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Metropolis 1927

Section 5: Film (35mm, 16mm and 8mm)

Introduction

Despite the South American discovery of 2008, Fritz Lang's Metropolis no longer exists in the form as originally created by the German director, due not only to the contemporary cutting, re-editing, and censoring of the film, but also as a result of the vagaries of time and history which have, until recently, placed little value on preserving copies of films such as Metropolis. Since the late 1960s efforts have been made both within Germany and without, to restore and revive the film, and produce a copy which is as close as possible to Lang's original conception. These efforts continue to this day.

The following section deals with the various physical and technical aspects of Metropolis. It begins (Table 1) by listing known releases and variants of the film which have occurred since November 1926, when Fritz Lang presented his initial director's cut to the Berlin Film Censor's Office. Table 1 is a summary of the numerous editions known to the author. Additional detailed information is available Martin Koerber's article published in Jaconsen and Sudendorf (2000). Data on release dates, film length (in feet and metres), and screening duration (in minutes according to varying film speeds) is given, though this is somewhat tentative and subject to variation, dependent upon the specific reference used. Furthermore, it should be noted that the print as originally released to distributors and theatre managers by UFA during 1927-8 may have been subject to servere cutting by local authorities and operators; or the film run at inordinately fast speeds - up to 26 frames per second - to fit the time constraints of local programs (a 90 minute feature was often the 'ideal'). As a result, it is difficult to ascertain exactly what version of Metropolis individual audiences saw during the initial run in 1927-8, and what was the precise screening time. For example, a reviewer might indicate that the length of the film was '12 reels' or that it ran for '107 minutes'. Unfortunately this information is not detailed enough to indicate the exact length of the film (in feet / metres), whether it had been cut or censored, or the speed at which it was screened on the night.

Also included below (Table 2) is an attempt to correlate film projection speeds against film lengths and film screening times for the various known versions of Metropolis listed in Table 1. This is followed by a listing of cast and crew. Finally, a tabulation (Table 3) of information relating to the gross takings of Metropolis during its initial American release during 1927 is given for interest, based on figures compiled and published by Variety magazine at the time.

Table 1 - Metropolis: Known Variants (Summary)

Date

Origin

Length

Running Time

Notes

13 November 1926

Ufa, Germany

13,701 ft (4,189 metres), 9 reels of varying length

228 minutes @ 16 frames per second (fps)

175+ intertitles. Original director's cut as presented to the Berlin Film Censor's Office.

10 January 1927

Ufa, Germany

13,701 ft (4,189 metres), 14 reels of 300m (c.1,000 feet) each

228 minutes @ 16fps, or 132 minutes @ 26 fps

175+ intertitles. Premiered at the Ufa Palast am Zoo, Berlin. Apparently run at 26 fps on the night. Withdrawn on 27 April.

March 1927

US

10,400 ft (3,180 metres), 10 reels / 8,039 ft (2458 metres)

116 minutes @ 24 fps / 89 minutes @ 24 fps

Channing Pollock edition prepared for American release through Paramount. Premiered March 1927. Running time given by Variety at 107 minutes. Varying lengths given in contemporary reviews throughout 1927.

August 1927

Germany

10,600 ft (3,241 metres)

116 minutes @ 24 fps

139 intertitles. Ufa re-release for local exhibition and export. Version similar to Pollock reconstruction.

end 1927

US

8,039 ft (2,458 metres)

89 minutes @ 24 fps

Edit pf Pollock's original US version. Released at end of 1927.

1928

Australia

12,000 ft (3,934 metres), 12 reels

200 minutes @ 16fps; 133 minutes @ 24fps

Premiered April 1928. Based on original Ufa foreign print.

1936/7

US

7,623 ft (2,250 metres)

67 minutes @ 28 fps?

US re-release of Pollock edition. Running time variously given as 67 or 63 minutes. Length based on extant copy in Museum of Modern Art.

1957

Australia, England

8,324 ft (2,545 metres)

92 minutes @ 24 fps

Australian re-release through National Films of New South Wales.

1969

East Germany

7,750 ft (2,362 metres)

115 minutes @ 18 frames per second

Staatliches Filmarchiv version. First modern 'restored' version.

