Posts Tagged ‘best 100films’

Metropolis is a science fiction film based on a screenplay written in 1924 by Fritz Lang and his then wife, Thea von Harbou. She made it into a novel in 1926. This work by Fritz Lang was produced in Germany in the Babelsberg Studios at a time before the economic and political chaos could engulf the Weimar Republic. It was the most expensive silent film of the time, costing approximately 7 million Reichsmark (equivalent to around $28 million USD in 2007).

The film is set in a future and a corporate city-state, the metropolis is the stage for examing an idea that was hot in the 20’s: the social crisis between workers and owners in capitalism. The film had a checkered history, the original and longest version was briefly screened in Germany in 1927 of which a quarter of the footage was believed to be permanently lost. But later this portion resurfaced in a film museum in Argentina! There is an American version, which is a fraction of the original and it is what often referred to and discussed.


The film is set in the year 2026, and the city state, the metropolis of the title is run by Johann ‘Joh’ Fredersen (Alfred Abel).
Society has been divided into two rigid groups: one of planners or thinkers, who live high above the earth in luxury, and another of workers who live underground toiling to sustain the lives of the privileged.
The beautiful but a firebrand for the workers, Maria (Brigitte Helm) advises the desperate workers not to start a revolution, and instead wait for the arrival of “The Mediator”, who, she says, will unite the two halves of society. Meanwhile the son of Fredersen, Freder (Gustav Fröhlich), becomes infatuated with Maria, and follows her down into the working underworld and realizes firsthand the situation. ( After an explosion at the “M-Machine”, the employers are more concerned with keeping the machine than attending to the safety of the wounded. They bring in replacements.) Disgusted Freder joins her cause.

While the love is nascent in such lower depths above it is business as usual. Johann has  a rival in Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge). Rotwang has built a robotic gynoid. Rotwang wants to give the robot the appearance of Hel but Johann requests him to give the robot the appearance of Maria instead. His aim is to hold his control over the workers using Maria as a robot while Rotwang who lost his sweetheart to Johann knowsshe died giving birth to Freder. He has his own plans to separate Maria from Johann. So he consents to the request of Johann.
After unleashing the real and the robot things really hot up in Metropolis.
The robot is passed for an exotic dancer and she proves to be a  a hit with the well heeled Yoshiwara crowd. Meanwhile the real Maria is held a prisoner at the castle of Rotwang. The robot descents to the underworld and create confusion: workers mistake Maria as the cause for the havoc set off by robot Maria in the wake of destruction of “Heart Machine”, the power station of the city. Nor they can understand it was the real Maria and Federer who saved them in a heroic rescue.

When the workers realize the damage the uppercrust have done and that their children are lost, they under the leadership of Grot, the foreman go up to seek revenge. They chase the human Maria, whom they hold responsible for their loss. As they break into the city’s entertainment district, they run into and capture the robot Maria, while the human Maria manages to escape. The workers burn the captured Maria at the stake; Freder, believing this to be the human Maria, despairs but then he and the workers realize that the burned Maria is in fact a robot.

Meanwhile, the human Maria is chased by Rotwang along the battlements of the city’s cathedral. Freder chases after Rotwang, resulting in a climactic scene in which Joh Fredersen watches in terror as his son struggles with Rotwang on the cathedral’s roof. Rotwang falls to his death, and Maria and Freder return to the street, where Freder unites Fredersen (the “head”) and Grot (the “hands”), fulfilling his role as the “Mediator” (the “heart”).


* Alfred Abel as Joh Fredersen
* Gustav Fröhlich as Freder, Joh Fredersen’s son
* Rudolf Klein-Rogge as Rotwang
* Fritz Rasp as the Thin Man
* Theodor Loos as Josaphat
* Erwin Biswanger as Worker 11811 / Georgi
* Heinrich George as Grot, Foreman of the Heart Machine
* Brigitte Helm as Maria/robot
Architecture and visual effects was a novelty then and the set design still impress modern audiences with their visual impact—the film contains cinematic and thematic links to German Expressionism, is based on contemporary Modernism and Art Deco.  It stands as an emblem associated with the ruling class in the film.

Rotwang’s Art Deco laboratory with its lights and industrial machinery similary add to the cult status of the film. In science fiction, this style is sometimes called Raygun Gothic.

The effects expert, Eugen Schüfftan, created innovative visual displays widely acclaimed in following years. Among the effects used are miniatures of the city, a camera on a swing, and most notably, the so-called Schüfftan process, later used by Alfred Hitchcock in his film Blackmail (1929).

