Fritz Lang’s Metropolis restored to full-length glory.

May 1, 2010

Source: Kino (Official Website)

While this classic has undergone restorations before, a recent discovery has provided all an opportunity to see it as it was first seen in 1927.

Lost footage found. I was reading Wired’s review of the Nightmare on Elm Street remake when I saw the following trailer among the others:

A quick websearch lead me to the official site where the news is apparently confirmed:

In the summer of 2008, the curator of the Buenos Aires Museo del Cine discovered a 16mm dupe negative that was considerably longer than any existing print. It included not merely a few additional snippets, but 25 minutes of “lost” footage, about a fifth of the film, that had not been seen since its Berlin debut.

Originally, the film was 153 minutes long, but was cut down to approximately 90 minutes for commercial distribution. Several restorations over the years since had manage to extend the film to 124 minutes. But with the Buenos Aires discovery, fans can now witness the full 153 minute epic. Or 149 minutes by the math.

 

A near tragedy. Even when using digital technology, the restoration of this print was not easy:

The condition of the 16mm negative posed a major technical challenge to the team. The image was streaked with scratches and plagued by flickering brightness. “It had all been printed from the 35mm nitrate print, which means they have become part of the picture,” says Wilkening. The source 35mm element was later destroyed (probably due to the flammability and chemical instability of the nitrocellulose film stock).

An unfortunate lessons was thus learned from the restoration. “Don’t throw your originals away even if you think you preserved them, and even if they are in bad shape,” Koerber says, “If we could have had access to the 35mm nitrate print that was destroyed after being reprinted for safety onto 16mm dupe negative some 30 years ago, we would have been able to make a much better copy today.”

Even so the restoration and cleanup of the visuals was completed successfully, and now the full film is making its way through the US in limited theater releases this summer. And a DVD will be released in November.

 

Will it be worth it? Some may not like the idea of such a historic piece being “altered,” but often movies are “altered” before their release to theaters and scenes that are deleted do get returned later in “director’s cuts” or as extras on DVDs. But can the restoration of a 1927 print be viewable on today’s high-definition screens? More importantly, does the added scenes add anything to what is already a historical masterpiece?

We’ll have to wait until the DVs come out…


See also: SFAM’s review of Metropolis.

This post has been filed under Movie News by Mr. Roboto.

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