Metropolis (1927) Blind Spot Review

Metropolis (1927)

Directed by Fritz Lang

Based on Metropolis (1925 novel) by Thea von Harbou

Starring: Alfred Abel, Brigitte Helm, Gustav Fröhlich, Rudolf Klein-Rogge

IMDB Top 250 Rank: 89 as of 01/01/13

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
In a futuristic city sharply divided between the working class and the city planners, the son of the city’s mastermind falls in love with a working class prophet who predicts the coming of a savior to mediate their differences.

My Opinion:

First, these are the 2018 Blind Spot films I managed to watch this year, from my least favorite to favorite:

8. Tetsuo: The Iron Man
7. Atonement
6. Gleaming The Cube
5. The French Connection
4. Citizen Kane
3. Splendor In The Grass
2. Metropolis
1. Enter The Dragon

Well, I didn’t manage to watch my 12 Blind Spot choices this year as life got too busy but at least I watched eight. Better than nothing! And five of them were well worth the time and definitely worthy Blind Spot picks. The best was indeed Metropolis, which I’ve weirdly been putting off seeing for years despite loving the look of it and liking plenty of silent films. I watched it months ago but also put off reviewing it as it’s one of those where I don’t feel I have enough knowledge to do it any sort of justice. What can I say about it that hasn’t been said? It’s a brilliant, gorgeous film and so eerily ahead of its time. Oh, and yes I loved Enter The Dragon so I have it at number one in the above list. Of course Metropolis is the superior film but I always rank according to what I enjoyed the most and I had more fun with Enter The Dragon. I also absolutely adored Splendor In The Grass and did have that at number two until now as it moved me in a way that Metropolis didn’t but putting Metropolis below it just didn’t seem right as it’s a damn masterpiece. But I may change my mind & switch the order again. I’m like that. (I’ll try to review Splendor In The Grass tomorrow)

Metropolis of course also counts as part of my IMDb Top 250 Project. As I started that in 2013, I’m still working off that list. It breaks my heart to see old films slowly being knocked off that list & replaced with modern ones. Since 2013, Metropolis has dropped from 89 to 110. I just looked now to see what’s higher and got thoroughly annoyed at six Christopher Nolan movies having higher ratings than Metropolis. No way! Am I seriously the only person who thinks Nolan is massively overrated? I’ve only truly liked one of his movies (The Prestige). And Avengers: Infinity War is a fun film but it sure as shit isn’t Top 250 material. Okay – I’ll shut the hell up since I’ve ranked Enter The Dragon above Metropolis so I guess people just like what they like.

What I find interesting is that Fritz Lang’s film M, which I reviewed HERE, is actually higher in the list than Metropolis. Although it’s also a visual masterpiece and a brilliant example of filmmaking done right, I don’t think it’s the better film of the two. I can see why it’s higher, though, as it’s a more “accessible” film for a modern audience. It’s not silent, which I know puts some people off. It’s also a fantastic crime thriller, which is a genre with lots of fans. It’s a genre I rarely like, though. Give me sci-fi and fantasy. Metropolis is right up my alley but I can fully understand why some would find it overlong and probably even boring, although that makes me a little sad. I mean, look at these amazing images! Look! WOW. This is from 1927! Did this not blow people’s minds back then?? It must have. Although, in reading about it, it had some very negative reviews at the time.

The most negative review I saw on Wikipedia was from H.G. Wells, “who accused it of “foolishness, cliché, platitude, and muddlement about mechanical progress and progress in general.” He faulted Metropolis for its premise that automation created drudgery rather than relieving it, wondered who was buying the machines’ output if not the workers, and found parts of the story derivative of Shelley’s Frankenstein.” A lot of reviewers at the time called the story silly & simplistic. I think it has stood the test of time pretty well, especially considering how long ago it was made, but it’s not as scarily prophetic as some later sci-fi films exploring similar themes and ideas involving the future of mankind. There’s still a huge divide between the rich and the poor but our world looks very different from Lang’s vision and he never could have predicted today’s technology and the way in which it controls us mentally more than physically. We’re living in a dystopian future as predicted but it’s a very different dystopia than Lang predicted. So, while this film is stunningly beautiful, I can’t say I connected with it quite as much as some other sci-fi classics when it came to the overall story.

