You’ve never seen Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Even the few of you reading this who have seen a restoration of the film or who own the Kino DVD release have never really seen it – the original, 210 minute cut was long thought lost, leaving only various edits of the movie (running times vary based on at what speed the film is shown) floating around for the last 80 years.
Now the entire film has turned up in a vault in Buenos Aires (where all things German go to hide), marking an amazing day in the history of cinema. Everybody may be talking about the summer blockbusters right now, but there’s no way we’d be living in the same film world without Lang’s original vision.
“No matter how bad the condition of the material may be [this is not a great sign – D], the original
intention of the film, including all of its minor characters and
subplots, is now once again tangible for the normal viewer. The rhythm
of the film has been restored,” says Professor Martin Koerber, the guy behind the latest restoration of Metropolis. Images from the missing scenes should start turning up tomorrow, when they’re printed in the German magazine Die Zeit.
I don’t know how long it will be before this new old version of Metropolis is available for the public; I know that this story has sent me to my DVD shelf to dust off that Kino copy, to remind myself of what we currently have so that I’ll be all the more impressed by the newly restored scenes.
This is news that makes me happy and makes me have a little bit of hope that other ‘lost’ films may be out there, sitting in cans in closets, attics and vaults. Martin Scorsese’s Film Preservation Foundation has estimated that 80 percent of all early films – from the silent era to the first talkies – are lost. Theda Bara made 40 films – only three and a half exist today. Many of the missing films are not likely classics that would change our view of cinematic history, but there are missing movies that must excite the imagination of any film lover. There’s the first Marx Brothers movie, Humor Risk. There’s the first kaiju movie, King Kong Appears in Edo, which predates Godzilla by sixteen years. There’s Lon Chaney Sr’s London After Midnight. And there are the cut films, like Greed, which originally ran a stunning nine and a half hours, but which now only exists in a version just over two hours. If the lost scenes from Metropolis could be found, maybe there’s hope for these as well.