Friday, December 28, 2007

Metropolis (1927) - The Moroder Version (1984)

This post will be a little bit different from some previous ones. I'm going to discuss the soundtrack to a movie. (I apologize for the lack of posts as of late; I've had finals and holidays and whatnot. Now I have no responsibilities for a few weeks... expect more posts.)

You may remember Metropolis, one of the most expensive movies at for its time (1927). Metropolis was directed by Fritz Lang and released as a 210-minute futuristic epic in Germany, only to be severely edited for release in America. All further releases have been edits of some form (usually around 90 minutes), and when a team tried to reassemble the best possible version for a new DVD release in 2002, they only managed to restore the film to 123 minutes. Before that, and unlike any other previous release, there is one special version that deserves special note, most especially in this music-themed blog of mine. I speak of the Moroder version, an 80-minute semi-colorized edit released in 1984 with an 80s-tastic rock soundtrack coordinated and composed by Giorgio Moroder, an Italian disco producer-king.

I noticed that my college library happened to have five copies of Metropolis, one of which being this unique edit. So, this is a brief a review of this particular edit (not of the movie as a whole, which I really, really like) and the accompanying soundtrack. The edit was done acceptably; it's quite short but most of plot essentials remain. It makes sense, although it is clear that there is plenty of backstory missing and events just plain left untold. That eerie feeling that something is missing is bothersome, and the end seems to come almost too fast. On the whole, it does work. The colorization is unnecessary but an interesting touch; all it is is just tints over the print itself to add some mood to different scenes. It works well enough, I'd say.

As might be predictable, my main interest in this version was the soundtrack. Moroder's touch is clear. The sound is really more pop than rock, and when I mean pop, I mean really cheesy, big-synthy over-the-top production value pop. While watching the film, I had a really hard time picking out which pieces were which (as in, what audio corresponding to which song title and artist). Moroder did a few instrumental pieces on his own, but Freddie Mercury, Pat Benatar, Loverboy, Adam Ant, and a few others appear as co-composers of their own pieces. I knew from the start that I was largely disinterested in each of these people except Adam Ant, and even his song wasn't memorable to any degree. Since I don't have the soundtrack or my own copy of the film, I haven't had the chance to re-listen to the songs, and I can only go off of what I remember from memory.

What I remember isn't particularly positive. It's pretty bad, and way too 80s. (As should be obvious, I love a lot of 80s music, but there was also a lot of excess and mediocrity in those years. Those adjectives apply here appropriately.) These soaring ballads with horribly typical guitar solos and synth washes could be applied to any movie. Something like Metropolis deserves more, and a lot more at that. Something unique, and something that fits with a futuristic movie made in black and white 80 years ago and somehow balances a contemporary sound with the historical/futuristic setting. The songs and production provided sound awfully dated and completely inappropriate for a 20s movie or a futuristic movie. I admit that a few songs (mostly the Moroder solo bits) fit into the movie well enough, but the sounds just didn't work so hot.

Much as I would want to, I just plain can't recommend this version. I just can't. It isn't good. Watch the restored 2002 version and buy a different Moroder album. (He's done some perfectly fine disco in other outlets.)

Scores:
Metropolis, as a movie in general: A
The "Moroder version" in general: C
Moroder's soundtrack: D

[Edit 2008.12.13: If you haven't heard, an uncut copy of the film has been found and is currently undergoing restoration work. I assume a DVD release is inevitable.]

[Edit 2010.03.01: Again, if you haven't heard, the almost-entirely-restored version premiered in Frankfurt and Berlin two weeks ago. I failed to attend, but screenings appear to be continuing and a DVD release is apparently planned for April.]

[Edit 2010.11.22: I caught the 2010 restoration at Webster University in St. Louis a month or two ago. It's awesome and big step over the previous restoration. Go find it.]

16 comments:

Matthew said...

i got stories about this soundtrack and film for you

Walrus said...

"You may remember Metropolis, one of the most expensive movies for its time (1927)."

Yup, I remember 1927 like it was yesterday.

Anyway, I'm glad you watched this and dismissed it for me. I would have gotten around to it eventually. I highly, highly recommend you see as many other Lang films as you can lay your paws on, though none that I know of have impressive music.

Patrick said...

Matt - Somehow I didn't notice your comment until now. You should tell these stories.

Brian - I never insinuated that you had to be alive when something happened to remember what it is, but in any case, yeah, it's not really worth watching compared to the fully restored longer version available.

randy said...

i first saw the 1984 metropolis movie in 1984 and fell in love with it. having no knowledge of the film prior to that. by the way i was around during disco, i hate(hate) disco!!! this is not disco. what have you been listening to? i am currently watching the '84 version on my super beta vcr. and i have to say it just keeps getting better. each song matching the sentiment of the moment, the sound effects to my ear are perfect. simple statement. now don't get me wrong, i love the 2002 version(own it, would never part with it!) and believe it to be one of the best movies of all time, easily one of the top ten of all time but there will always be a place in my heart for the '84. i fervently hope that the '84 version will be released on DVD. i will be at the head of the line to buy the special edition. give it another chance, without distractions and just maybe you to can become a convert. thanks for allowing the vent.

Patrick said...

Randy -

I agree, the soundtrack to this movie is not disco. Moroder is known as a disco producer, but his compositions here don't fit that banner, and nor do the compositions of other artists. I still maintain that those compositions weren't the most awesome; maybe they just weren't my thing. I might be wrong about the Moroder tracks - those might be gems. I wish I could find a cheap copy of the soundtrack. Either way, I was pretty harsh, and maybe I should give it a second chance, but my memories of it weren't fond. Sorry. Do consider that my first exposure was the 2002 version, and thus I may have a slant to what I unconsciously prefer as the "original" version.