Before I end this so called review, I figured I should also mention The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari as it’s another example of German Expressionism in film. That’s two silent German Expressionist movies I’ve seen! I’m, like, an expert now! Okay – I have zero knowledge on this topic. All I know is that it looks cool as shit and I could spend all day looking at the type of imagery used in these two films. It’s stark and haunting and a little bit creepy and I love it. I like my art a little bit creepy (H.R. Giger is the best). So, again, this is my type of thing but won’t be to everyone’s taste. I admit to being a sucker for great visuals in a film. Give me great imagery & cinematography and I’m happy. Add a beautiful score as well and I’m over the damn moon, such as in a Sergio Leone/Ennio Morricone Spaghetti Western. That’s epic filmmaking. That’s the type of thing I expect when I think “Top 250 Films Of All Time”. Metropolis is iconic, beautiful, and epic. To me, at least. To others, it’s probably boring as shit. Story-wise, it’s not perfect. It’s a little bit messy and I can see how those at the time probably found it pretentious. Would I stick a Metropolis poster up in my cinema room (if I was rich & had such a thing)? Hell Yeah! The film is a work of art. Is it a new all-time favorite film of mine? No, I’ll admit it’s not. If I’m honest, I’ll put Splendor In The Grass just above it on my list. I enjoyed it more. I told you I’d probably change my mind! But nothing can top the artistry of Metropolis.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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M (1931) IMDB Top 250 Review

I’ve finally done my own IMDB Top 250 review! 🙂 After this week, only one more guest review will be posted then they’ll no longer be posted regularly every Tuesday. I’ll do my own sometimes but will continue to post guest reviews if & when I receive them. If you’ve signed up for any, feel free to send them to me & I’ll post them right away. Now let’s have a look at Fritz Lang’s M… 

M (1931) (German: M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder — “M – A city looks for a murderer”)

IMDB Rank: 52 out of 250 on 01/01/13

Directed by Fritz Lang

Starring: Peter Lorre, Otto Wernicke, Gustaf Gründgens

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
When the police in a German city are unable to catch a child-murderer, other criminals join in the manhunt.

My Opinion:

I know I started this IMDB Top 250 project as a way to force myself to finally watch a lot of classic films that I had yet to see but I’ve been very lazy about reviewing any the past couple of years, especially as I’ve had so many guest reviews to post. I’m glad I started it as I’ve discovered some films that I now adore: things like Charlie Chaplin’s movies and a surprising amount of war movies such as The Bridge On The River Kwai, which I never expected to like so much. But it’s been difficult with a few as, while I can understand why they’re so highly regarded, they just didn’t work for me. One of these was On The Waterfront so I’ve been putting off reviewing that for a year now. I’ll still eventually say something about every Top 250 film I watch but some may be multiple quickie reviews like I’ve been doing lately. I’ll get back to doing more of these myself again in the New Year. I’m just saying that, you know, don’t expect all of them to be “quality” reviews as I have surprisingly little to say about some of these classics. Not that anyone has come to expect any quality reviews from me anyway. 😉

The point of all my rambling is this:  M is excellent and definitely deserves its place in the Top 250 but it’ll never exactly be a favorite film of mine as I’ve never been a big fan of the crime genre. I’ll talk about it a little bit, though, as some of you would probably like it a lot and I do love to bring attention to films that deserve it. And nothing makes me happier than when someone decides to watch a movie after I’ve done a post about it!