The Maschinenmensch, the robot character played by Brigitte Helm, was created by Walter Schultze-Mittendorf. A chance discovery of a sample of “plastic wood” (a pliable substance designed as wood-filler) allowed him to sculpt the costume like a suit of armour over a plaster cast of the actress. Spraypainted a mix of silver and bronze, it helped create some of the most memorable moments on film.
Dualism is a running theme. Maria as the worker’s guiding spirit while she is replicated as a robot to undo her effect on workers who themselves show dichotomy of workers conscious of the disparity between the classes and who toil as automata (the viwer cannot see their faces, and they work and move as rhythmically as the machines they operate.) Rotwang, the ‘mad scientist’ is another whose mad genius and hatred is in context of Johann whose selfishness is however tempered by his fatherly concern.
The film has drawn heavily from the story of the Tower of Babel (from the book of Genesis). One may envision a grandiose monument to the greatness of humanity but would need labor of millions whose requirements are different from those who think up the skyscrapers high enough to reach the stars. The camera focuses on armies of workers led to the construction site of the monument. They work hard but cannot understand the dreams of the Tower’s designers, and the designers don’t concern themselves with the mind of their workers. As the film explains, “The dreams of a few had turned to the curses of many”.
Irony of the class war jells with the tragedy of the Biblical  Tower: the planners and the workers spoke the same language but didn’t understand each other. As the scene ends and the camera show us that only ruins remain of the Tower of Babel. This retelling is notable in keeping the theme of the lack of communication from the original story but placing it in the context of relations between social classes.

The entire film is dominated by technology: much of the technology portrayed in the film is unexplained and appears bizarre, for example the enormous “M-Machine” and the “Heart Machine.” Lang obviously could only work with technology of the 20’s and much of it to our sophisticated level seem mere curiosities of an outmoded era.’ The ultimate expression of technology in the entire film is the female robot built by Rotwang, referred to as the Maschinenmensch (“Machine Human” or “Machine Man”). In the original German version Rotwang’s creation is a reconstruction of his dead lover, a woman called Hel…’(wikipedia)
Lang, in his later years did claim his visit to New York in 1924 inspired Metropolis.

On January 10, 1927, a 210 minute version of the film premiered in Berlin with moderate success…After sound films came in in late 1927, theatre managers saw to it that the film was shown using a sound film projector at the standard sound film speed of up to 26 frames per second (as at its Berlin premiere). This affected the rhythm and pace of the original film, which had been made to be shown at the standard silent film speed of 16 frames per second…
American and foreign theatre managers were generally unwilling to allow more than ninety minutes to a feature in their program Few people outside of Berlin saw Metropolis as Fritz Lang originally intended. In the United States, the movie was shown in a version edited by the American playwright Channing Pollock, who almost completely obscured the original plot.’-wikipedia

Despite the film’s later reputation, some contemporary critics panned it. The New York Times critic Mourdant Hall called it a “technical marvel with feet of clay”. H. G. Wells thought it was foolish to think that automation created drudgery rather than relieving it, and found parts of the story derivative of Shelley’s Frankenstein, Karel Čapek’s robot stories, and his own The Sleeper Awakes.

Joseph Goebbels was impressed however and clearly took the film’s message to heart. In a speech of 1928 he noted: “The political bourgeoisie is about to leave the stage of history. In its place advance the oppressed producers of the head and hand, the forces of Labour, to begin their historical mission”.

Fritz Lang himself expressed dissatisfaction with the film. Lang’s distaste for his own film perhaps stemmed from personal reasons. While his wife embraced the cause of Nazism passionately (Von Harbou became a passionate member of the Nazi Party in 1933) he fled from Germany and he and his wife were divorced in 1934.

Restorations and re-releases

Enno Patalas made an exhaustive attempt to restore the movie in 1986. This restoration was the most accurate for its time, thanks to the script and the musical score that had been discovered. The basis of Patalas’ work was a copy in the Museum of Modern Art’s collection.
The F.W. Murnau Foundation (which now owns the film’s copyright) and Kino International (now the film’s domestic distributor) released a 118-minute, digitally restored version in 2002, undertaken by Martin Koerber. It included the original music score and title cards describing the action in the missing sequences.

