USF Film Expert Sheds Light On Restored Metropolis

Aug. 29 premiere for seminal Sci-Fi classic to be at the Tampa Theatre.

By Barbara Melendez News Writer


TAMPA, Fla. (Aug. 20, 2010) – Science-fiction blockbusters like Blade Runner, The Matrix, The 5th Element and Dark City can all trace their lineage to the 1927 silent film classic Metropolis­. One of the world’s first science fiction epics, it employed 36,000 extras, boasted extraordinary special effects, and ran for an unprecedented two-and-a-half hours at its premiere.


Tampa Bay audiences will be able to enjoy a newly-restored print of the rarely seen full version of the film at the Tampa Theatre Aug. 29, at 3 p.m. A University of South Florida professor is helping to make sure it gets the appreciation it deserves. 


The subject of plenty of hype, it was not a critical hit in its day, but Metropolis became recognized as a masterpiece of early German cinema in the decades after its release. The film was admitted as the first film into the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in 2001 and continues to serve as a touchstone for filmmakers and film students today.   


“The film tapped into the German Zeitgeist of that era, featuring in its narrative and highlighting in its visuals a dystopian vision of dehumanizing machines, a transgressive fembot (gynoid), class warfare, and a generational conflict transposed from the Expressionistic theater onto the screen,” said Margit Grieb, a professor in the Department of World Languages, who regularly teaches a course on silent German film at USF.


Metropolis was neither the first nor last of the great films of the era popularly known as the ‘Golden Age of German Cinema,’ but it is certainly one of the most important, visually impressive, technologically avant-garde, and critically controversial films of its time,” she said.


The Tampa Theatre is one of a select few theaters in the United States that is screening the film and will have live accompaniment by the renowned organist Steven Ball.


Visit the official site for more information on the film.


“I think this speaks to the quality of our local art theater and the professional competence of programming directors, such as Tara Schroeder at Tampa Theatre, to have a film of Metropolis's statute playing here,” said Grieb. “In addition to Metropolis being a seminal viewing experience, due to its age and visual uniqueness, it is also a testament to the importance of taking care of our film heritage. Although restoration technologies are evolving into ever more sophisticated tools, it is also important to keep old films in safe locations and to invest money, time and effort to preserve them for future generations of film viewers.”


Grieb says that the film’s history of preservation and restoration ultimately turned into a multifaceted epic tale unto itself.


“It reads like fiction replete with mysterious discoveries, economic and political twists, and visionaries – a.k.a. preservationists – who make it all come together to form the happy end audiences have come to expect from entertainment cinema,” she said. “Of the many classic German films restored and available today, Metropolis probably has the most complex reception and exhibition history, and there exist numerous versions of the ‘same’ film which serves as a testament to the film's enduring popularity and its value as a work of art.”


She explains that although the film ran approximately 153 minutes when it premiered in Berlin, it was cut to approximately 90 minutes for its international release.


“Between 1927 and the 1990s, an assortment of versions of various lengths, all derived from the cut version, circulated the globe. But in 2001, the film restoration specialist Martin Koerber, in conjunction with the F. W. Murnau Foundation in Wiesbaden, Germany, restored and reassembled Metropolis to bring it closer to its original version, but 25 minutes of footage were thought to be forever lost. In the summer of 2008, the curator of Buenos Aires' Museo del Cine recovered a 16mm negative of Metropolis which included these 25 additional minutes of the film. Another restoration project was launched and the final product is what audiences will now get to see.”


For more information visit: or call (813)274-8981.


Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.