I figured I could do this as part of my October Horror thing since it’s a movie about a child killer. This is the sort of topic I’d normally avoid watching but I had no choice if I’m going to ever finish this project. Besides – it’s a movie from 1931 so I knew it would probably handle things in a respectful way & of course not be graphic in any way. If I’m going to watch a movie like this, I’d rather watch one from 1931 instead of some nasty modern day True Detective-style crime story. Sorry – I don’t normally like crime films, particularly ones about murderers, and I never have for some reason. Give me sci-fi & fantasy! (Metropolis is the Fritz Lang movie I really should have watched by now instead. I’m so ashamed…)

That M poster is awesome, though. Look at it! God they had so much more style in the old days. Although it could be a new design – what the hell do I know? And the scene involving the M on the hand was pretty damn great (I did wonder if there would actually be an M on someone’s hand). This movie is a pain in the ass to Google, though, being just one letter. Guess it’ll go at the start of the letter M in my movie review index! Which reminds me – I’d reviewed a movie for every single letter on this blog other than Q and it was really annoying me so I was planning to do Quadrophenia at some point. Then I watched & reviewed the thoroughly boring The Quiet Ones a couple of weeks ago & it didn’t even register that I’d finally done a Q movie until I put it in the index. Dammit!!! What a wasted opportunity – that movie sucked. Off topic again? Sorry!

Review actually starts NOW!

Crime films may not be my favorite genre but M is a truly excellent example of one and I’d strongly recommend it to fans of this sort of thing (someone like Zoe – I know you like your crime & detective books, Zoe!). It’s, I’m assuming, one of the very first of its type and certainly one of the very best (in my limited experience). From a filmmaking standpoint, of which I know absolutely nothing, there are some amazing shots in this that will forever remain in my mind. Ones such as this:


(Hmm – was the Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV show opening an homage to this??)

And this, which I couldn’t find a great image of, but it’s from a fabulous scene in front of a mirror shop. Very cool use of the reflections:

Plus a couple others that I won’t share as they’re big plot spoilers…

I’ll admit that the movie did drag a couple of times (for me) when the investigation was underway & detectives were doing all they could to try to figure out who the killer was. It was fascinating, though, as they were using handwriting & fingerprint analysis – it was such a different world back then and it must have been so hard to track down a serial killer. I have to say, though, that this movie feels very ahead of its time in many ways so don’t avoid it just because it’s from 1931. It’s weird to think that this is from a time when Charlie Chaplin was still making silent films (City Lights also came out in 1931) as M is a “talkie”. It feels more like the 1940’s crime films such as Hitchcock’s Shadow Of A Doubt or The Maltese Falcon (also starring Peter Lorre).

Speaking of Lorre, he’s fantastic as the murderer in this (I’ve not given anything away there – this is one of those movies where the audience knows the killer). I don’t watch as many older films as I should so, while I know Lorre’s name, I can’t say I remember him in either The Maltese Falcon or Casablanca as I barely remember those films now. I know, I know – I saw them at a very young age! I’ve been meaning to re-watch Casablanca for years & I especially want to now after seeing Lorre in this. This may sound weird but he has such a great face for this role. He’s totally believable (if that’s a good thing? I read that he was often typecast as a villain after this movie). This movie also sort of explores the psychological aspect and whether a criminal has control over their actions or not, which again made the movie feel ahead of its time. The only one slight downer is that there’s a little bit of blame placed on the murdered childrens’ mothers for “not watching them well enough”. Well, it was 1931… It was a different time!

Summary:

M is one of those movies I appreciated even more after thinking about it for a while and as I wrote this review (I watched it about a month ago). Certain scenes are so iconic and I’ll never again hear Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King without thinking of this movie, in which the song is used in such a memorably haunting way. Peter Lorre is fantastic and, while the middle dragged a little as the investigation was underway, the ending more than made up for it. I absolutely loved the direction the film took in the manhunt for the murderer. I highly recommend M to fans of the crime thriller genre and fully admit that it deserves to be one point higher than my rating but, as always, my ratings are based more on my own personal enjoyment of a movie. Now I really should watch Metropolis as it looks more like my type of thing – it’s ridiculous that I haven’t!

My Rating: 7.5/10