1984

US (Georgio Moroder)

7,468 ft (2,445 metres), 10 reels

83 minutes @ 24 frames per second

'Restored' version, constructed mainly from the Museum of Modern Art copy, plus extras.

1986

US, JEF Films

c.8,200 ft (2,507 metres)

137 minutes @ 16fps

Extended duration as a result of very slow projection rate (?14 or 16 fps).

1987-95

Germany. Film Museum, Munich

9,608 ft (3,150 metres)

128 minutes @ 20 frames per second; or, 142 minutes @ 18 frames per second

Modern restoration using all known extant film. Prepared by a team at the Munich Film Museum, under the guidance of Enno Patalas.

2001

Germany

10,928 ft (3,341 metres)

182 minutes @ 16 frames per second; or, 145 minutes @ 20 frames per second

Modern restoration using all known extant film. Prepared by a team of German film archivists, lead by Martin Koerber.

It should be noted that there are numerous variants of Metropolis available on video release, though it is often difficult to relate these to the versions of the film listed in the table above. This is due to variations in copy transfer speeds from film to video, and the unknown or uncited origin of the film from which the video was produced. The JEF Films video of 1986, and its subsequent variants, is a good example of this.


Metropolis - Film Lengths and Projection Speeds

The following table summaries the lengths (in feet and metres) of the various known copies of the 35mm version of Metropolis which have appeared since 1926. The table also indicates the possible screening time (in minutes) based on the projection speed (in frames per second). For example, the 1926 German edition of 4,189 metres (Fritz Lang's original director's cut) would have run for approximately 203 minutes (3 hours and 23 minutes) if screened at 18 frames per second, or 132 minutes if projected at 26 frames per second; similarly, the Georgio Moroder 1984 version of 7,468 feet runs for approximately 83 minutes at 24 frames per second. Though Metropolis was most likely originally filmed at 16fps, it was common practice amongst projectionists and cinema theatre managers to screen silent films at faster speeds, from 18fps to 26fps, with 24 fps very common. This was done both to 'speed up' the action of the film, and to shorten the time taken to run the feature, in order to maximise the number of screenings and number of patrons through the door in any one day. A long film such as Metropolis was therefore commonly subject to running at an inappropriate fast speed, way above its original 16fps. This gave rise to the effect where, for example, Freder's running appears ridiculously fast in most instances, and even the rhythm of the workers as they change shifts is affected. This problem was accentuated when soundtracks were added to the movie after 1930. As the standard projection speed for sound film is 24fps, invariably sound editions of Metropolis are seen at this inordinately high projection speed. In the opinion of this author, ideally Metropolis should be screened at 16-18fps, and any accompanying soundtrack should be synchronised to this speed.

Table 2 - Metropolis: Film Lengths and Projection Speeds
(Time in minutes)

 

Feet

Metres

16fps

18fps

20fps

22fps

24fps

26fps

Version

Moroder 1984

7,468

2,283

125

111

100

91

83

72

US 1936-7

7,623

2,331

127

113

102

92

85

73

Germany 1969

7,750

2,369

129

115

103

94

86

75

US 1927

8,039

2,458

134

119

107

98

89

77

JEF Films 1986

8,200

2,507

137

122

109

99

91

79

National Films 1957

8,324

2,545

139

123

110

101

92

80

Canberra 1927

8,500

2,599

142

126

113

103

94

82

Germany 1995

9,608

2,938

160

142

128

117

107

92

US 1927

10,400

3,180

165

146

132

120

110

95

Germany 1927

10,600

3,241

173

154

139

126

116

100

Germany 2001

10,928

3,341

182

162

145

132

121

105

Australia 1928

12,000

3,669

200

178

160

146

133

115

Germany 1926

13,701

4,189

228

203

183

166

152

132

This table has been arranged from shortest down to longest, with details relating to the longest known version of the film - i.e. Fritz Lang's director's cut at 4189 metres - given on the bottom row. The times under the frames per seconds headings (16, 18... 26) are in minutes. It is telling that the many extant versions of the film - including the 9608 feet long 1995 German restoration - are still less than the Channing Pollack edition of 10,400 feet, and substantially below the original German and Australian editions. This suggests that not only are whole reels missing, but that editing within extant reels has also occurred on a widespread basis. Such practises are mentioned in the literature, indicating that individual theatre managers and projectionists had no qualms in cutting such films in order to accomodate time and other constraints of local programs. They would even go so far as to locally censor the film according to personal taste and beliefs.