Feel free to rant any time, as long as it's on-topic.

Renwaaarr said...

I have only seen the 1984 Moroder version and to this day can not get some of those songs out of my head.
The movie was spectacular!
Why can I not get a version on CD or VHS?
Then----or now?!
It just, never came out, (unless fortunate enough to purchase the VHS in the beginning).
It has just---disappeared.
Why?
Help me Patrick.
My E-mail is---Renwaaarr@aol.com

T/Y

Ren

Patrick said...

Ren - I'll send you an email, too, but I figure the information is worth sharing publicly. If you just want to watch the movie, check local and college libraries. If you want to own it or the soundtrack, all versions are out of print but quite available used. The movie can be found on VHS and laserdisc and the soundtrack on CD and vinyl. (I think my sister actually has a vinyl copy.) A quick search on amazon.com or ebay.com for "Metropolis Moroder" yields several results.

I assume the Moroder edit has been left out of print due to its mild controversy, especially in light of the arguably superior version from 2002. Maybe if/when they release the full version that just got found, they'll append this edit, too. Write some letters to whoever is doing the restoration and releasing.

Eric said...

Oh...
I can't believe the harsh on the Moroder soundtrack, of course I cringe every time I hear "Take My Breath Away" from Top Gun and that's Moroder too. I love this sound track, and "Here She Comes" by Bonnie Tyler is the best scene from this version of the movie. I will say one thing about bombast and excess, I love Jim Stienman, so naturally I love this movie's soundtrack.
This was the first version of the movie I ever saw, around this time in '92. I have since tried to watch other versions, i.e. the cheep dollar store dvd, and just fall asleep. I was given the 2002 release for Christmas last year and watched it with rapture, the quality is beautiful, no flickering, no choppyness, and the score works nicely. I lent it to a friend to watch so I believe in its quality, the documentary was interesting also.
However I still love the Mororder version. So much so that I own both the vinyl and cd versions of the soundtrack, which has more depth to the songs in that they are longer than the clips edited into the movie. The influence of making this soundtrack inspired Mercury for both the song and video of "Radio Ga Ga"
Now the part you all are wondering " This guy acts like he watched this version yesterday" Well I didn't, however I do have my grail, a copy on VHS. The aforementioned friend that gifted me the 2002 version found this version in a rental store going out of business sale.
I try to keep from watching it, as I know it can only degrade the tape further. I was planning to have a DVD copy burned by a friend so as to preserve this favorite of my movies.
I have such devotion to the movie I recently acquired a pinball that has playfield art inspired from the movie. The display glass has some "Weird Science" rip-off picture on it and I got on line to look for pictures from the movie to make a "better" display. I stumbled on this blog because of the movie poster picture. Thank you, I now know there's more people that have an affinity for Lang, Metropolis, and Moroder, sometimes all three, But two out of three aint Bad either.

Patrick said...

Eric -

I'm amazed at the number of people who have told me they love and/or prefer the Moroder version since I wrote this review. I'd only heard about the version via Wikipedia until I found a copy in my college library, but it turns out a lot of people dig it. I should probably give the edit a second chance, but don't get me wrong: I dig Moroder. I think he's a great musician and a fantastic producer. Even though he often gets super-cheesy, he makes some good material. It's just that this soundtrack didn't mix with the movie for me, but I am three for three in your count.

Shiny said...

I would add like others I love the Moroder version as well as the re-release. It's like a variation of a good movie. By the way, the Moroder version DID come out on DVD. Just in Greece though, by Arcadia Entertainment.. I know.. coz I have it :D

Patrick said...

@Shiny -

Is the Greek DVD release... legal? Heh, I hope it is, because that'd be cool. I agree that it is worth appreciation as an alternative version, but to me it cannot stand as the primary version (especially since Lang had no involvement in that edit...).

Shiny said...

Hi Patrick, yes the greek DVD was legal, rare to find but was produced by Arcadia Entertainment which says it's part of the Sanyo group. It has proper DVD menus, biographies, stills/posters section etc. Though it's the Moroder version but without the tints and was in dolby digital. It also came out on Japanese laserdisc.

Shiny said...

Hi Patrick, You may be interested in this. It's a link for a document that has links for Rar files. If you get the Rars and unpack them you'll be pleasantly surpised. :)
http://rapidshare.com/files/200698165/Metropolis_Greek_DVD.doc

Shiny said...

sorry the link does't fit on 1
line. copy and paste it with no gaps:

http://rapidshare.com/files/

200698165/Metropolis_

Greek_DVD.doc

Chris said...

Lots of info on a DVD restoration of moroder's work can be found here: http://metropolis-redux.blogspot/

It's a blog so you'll have to start chronologically to get the full story :-)

I have a copy of the Greek DVD BTW, and it's just a DVD rip off video, quality-wise.

Patrick said...

@Chris,

I assume you mean http://metropolis-redux.blogspot.com/. But wow, I'm impressed at the dedication there. I'm curious what'll happen now that practically the entire set of missing footage has been found, but I'm still not really counting on a Moroder release. We'll see. (Sadly, despite living in one of the two cities where the new version premiered two weeks ago, I happened to be out of town and I missed it.) And I'm still surprised my college library had the Moroder version.