistant choreographer Stella Segar
General managers Joanne Benjamin
Associate director Peter Walker
Sound designed by David Hersey
Choreogphy by Tom Jobe
Production designed by Ralph Koltai
Directed by Jerome Savary
Brian Blessed .... John Freeman
Judy Kuhn .... Maria/Futura
Graham Bickley .... Steven
Jonathan Adams .... Warner
Stifyn Parri .... George
Lindsey Danvers .... Jade
Colin Fay .... Groat
Megan Kelly .... Lake
Robert Fardell .... Marco
Lucy Dixon .... Lulu
Kevin Power .... Worker 1
Gael Johnson .... Beso
Check out the opening theme from the Metropolis Musical! (QuickTime audio file, 2764K)
thanks to Benedetto
di Salle for providing the information about the musical
thanks to Chris Morris for providing some much-needed cast screen captures
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This page is maintained by "Doug the Dog" Quinn, CSP.