Film Details

Directed by Fritz Lang
Written by Fritz Lang, based on the novel by Thea von Harbou
Produced by Erich Pommer and Universum Film A.G. (UFA)

Cinematography: Karl Freund, Günther Rittau
Art Direction: Otto Hunte, Erich Kettelhut, Karl Vollbrecht
Set Design: Edgar G. Ulmer
Costume Design: Aenne Willkomm
Special Effects: Eugen Schüfftan

Cast:
Alfred Abel .... Joh Fredersen
Gustav Fröhlich .... Freder
Brigitte Helm .... Maria/The Robot (a.k.a. Futura)
Rudolf Klein-Rogge .... Rotwang
Theodor Loos .... Josaphat
Heinrich George .... Grot
Fritz Rasp .... Slim
Gotho .... Master of Ceremony / Majordomo
Erwin Biswanger .... Georgy (No. 11811)

Anny Hintze .... Woman of eternal garden
Beatrice Garga .... Woman of eternal garden
Hilde Woitscheff .... Woman of eternal garden
Helen von Münchofen .... Woman of eternal garden
Hilde Woitscheff .... Woman of eternal garden
Helen von Münchofen .... Woman of eternal garden
Margarete Lanner .... Lady in car/woman of eternal garden

Grete Berger .... Working woman
Olly Boeheim .... Working woman
Max Dietze .... Working man
Ellen Frey (I) .... Working woman
Lisa Gray .... Working woman
Georg John .... Working man
Walter Kuehle .... Working man
Rose Lichtenstein .... Working woman
Leo Reich .... Marinus
Arthur Reinhard .... Working man
Olaf Storm .... Jan
Erwin Vater .... Working man
Helene Weigel .... Working woman

Orginal American Release Figures

The following information was extracted from the Film Daily Yearbook for 1927 (New York, 1928). It lists a selection of box-office figures for Metropolis, and is based on information gleaned from Variety magazine. Metropolis took in close to $140,000 during its initial six week run at New York's Rialto theatre. The Rialto was a medium-sized theatre, able to accommodate 1,960 patrons. During the screening of Metropolis between 10 march and 16 April, tickets were available at 30c, 50c, 75c and 90c, and it is known that some 6,400 people attended the theatre on Easter Monday, 1927. It was also noted in Variety that the first week taking for Metropolis were affected by the opening that week of the 6,200 seat Roxy theatre. Despite its rather average takings for the time, and often critical reviews, a panel of 286 critics and the Film Daily Yearbook for 1927 voted Metropolis number 12 amongst the best pictures of that year. That journal also identified the length of the film upon original release in the United States as 10,400 feet, though the Motion Picture News Booking Guide and Theatre Directory for 1927 gives a figure of 8,039 feet.

Date (Week ending)

Location & Theatre

Receipts

 10 March

 Rialto, New York, 1960 seats

 $36850 (affected by the opening that week of the 6200 seat Roxy)

17 March

"

$28500

26 March

"

$28000

2 April

"

$24450

9 April

"

$21100

16 April

"

$19650

23 July

Metropolitan, Boston, 4000 seats

-

"

Roosevelt, Chicago, 1400 seats

$20000

30 July

"

$22000

6 August

"

$14000

"

Granada, San Francisco, 2785 seats

$28400

"

Columbia, Washington, 1232 seats

$9000

13 August

Roosevelt, Chicago, 1400 seats

-

"

Metropolitan, Los Angeles, 3595 seats

$29000

10 September

Grauman's Egyptian, Los Angeles, 1800 seats

$9000

29 October

Strand, Minneapolis, 1500 seats

$4000

Last updated: 30 January 2011.


Metropolis Bibliography - Introduction Metropolis Bibliography - Books, Articles and Manuscripts Metropolis Bibliography - Internet Web Sites Metropolis Bibliography - Artwork, Posters and Photographs Metropolis Bibliography - Music Metropolis Bibliography - Film Metropolis Bibliography - Videos, Quicktime, DVD Metropolis Bibliography - Reviews 1927 Metropolis Bibliography - Australia 1928 Metropolis Bibliography - Posters