The music was composed by Gottfried Huppertz who had composed the original scores for Lang’s Die Nibelungen films in 1924. As for this film, Huppertz composed a leitmotific orchestral score which included many elements from the music of Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss plus some additional score for the city of the workers and the use of the popular Dies Irae for some apocalyptic imagery. His music played a quite prominent role while shooting the picture, since during principal photography, many scenes were accompanied by him playing the piano to get a certain effect from the actors.

Cultural influences
Shots from the film are extensively featured in the video for Queen (band)’s 1984 song Radio Ga Ga.

The visual design for Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner was influenced by Metropolis. These include a built up urban environment, in which the wealthy literally live above the workers, dominated by a huge building. Compare the New Tower of Babel in Metropolis with the Tyrell Building in Blade Runner.

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The third and definitive film adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s 1900 children’s fantasy is a musical adventure and it made Judy Garland a star. Between this and A Star is Born we get to see her meteoric rise and decline which is how fantasies in Hollywood are likely to end up.
Dorothy Gale is an orphaned young girl unhappy with her drab black-and-white existence on her aunt and uncle’s dusty Kansas farm. Dorothy yearns to travel “over the rainbow” to a different world, and she gets her wish when a tornado whisks her and her little dog, Toto, to the Technicolorful land of Oz.
Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

You got that right, Dorothy. This is Hollywood. Where fantasies are made visible, audible, emotional. Even if we cannot guarantee you success no matter what, we can make you a star given the right ingredients in the Golden age of Cinema in technicolor.
So they did and it is a classic even in this age of superfluities and gratuitous sex and violence.

When L. Frank Baum published his children’s story in 1900 he didn’t think it would be held up as an original American fairy tale. Nor did he imagine it would be given an entirely new treatment in an altogether medium of celluloid. Yes his literary classic would be a cinematic milestone some 40 years later. L. Frank Baum overachieved and his book has been read by generations of children, who each grew up and read it to their own children. He went on to write a whole series of Oz books, taking up the characters he created in ‘The Wizard’ and giving them new adventures – 14 books in all. It did not even stop with his death in 1919, as Ruth Plumly Thompson and other writers continued the series, creating scores of volumes. Officially, there were 40 books in the series, but there were many unofficial additions. Even the Russians wrote some.

You’re off to see the Wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz
You’ll find he is a Whiz of a Wiz if ever a Wiz there was
If ever, oh ever, a Wiz there was,
The Wizard of Oz is one because…

When MGM made their movie in 1939, they wanted a big success with the relatively new process of Technicolor. Disney had enjoyed massive success with the color animation Snow White and the 7 Dwarves. Now MGM wanted a share of this cake. Director Victor Fleming was a very busy man. He took over after George Cukor who was fired by the studio. Cukor was called to work on MGM’s flagship project, Gone With the Wind. Later, when Cukor had run foul of Clark Gable, Fleming found himself directing GWTW by day and editing Wizard by night. King Vidor took over in the Wizard studio and directed the Kansas sequences. Between them, these men took Frank L. Baum’s classic children’s fantasy and added a few Hollywood ingredients:

* a transformation from black and white Kansas to an Oz so Technicolor that it almost hurt your eyes
* some hardened professional character actors, including at least one drunk
* a troop of midgets
* unforgettable songs that children could learn and carry on singing into their twilight years
* a young Judy Garland (although not as young as Dorothy) conveying the innocence of a Kansas farm girl but with the singing voice of a streetwise angel
* the best special effects 1939 technology could deliver.

I have a sneaking suspicion that there are some like me who has not yet read the real but just got carried by the reel. So for those who think this is another New Age wizardry set in Avalon or in the Middle Kingdom, here is what happens.

Anyway, Dorothy and Toto manage to get caught up in a twister and see all sorts of people whizz by them. ( Apparently, Toto was put out of filming for a fortnight when one of the crew stepped on the little animal.) When they come back to solid ground, everything has suddenly become brightly colored – not a bit like dull old Kansas, filmed in black and white. It turns out that Dorothy has inadvertently killed the Wicked Witch of the East, making her a hero to the diminutive locals, the Munchkins.

Ding-dong, the witch is dead!
The wicked witch!
Ding-dong, the wicked witch is dead!
Dorothy heads down the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City, where dwells the all-powerful Wizard of Oz, who might be able to help the girl return to Kansas. En route, she befriends a Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), a Tin Man (Jack Haley), and a Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr). The Scarecrow would like to have some brains, the Tin Man craves a heart, and the Lion wants to attain courage; hoping that the Wizard will help them too, they join Dorothy on her odyssey to the Emerald City.

