1927 German film bombed at box office

A large part of the missing footage cut from Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” after it flopped upon opening in 1927 has been found in a museum in Argentina.

The cult sci-fi classic, penned by Lang and his wife in 1924, was the most expensive film ever made in Germany when it bowed on Jan. 10, 1927.

After being poorly received, the UFA studio was eager to recoup some of its costs. It re-edited the film — cutting 948 meters of footage, around 25% — and re-released it to great acclaim eight months later.

However, in 1928 Adolfo Z. Wilson, the head of a Buenos Aires distrib named Terra, took a copy of the long version to Argentina. 

The film changed hands several times and by 1992 had ended up in a collection at the Museo del Cine.

Earlier this year Paula Felix-Didier became the director of the museum. She discovered that the copy included nearly all of the long-lost scenes — some 700 meters, 25 minutes — and contacted Germany’s Die Zeit magazine.

“The discovery of the material thought to be lost forever leads to a new understanding of Fritz Lang’s masterpiece,” said Helmut Possmann, chairman of the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau Foundation, which holds the rights to the pic.

In an interview with Die Zeit, he said the foundation and the archives in Buenos Aires “feel a responsibility to make the material available to the public.”

Lang made the film, considered a classic in part because of its pioneering special effects, at the Babelsberg studios outside Berlin.

Conceived during the heyday of the Weimar Republic, pic is about a futuristic urban dystopia in the year 2026 set against the backdrop of social tension between the working class and capitalist bosses.

“This was one of the most sought-after films ever made,” said Anke Wilkening, a film conservator at the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau Foundation. The segments were said to be in poor condition and partly scratched. 

“It’s a sensational find,” said Rainer Rother, head of the Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin and head of the Retrospektive sidebar at the Berlin Film Festival. “Fritz Lang’s most famous film can now be seen in a new light.”

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