Blu-ray Disc Review: Metropolis

Movie ••••Picture •••½ Sound •••• Extras ••½

H.G. Wells famously called Metropolis “the silliest film.” Its sociology and dramaturgy were outdated even in 1927, and the idea of early-20th-century cars and planes in a 21st-century city seems charmingly anachronistic. Yet Fritz Lang’s silent classic, about a future city where the haves party while the have-nots literally slave underground, exerts its full power today. This is partly through its sheer scale and production design — a heady mix of Biblical, Gothic, and Art Deco — and partly through Lang’s grasp of the psychology of the powerful, who just don’t see the unpowerful. In that regard, the movie has proved to be more prescient than even Lang could have imagined.

This latest restoration is billed as “The Complete Metropolis,” but that’s a misnomer: The release does incorporate 25 minutes of footage from a 16mm copy (found in a Buenos Aires archive), which had been made cheaply from a long-since-lost print, but a few bits remain missing. The “new” inserts do make the labyrinthine plotting clearer, but they’re barely watchable in their scratchiness, even after digital cleanup. Still, at least they’re here. The rest of the 1.33:1 black-and-white picture on Blu-ray ranges from good-but-grainy to crystal-clear. The movie has been synced to a new recording of Gottfried Huppertz’s fine original score, which sounds very nice in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Metropolis really needs a big screen, but with a decent home theater setup, this disc will pass. The only extras are a pair of reasonably engaging interview pieces on the restoration.