Having offended the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton), Dorothy is protected from the old crone’s wrath by the ruby slippers that she wears. Glinda, the Good Witch of the North (Billie Burke), is there to safeguard her and needs to “Follow the Yellow Brick Road”, and she does.

Together they meet with the imposing Wizard of Oz, who promises them their hearts’ desires (brain, heart, courage, a return flight to Kansas) if they will only kill the Wicked Witch of the West.

Of course they triumph, after a few surreal setbacks, including an attack by blue winged monkeys. Dorothy sings some more and gets back home older and wiser.

Then close your eyes and tap your heels together three times. And think to yourself, ‘There’s no place like home’.

Frank L. Baum’s story works because it is a great story, with a mythic center that is nothing short of an allegory for growing up. The story had been filmed before, in 1925, but this is the version that will be remembered as long as movies are remembered. Why?

* Because of the way the Technicolor Oz bursts onto the screen.
* Because everybody remembers “Over the Rainbow”, but nobody ever sung it quite like Judy Garland (real name Frances Gumm). This hit song by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg was nearly chopped from the picture after the first preview because it “slowed down the action.”
* Because everybody, adult and child, has had a dream that seemed apparently senseless and yet made perfect sense.

Garland was MGM’s second choice for Dorothy after Shirley Temple dropped out of the project; and Bolger was to have played the Tin Man but talked co-star Buddy Ebsen into switching roles. When Ebsen proved allergic to the chemicals used in his silver makeup, he was replaced by Haley. Gale Sondergaard was originally to have played the Wicked Witch of the West in a glamorous fashion, until the decision was made to opt for belligerent ugliness, and the Wizard was written for W.C. Fields, who reportedly turned it down because MGM couldn’t meet his price. The Wizard of Oz was too expensive to post a large profit upon initial release; however, after a disappointing reissue in 1955, it was sold to network television, where its annual showings made it a classic.
(ack: Hal Erickson)

DVD Releases
Similar Movies
Alice in Wonderland (1983, Harry Harris)
A Connecticut Yankee (1931, David Butler)
Mary Poppins (1964, Robert Stevenson)
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971, Mel Stuart)
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1979, Bill Melendez)
The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1914, John Farrell MacDonald, L. Frank Baum)
Alice in Wonderland (1933, Norman Z. McLeod)
A Wrinkle in Time (2003, John Kent Harrison)
The Cat Returns (2002, Hiroyuki Morita)
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968, Ken Hughes)
Movies with the Same Personnel
Thousands Cheer (1943, George Sidney)
Courage of Lassie (1946, Fred Wilcox)
The Three Musketeers (1948, George Sidney)
Sweethearts (1938, W.S. Van Dyke)
Boom Town (1940, Jack Conway)
Dancing Pirate (1936, Lloyd Corrigan)
The Great Ziegfeld (1936, Robert Z. Leonard)
The Affairs of Cellini (1934, Gregory La Cava)
Other Related Movies
is featured in: That’s Entertainment! (1974, Jack Haley, Jr.)
is related to: Return to Oz (1985, Walter Murch)
The Wizard of Oz (1925, Larry Semon)
20th Century Oz (1976, Chris Lofven)
The Lion of Oz (2000, Tim Deacon)
The Wizard of Oz (1933, Ted Eshbaugh)
The Wizard of Oz (1991, Jim Simon)
The Wonderful Land of Oz (1969, Barry Mahon)
Harold Arlen: Somewhere Over the Rainbow (1999, Don McGlynn)
The Marvelous Land of Oz (1987, Gerald Potterton, Tim Reid)
The Wizard of Oz (2004)
Veggie Tales: The Wonderful Wizard of Ha’s
Tin Man (2007, Nick Willing)
Zardoz (1973, John Boorman)
Rainbow (1978, Jackie Cooper)
His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz (1914, L. Frank Baum)
The Dreamer of Oz: The L. Frank Baum Story (1990, Jack Bender)
Being Dorothy (2003, Howard Goldberg)
Return to Oz (1964)
Under the Rainbow (1981, Steve Rash)
Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows (2001, Robert Allan Ackerman)
influenced: The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953, Roy Rowland)
has been remade as: The Wiz (1978, Sidney Lumet)
The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz (2005, Kirk R. Thatcher)
(ack:www. allmovie.com)

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