Added on 07-Jul-2008
Cinephiles everywhere are rejoicing over the discovery this week of a near complete version of Fritz Lang's masterpiece, Metropolis, featuring footage that was long thought to be lost.When Lang originally screened it in his native Germany, it flopped. So it was edited several times, with U.S. distributor Paramount paring it down at least 30 minutes in an effort to simplify it. One of Lang's earlier edits ended up getting purchased to be shown in Argentina in 1928, and that's the version that was found, just sitting in Buenos Aires' Museo del Cine's archives. It's only missing one key scene that can easily be culled from a cut already in existence.
It's huge news when you think that there's no one alive today who's seen the full version before. Considering it's long-lasting impact on cinema, even some 80 years later, you have to consider it the biggest film discovery of all time. The film was way ahead of its time, with many of the scenes cut thought to be too brutal at the time. Now it has a chance to be reborn with a fresh set of eyes.
The news, of course, had me instantly thinking of a previous rebirth the film got back in 1984, when a lot of us were introduced to Lang's labyrinth through the work of disco producer Giorgio Moroder ("Love to Love You"), who edited together a version that tried to restore the original's storyline (the U.S. edited version changed the text greatly) while updating it with flashes of color and his own soundtrack. The soundtrack featured artists from the era like Queen's Freddie Mercury, Loverboy, Billy Squier, Pat Benatar and Bonnie Tyler. Yes, it's as frightening as it sounds and the songs don't age particularly well, but Moroder's Vangelis-like instrumental work actually worked well with Lang's vision (just listen to "The Legend Of Babel"). Film purists everywhere sh*t their pants at what he did, but it introduced the work to a lot of young minds, and inspired more musical interpretations following. Now known as the "Moroder version," it's been blocked by purists from getting the DVD treatment, even though it has a pretty good cult following, the kind that the DVD industry can easily make some green off of.
So I put it to the Friedrich-Wilhelm Murnau Foundation, who has the rights to Metropolis, along with any distributor tied to the eventual DVD release, to at least think about adding Moroder's version to any big box-set release that might come out of this. I know a lot of folks want to forget it even happened, but we should consider it the 1980's yang to the original's yin. Here's a 1984 preview trailer for Moroder's version that captures a bit of the kitsch to which I am referring in this post: