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Giorgio Moroder Presents Metropolis (Blu-ray Review)

It’s been nearly thirty years since Giorgio Moroder’s somewhat controversial version of Metropolis was released in theaters. It’s also been quite a few years since the long out of print VHS and Laserdisc copies went out of print and until then most of the curious fans out there had to settle for awful bootleg copies and cost prohibitive laserdisc copies. That’s all over now, because the good folks over at Kino Lorber have gone to the vault and dusted off the film for a high definition release. Now you can experience for yourself what all the hoopla was about all those many years ago. Geez, it was 1984, yo! Anyways, let’s get our groove with Giorgio Moroder’s Metropolis

 

 

Film

You know, or should know what Metropolis is already without me telling you, right? I’m going to assume that you know the basic storyline, because this review will focus more on the music and sound used for it as opposed to what the film itself is all about. Then again, for those that are just joining us, I will give you a brief synopsis of what Metropolis is all about.

Metropolis is the story of the city of Metropolis in which people known as “managers” live in the sweeping skyscrapers of the city, while the common folk live and work in the underground. The workers are literally what make the city go ’round. If one of them stops working even for a second then chaos ensues. It’s a story of oppression with bits and pieces of prophecy thrown in and a few occult references in addition to it being a science fiction tale with elements of a love story thrown into the mix. This version of Metropolis runs 82 minutes, but that’s due to the film not having intertitles. This version has replaced them with actual subtitles and it runs at 24 frames per second. This cuts down on the running time substantially.

The big stink that this version drew in 1984 was that the film community felt that Moroder would destroy the image of one of the greatest films of all time by adding current (at the time) synthetic pop music and rock ‘n roll to the film. Some felt that what Moroder was being a little too self indulgent. Let’s face it, Giorgio Moroder had many musical hits credited to his name and he was riding high after composing the phenomenal score to Brian De Palma’s Scarface the previous year. Ironically, Moroder had already conceived of this project three years before its actualization.

Moroder scoured the planet and located some of the best elements around and began the difficult task of editing it all together. Some of these reels had, up to that point, had never been seen before. Once Moroder was satisfied with the cut and presentation of the film it was time to work on the music. Moroder composed quite a few synth musical cues for the film, but also added sound effects and timed them perfectly to the onscreen action. If anything, this new version plays a little bit on the interactive side. There’s still no dialogue, but you can “hear” the onscreen action sometimes. It’s pretty trippy.

After Moroder finished up with the score and sound elements themselves, it was time to add the actual songs from the artists. Some of these songs and musical cues are used in reprise moments towards the end of the film and work beautifully in conveying depth and emotion. Even though I really enjoyed this particular take on Metropolis, it only serves as an experimental film and does not come close in replacing the newly reconstructed version. I do think that there’s room for these versions to stand by side.

For those that may have wondered why it took so long to finally release this version on Blu-ray it really had nothing do with the studio locating the print. As usual, in the music world, it turned into a rights and licensing issue. Obviously this has been settled and you have (hopefully) this Blu-ray in your hands.

 

Track Listing

1. Machines (Giorgio Moroder)

2. Blood From A Stone (Cycle V)

3. Here’s My Heart (Pat Benetar)

4. Cage of Freedom (Jon Anderson)

5. On Your Own (Billy Squier)

6. What’s Going On (Adam Ant)

7. The Legend of Babel (Giorgio Moroder)

8. Here’s My Heart (Reprise)

9. Here She Comes (Bonnie Tyler)

10. Love Kills (Freddie Mercury)

11. Here She Comes (Reprise)

12. Destruction (Loverboy)

13. Cage of Freedom (Reprise)

14. Machines (Reprise)

15. Here’s My Heart (Reprise)

Video

Giorgio Moroder’s Metropolis is presented in 1080p, 1.33:1, full screen. Kino is known for rarely adding any sort of DNR to their films and this is no exception.  Kino DID NOT use footage from the newly reconstructed edition, so don’t go in expecting Moroder’s version to look anything like 2010’s version. Rather than substitute digitally enhanced footage from one of the restorations that have occured in the twenty seven years since Moroder’s version, Kino chose to present the film exactly as it appeared in 1984, mastered from an archival 35mm print The color tinted sequences look remarkably sharp and don’t really band all that much. Certain scenes are only color tinted while objects in other scenes are actually colored in completely. These are objects like fluids in beakers or electricity or signs that are now neon enhanced, etc. The video presentation to Giorgio Moroder’s Metropolis is average at best, but is nowhere near as bad as one would expect. People do forget that up to a few years ago this was the best print out there.

 

Audio

Giorgio Moroder’s Metropolis is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1 and contains a DTS 2.0 score, as well. I went with the fully lossless version and I was knocked on my @$$! Wow, what an sonic experience! The film features a synthetic pop score by Moroder himself along with added sound effects. In addition to these new elements added to the film, Moroder added songs by artists who were on top of their game in 1984. These artists consist of: Freddie Mercury, Adam Ant, Pat Benetar, Bonnie Tyler, and Loveboy. Vocals are rich and come through the center channel in a very clean and haunting manner. The LFE channel is the highlight of the show, though. When the beats hit the screen they are served with tightness and zero distortion. The rear channels also serve for echoing effects and never disrupt the main sound stage. Five minutes into the film and I knew this version of Metropolis was going to be reference in the audio department.

Extras

Extras, unfortunately, are scarce. There’s a rarely seen documentary that chronicles Moroder’s journey on piecing together Metropolis and him scoring the soundtrack for the film. It’s very introspective and somewhat haunting. The documentary was also produced in 1984. There’s a trailer included for the 1984 version and a trailer for the newly reconstructed version that was released in 2010.

  • The Fading Image – Produced by Giorgio Moroder in 1984, this rarely-seen documentary about film preservation goes behind the scenes of his restoration and scoring of Metropolis
  • Original trailer
  • Gallery

 

Summary

Giorgio Moroder’s Metropolis may have been somewhat of a controversial oddity when it was first released almost thirty years ago, but as a standalone piece of film it works as a visual and musical statement all its own. Some people will hate it, and some will love it. I’m in the latter crew. I enjoy synth pop enough as it is, so there’s no twisting of my arm for me to like it. The Blu-ray does suffer from lackluster extras, but other than that it’s top notch. In closing, I’d like to let Girgio Moroder himself explain his project and why he did what he did with Metropolis. The following is taken from the enclosed leaflet included with the Blu-ray:

Growing up, I was an avid fan of classic movies and Metropolis was always one of my favorites. A decade into my career as a composer for motion pictures, I began a three-year endeavor to restore the film, with an eye towards introducing it to new audiences. It was 1981, and by then Metropolis had almost disappeared from circulation. I gathered elements of the film from all over the world to create and restore the most complete version of Metropolis possible (at the time). During the process, as a composer, I made the controversial decision to give the film a new , contemporary score, in addition to adding songs to the soundtrack that were recorded by some of the biggest pop and rock musicians of the era. I should also note that my score for Metropolis was one of the first uses of digital recording of music, which has become the standard today.

In the years since 1984, Metropolis has been restored again (2002), has seen the addition of newly discovered material (2010), and was re-released worldwide. But my version of Metropolis remained out of circulation. Until now.

My good friends at Kino Lorber have created a new digital transfer, from one of the few existing prints, in order to Metropolis to you as it was seen in 1984. It’s still one of my all-time favorite movies, and although much has changed since its original release(especially the music), the themes of the film still resonate today. I hope you enjoy it.

-Giorgio Moroder 2011

 

 

 

 

 

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

4 Responses to “Giorgio Moroder Presents Metropolis (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Gregg

    Isn’t the original version from the 1930’s or so?

  2. Gerard Iribe

    1920’s, Gregg.

  3. Aaron Neuwirth

    And that version also has a pretty fantastic Blu-ray

  4. Sean Ferguson

    I want to see the new restored version that recently came out on Blu-ray. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it.