Long-Lost Reels Of 1927's 'Metropolis' Recovered Paula Felix-Didier of the Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires, Argentina, discovered more than 20 minutes of missing film footage from the classic science fiction silent movie Metropolis in her museum's archives. German filmmaker Fritz Lang directed the film, and three reels have been missing almost since its premiere in 1927.
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Long-Lost Reels Of 1927's 'Metropolis' Recovered

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Long-Lost Reels Of 1927's 'Metropolis' Recovered

Long-Lost Reels Of 1927's 'Metropolis' Recovered

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Deborah Amos. Here's a word you don't often here in the morning - dystopia. And it describes the miserable world created by German filmmaker Fritz Lang in his science-fiction classic movie "Metropolis."

(Soundbite of music)

AMOS: Now for the first time in more than 80 years, movie lovers and film historians will be able to see the complete 1927 epic. Over 20 minutes of missing footage was recently discovered in Argentina. "Metropolis" is about inequality. In Lange's silent film, a magnificent city is built on the backs of an underground world of slave laborers.

"Metropolis" influenced modern science-fiction movies from "Star Wars" to "Blade Runner." But back in 1927, the movie wasn't a hit, and it was trimmed to make it more acceptable to audiences. And over time, those missing minutes were lost - until now. With me from Buenos Aires is Paula Felix-Didier, director of the Museum of Cinema. She found the complete version of "Metropolis" in her museum's collection.

Welcome to the program.

Ms. PAULA FELIX-DIDIER (Director, Museum of Cinema): Thank you for having me.

AMOS: Talk to us about that moment when you realized that you had made the discovery.

Ms. FELIX-DIDIER: A film collector and a film historian, Fernando Pena - he happens to be my ex-husband - he tipped me off. He was the one who had a piece of information that led us to believe that what we had was probably a longer version of "Metropolis." What we found is a 16-millimeter negative.

So if you're familiar with 16 millimeter, you know that it's a very, very small frame, and it's a negative. So it's not very easy to see what's going on. So we just pulled out the film and we look at it against the light. And we started pulling out reels until we found one that had the complete sequence that we knew it was not there in the other version.

AMOS: So you were seeing images that you knew were in the shortened version, and then you were seeing something extra that you knew you had the real thing.

Ms. FELIX-DIDIER: Yes. And when we found it, it was, oh my God, this is it.

AMOS: For people who maybe don't know the movie, haven't seen the movie, make some comparisons about how important it is to find 20 minutes of a film like this.

Ms. FELIX-DIDIER: With this movie in particular, the thing is that it was not only shortened, but the editing was changed. So although we have two completely new sequences, there are also lots on inserts and new scenes and shots that were not there in the other version. And in a way, it changes the fact that the film is about a love story and only a love story. This makes it much more complex and, in a way, it makes it much more of a Fritz Lang film than it was before.

AMOS: Why is "Metropolis" such an important movie, do you think?

Ms. FELIX-DIDIER: Well, to tell you the truth, I don't think "Metropolis" is a great film. And by all means, it's not Fritz Lang's best film. But I think that it's very significant because of the way it made it into popular culture. There's no question that every other science-fiction film made afterwards owes something to "Metropolis" imagery or even the plot of "Metropolis." You find it in very unexpected films that "Metropolis" is still a huge influence.

AMOS: You have an amazing archive there. You were on a distribution list from the '20s on. Have you found other films in that archive?

Ms. FELIX-DIDIER: We found three more Argentine silent films that were lost. And this is a lot, because there are maybe 10 Argentine silent films remaining. So three more is actually like 30 percent more. And I can't confirm it yet, but we also have some other international films that are considered to be lost. Nothing as major as "Metropolis," of course. I think it's the Holy Grail for film archives.

It's interesting. I had people asking me: do you feel like Indiana Jones? And my answer to that is, yes, I do, but every film archivist is a little bit of Indiana Jones.

AMOS: Paula Felix-Didier is the director of the Pablo Ducros Museum of Cinema in Buenos Aires. She recently found more than 20 minutes of missing footage from the silent film "Metropolis."

Thank you so much.

Ms. FELIX-DIDIER: Thank you for having me.

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