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Metropolis at 90: The Enduring Legacy of a Pop Modernist Dystopia

Fritz Lang produced a huge 153-minute budget-busting science fiction saga in Berlin in 1927. After Metropolis' first showing, it was chopped down to 92 minutes, then to 80, then it wasn't shown for decades. When it was resurrected, it was subtitled, colorized, a soundtrack added, and even Lang wouldn't have recognized it. But he didn't like the movie, anyway. Or at least that's what he said.

Lang wasn’t alone back in 1927 when the film was first released. Critics applauded the striking visuals and the ambitious technical achievement, but lambasted the trite melodrama and cheap platitudes. In a vicious New York Times review, H.G. Wells attacked the picture’s anti-progress, anti-technology message, accused it of ripping off several earlier works (including his own), and called it, “Quite the silliest film.” It was also attacked as a bunch of simpleminded and heavy-handed pro-communist propaganda, while at the same time and ironically enough it was hailed by the Nazis for portraying the overthrow of the Bourgeoisie.

Ninety years later, Metropolis is hailed as a work of art, a product of its time, yet ahead of its time. Read the story of how Metropolis was produced, and what happened in the year since, at Den of Geek.


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