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    Metropolis (1927)

    Eureka Video/Force Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 138 mins . PG . PAL


    The inspiration behind the visual design of countless science fiction films for many, many years after it was made, German director Fritz Langís 1926 silent masterpiece Metropolis has had something of a chequered history on home video, a fact thatís due in no small part to the sheer age of the movie. Langís innovative story of what basically amounts to a futuristic class war was set, ironically, around the year 2000 (and in some ways has proved remarkably prophetic) and produced at enormous cost, only to flop dismally and nearly bankrupt the producing studio in the process. In subsequent years, though, respect for Metropolis grew, as Lang relocated to the US and spent years making some of early cinemaís most innovative pictures. But as was the way of the time, the film was extensively recut for different markets, and what entails a ďcompleteĒ version of the film has been the subject of much contention. Ironically, when music producer Giorgio Moroder put together his own cut of the film in the mid-80s (soundtracked by electronic rock music performed by the stars of the time, including Freddie Mercury and Bonnie Tyler!) he delivered one of the shortest versions of the film yet, despite much hype about the effort he and his team had gone to in an attempt to reconstruct the film. He ended up making use of still images and found footage from all manner of sources (including Australian archives) but the Moroder Metropolis was far from complete at 87 minutes, annoyingly colour-tinted and is, especially today, almost unlistenable in places.

    UK video label Eurekaís offering of the film is a different proposition entirely. For one, it runs to a remarkable 138 minutes (a figure that appears to have been helped along by the use of the correct frame rate - donít expect ultra-smooth motion here).

    Fans of the film will be well pleased to have access to a more complete version of this classic on DVD - but itís not all good news, especially in the quality department.


    The disc released here by Force Video is actually a replicated copy of a master made by Eureka in the UK, so itís Eureka that must take the blame for the quality - or lack thereof - here. Now of course, weíre dealing with a movie that was shot on volatile nitrate film stock back in 1926 at an unconventional frame rate, so any complaints about the quality of the print or the telecine transfer must take this into account. While contrast isnít always the best, the transfer itself seems reasonable; however, the best transfer in the world canít escape the problems caused by Eureka Videoís decision to put the entire 138 minutes of the film onto a single layered DVD. While a single-layered disc can theoretically comfortably hold 135 minutes at decent quality, in practise this requires some seriously careful MPEG encoding to avoid artefacting and other problems. It has been done successfully before (Polygramís original 140-minute single-layer disc of Sleepers comes to mind) but whatever encoder Eureka have used here, it was, to put it bluntly, garbage.

    VERY visible macro-blocking is evident throughout the movie, often to ludicrous extremes, and these are plainly visible even on a small screen.


    A new music score (written in 1998) has been contributed by one Peter Osborne - and a rather cheesy new-age offering it is, too, though of course you can always turn the volume down and provide your own soundtrack if youíre feeling innovative. Audio is in stereo, and presents the rather bland incidental music well enough.


    There are no extras, save for a two-screen version of the back cover blurb.


    Think of the worst VideoCD encoding job youíve ever seen, and this may very well beat it. Of course, the amount of grain present in the film source is not going to help any, but that fact alone should have seen Eureka opt for a dual-layered format instead. As it stands, we canít recommend this disc at all unless youíre extremely forgiving of sub-standard video encoding.

    Metropolis deserves far better than this.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=695
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      And I quote...
    "Metropolis deserves far better than this."
    - Anthony Horan
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