Lost footage of "Metropolis" surfaces in Argentina

Thu Jul 3, 2008 10:28am EDT
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By Dave Graham

BERLIN (Reuters) - Film historians had doubted they would ever find the missing parts of "Metropolis" -- until three reels of the science fiction movie made in Germany a long time ago, were discovered in a country far, far away.

Two film fans in Argentina uncovered the fragile footage in a small museum, earlier this year -- over eight decades after Fritz Lang's dystopian classic first began to shed scenes.

With its cold, monumental vision of mechanized society, "Metropolis" forged a template for generations of science fiction cinema, and its enduring influence has been cited on films from "Blade Runner" to "Fahrenheit 451" and "Star Wars."

"We were overjoyed when we heard about the find," Helmut Possmann, head of the foundation which owns the rights to the film, the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, told Reuters.

"We no longer believed we'd see this. Time and again we had had calls about supposed footage but were disappointed."

"Metropolis," which depicts a tumultuous class struggle in a vast, urban society, was the first film to be entered into UNESCO's Memory of the World Register -- which aims to preserve cultural achievements of outstanding significance.

Released in 1927, set a century later, the silent film was not a commercial success and nearly ruined the studio behind it -- according to some estimates, it still ranks as one of the most expensive movies ever made once inflation is factored in.

Soon after its premiere, the movie was heavily cut to make it more accessible, and several new versions emerged. A series of efforts were made to restore the film over the years but roughly a quarter of the film was believed to be lost.   Continued...