Fritz Lang’s Metropolis Restored with a Soundtrack Featuring Freddie Mercury, Adam Ant & Pat Benatar

At the 1984 Cannes Film Fes­ti­val, dis­co trail­blaz­er and Oscar-win­ning com­pos­er Gior­gio Moroder unveiled a restored ver­sion of Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent epic Metrop­o­lis — the first time that the ground­break­ing movie had been restored since it pre­miered. Though Moroder labored for years with some of the lead­ing archivists in the world to cre­ate the most com­plete ver­sion of the film to date, his adap­ta­tion also stream­lined the movie’s sto­ry­line, added sound effects, col­orized the movie’s mono­chrome pic­ture and, most con­tro­ver­sial­ly, added a synth pop sound­track fea­tur­ing music by Pat Benatar, Bil­ly Squier, Adam Ant and Fred­die Mer­cury. You can watch it above.

The result­ing film, as you might expect, is a pro­found­ly odd col­li­sion between pop and art. Lang’s pun­gent imagery exists uneasi­ly along­side Moroder’s MTV treat­ment. Crit­ic Thomas Elsaess­er in his BFI book­let on the movie called Moroder’s ver­sion “some­where between a remake and a post-mod­ern appro­pri­a­tion.” And though the songs are uni­form­ly cringe-induc­ing – to say that they didn’t age well is a big under­state­ment — Moroder’s ver­sion still works.

The rea­son that Lang’s movie influ­enced film­mak­ers from George Lucas to Ter­ry Gilliam to Stan­ley Kubrick is because of its visu­al bril­liance, not because of its sto­ry. The script, penned by Lang’s wife and future Nazi Par­ty pro­pa­gan­dist, Thea von Har­bou, is stuffed full of allu­sions to Franken­stein and Ger­man folk­tales along with plen­ty of maudlin melo­dra­ma. But Lang’s high mod­ernist visu­als – evok­ing both the Bauhaus move­ment and Hen­ry Ford’s new brand of indus­tri­al­ism – tran­scend­ed the movie’s sto­ry, becom­ing a last­ing vision of total­i­tar­i­an dystopia.

In 2010, a painstak­ing­ly researched “com­plete” ver­sion of Metrop­o­lis came out, clock­ing in at almost three hours. It might be an achieve­ment of film preser­va­tion but, com­pared to Moroder’s ver­sion, it shows how bloat­ed and mean­der­ing Von Harbou’s script was. Moroder’s more svelte ver­sion might be cheesy, but at least it’s fun. The great film crit­ic Pauline Kael described Lang’s movie as “a won­der­ful, stu­pe­fy­ing fol­ly.” Moroder’s ver­sion is a fol­ly on top of a fol­ly.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Metrop­o­lis Restored: Watch a New Ver­sion of Fritz Lang’s Mas­ter­piece

Fritz Lang’s “Licen­tious, Pro­fane, Obscure” Noir Film, Scar­let Street (1945)

Free Film Noir Movies (34 Films in Total)

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.

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