Leave it to Fritz Lang to steal Animal House’s thunder!
According to reports out of Germany, as related by David Hudson at Green Cine Daily, apparently the original version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, long thought to be lost, is anything but. As Hudson relates, according to ZEITMagazin, "The most important silent film in German history can, from this day forward, be considered rediscovered." The movie was significantly cut down, by as much as one-quarter of the footage, from its original Berlin premiere version by Paramount for U.S. distribution and thought to be lost forever. Hudson relays the rest of the story so far:
"In 1928, Adolfo Z Wilson, head of Terra, a distribution company, secured a copy of what Die Zeit is calling the 'long version'… and took it with him back home to Buenos Aires. Manuel Peña Rodríguez, a film critic, then acquired the film rolls for his private collection, and there they stayed until he sold them to a national museum in Argentina in the 60s. A copy of these rolls then wound up at the Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires.
Paula Félix-Didier, who's quietly relayed this sequence of events to Die Zeit journalist Karen Naundorf so that the story would break in Germany, took over direction of the museum this January. Félix-Didier's ex-husband heads the Film Department of the Museum for Latin American Art in Buenos Aires and he heard from a fellow who runs a Cineclub there that when he last screened Metropolis, he was amazed at how long the film ran on. That's when they delved into the archives and discovered the scenes no one believed would ever be seen again.”
The F.W. Murnau Foundation will be heading up efforts in Buenos Aires to restore the rediscovered scenes and present them to the public in the near future. Kind of beats the hell out of a colorized version with Loverboy, Freddie Mercury and Pat Benatar on the soundtrack, doesn’t it? It’s all just a bit on the incredible side, enough to make long-deprived cinephiles believe that now anything is possible. Is Greed really gone, or just hiding someplace especially secure and confounding? And what about The Magnificent Ambersons? Or even London After Midnight or any number of other silent and sound films that have been written off by history? Who knows what's socked away in the attic of that dilapidated house over on Frederic Street in Burbank, or in the basement of that old warehouse in Paris? Given the significance of this story, there should be plenty of interesting stuff to read in the next few weeks, and Green Cine Daily will be as good a place as any, perhaps better, at rounding it all up for us.