A great find by Mike Novak at Smithsonian Magazine proves that movie fans were just as interested in “special effects” as any fan of Star Wars, Alien, Terminator 2, The Matrix, or Avatar—a June 1927 issue of Science and Technology magazine laying out the innovative techniques behind Fritz Lang’s masterpiece Metropolis.
Metropolis is one of the greatest, most astonishing movies ever made—it still holds up. Indeed, it’s arguably the only movie from the silent era that has widespread currency among younger viewers today. That’s how good it is. Imagery from Metropolis is something of a staple in our culture—you can often spot it in random montages of miscellaneous footage, and especially in Queen’s video to “Radio Ga Ga,” which ends with the words, “Thanks to Metropolis.” (I should hope so!)
If you’ve seen the movie, the crowd scenes and the close-up shots of electricity surrounding certain characters—these shots are done so well that you hardly stop to ask how they were done. It turns out that Lang’s brilliance didn’t stop at composition and thematic storytelling—he was tinkering at the very edges of what could be done in motion pictures, a theme that is right at home with—and yet at odds with—the moral and message of the movie itself.
Be sure to see the rest at Smithsonian Magazine; Novak’s explanations of the various pictures are excellent.
Here’s part 1 of the recently restored Metropolis:
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Rock and roll time warp: Link Wray meets Fritz Lang
How Fritz Lang escaped the Nazis