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Section 8: Australian Release - 1928


Fritz Lang's Metropolis was known and anticipated in Australia prior to its official release by Cinema Art Films during April 1928, some fifteen months after the Berlin premiere. Cinema Art Films was the distributor for UFA in Australia and New Zealand during this period, having released film such as Emil Jannings' Variety the previous year.. In fact, according to a local newspaper report, on New Years Eve (Saturday, 31 December) 1927, the 350 prisoners at Sydney's Long Bay Penetentiary were given a treat when the prison chapel was converted inton a picture show and Metropolis was present. It was stated therein that it was a German Production costing 6 million marks.

Sydney Sun newspaper advertisement of Friday, 13 April 1928 for the screening of Metropolis in that city. Artwork by Benison. The image is more typical of 1970s Japanese Anime, rather then late 1920s science-fiction. It shows the Metropolis Robot in a stance which bears no relationship at all to what is actually portrayed in the film, though it does work well as an attention-grabbing newspaper advertisement.

There was a deal of fanfare accompanying the substantially simultaneous screenings of Metropolis at major cinemas in Melbourne and Sydney, before the film moved on to regional centres in May. The Melbourne premiere took place at the Auditorium Theatre on Saturday 7 April, and was followed a week later (on Saturday, 14 April) by the Sydney premiere at the Regent Theatre.The Melbourne showing was a major success and ran for four weeks, with Metropolis the main feature on the program. In Sydney the film was double-billed with the latest Charlie Chaplin feature, The Circus. Whilst the latter film received the majority of the pre-release publicity, Metropolis apparently had the most impact and received more substantial reviews in the local media. As one Sydney reviewer noted of the Metropolis / Circus double-bill: 'In these two films we have the antithesis in motion picture entertainment, the one with a strong intellectual appeal, the other tickling our senses of humour with the subtle skill that only Chaplin can present' (Sydney Mail, 2 May 1928). The review also noted that the 2,500 seat Regent Theatre was attracting capacity crowds to the show, whilst Metropolis was 'the talk of the town, for it treats of the imagined city of the latter-day world, a subject for prophecy which is evergreen with the great literary minds of our time.' On the Sydney program the 10-12 reel Metropolis (80-90 minutes) preceeded the 6-7 reel Chaplin comedy (60 minutes). In Melbourne, an elaborate 20-piece song and dance stage presentation entitled '1928' opened the program, whilst in both cities there was full orchestral accompaniment to the film, along with sound effects.

Two of the original nitrate release prints for Metropolis survive - one in the National Film & Sound Archive, Canberra, and another in the New Zealand Film Archive, Wellington. Their content was based on the British release version and local copies were tinted throughout, unlike the original German release prints. The surviving New Zealand print is on Agfa film, suggesting that it was produced in Germany by UFA for international distribution. Local release copies also included the Cinema Art Films logo on the opening leader - an example of which exists in the surviving New Zealand release print. At least two prints were known to have circulated in Australia during 1928, and there were most likely another two in New Zealand. Some of this extant content was unique and, because it was a high quality first generation print from one of the negatives, the Canberra print was used in the film's restoration during the 1990s. The discovery of a near complete, though lesser quality print in South American during 2008 decreased the significance of the Australian-New Zealand prints. It is difficult to identify the exact version of Metropolis shown in Australia during 1928. As we have seen, Fritz Lang's original 17 reel, 4189 metre (13,701 feet) long director's cut of the film was reduced to 10 reels and approximately 3180 metres (10,400 feet) and substantially re-edited in parts for its American and British release. Even in Germany the movie was cut for re-release during August 1927, such that the version shown in America and Europe during the latter half of that year ran anywhere from 10,400 feet to as little as 8039 feet. According to a review published in the Sydney-based trade magazine Everyone's on 18 April, the local version apparently ran to 12,000 feet. If this figure was correct, it approximated the orignal length of the film as premiered in Berlin on 10 January 1927.

On screen, and depending upon the speed at which the projectionist cared to present the film, the various lengths could equate to from anywhere between a 67 to 200+ minute long cinema experience, though most theatre managers at the time tried to squeeze Metropolis into a 90 minute slot, as is evidenced by the screening times for the run at Sydney's Regent theatre. The film had been shot at around 16 frames per second, though it was common to project it faster and up to 26 frames per second. In order to achieve a 90 minute presentation with a 12 reel film, the projectionist would need to run it as fast as possible, and perhaps in addition whole reels or sections would be omitted. We can therefore only hazard a guess at exactly what the Austrlaian audiences saw when they paid to see Metropolis during its 1928 run. It is most likely that Sydney audiences saw a shorter version then their Melbourne counterparts.

The two extant release print copies of the film in the National Film and Sound Archive, Canberra, may offer a clue as to what version of Metropolis Australian audiences saw. Both now run to approximately 8,500 feet. One is a silent release print dating from 1928, whilst the other has a contemporary soundtrack and dates from the film's re-release during 1954. In the silent version there are a number of significant cuts, most noticably the dream sequence in which Freder sees the false Maria dancing in the Yoshiwara nightclub, and hallucinates a Grim Reaper in the Metropolis cathedral. This cut was possibly made by the local censors who at the time were clamping down on nudity and other salacious elements in feature films. With the omisssion of such an important scene, it was then necessary to edit the film and place more emphasis on the capital versus labour struggle. This theme was reflected in the Melbourne media at the time of initial Australian release, though less so in Sydney, where titilation and thrills were the order of the day with regards to the promotion of Metropolis. As a result of local circumstances, it is impossible to be definitive on this issue as the film may have been cut by individual theatre managers subsequent to it's Melbourne and Sydney premiere during April 1928. A description of the silent version of Metropolis now held in the National Film and Sound Archives, Canberra, is to be found at the Canberra Collection page attached to this Web site.

Full page Sydney newspaper advertisement publicising the screening of Metropolis at the Regent Theatre (The Sun, Sunday, 15 April 1928). The ad features a number of elements: the naked and buxom Maria strapped into Rotwang's transformation machine (an image not seen in the film and obviously derived from the artist's imagination); the evil Maria's dance at Yoshiwara's; and a crude version of Freder as he attempts to resuce Maria and the children from the flooded underground city. Benison is listed as the artist.

Publicity surrounding the Australian release of Metropolis had started back in May 1927, when images from the film, and notices of its overseas successes, were published in the Sydney trade journal The Film Weekly, while the Canberra Times newspaper of Friday, 24 June 1927, carried the following story:

Vision of the Future

A nightmare city throbbing with the roar of countless mechanical monsters, where men are the slaves and machines the master, where television is as common as wireless and thoughts are valued in numbers, where skyscrapers tower to the clouds, and where finally the slaves rise in revolt to overthrow the hated machines : This is the fantastic vision of the world of the future presented by "Metropolis," an amazing German film which was recently released for exhibition in London. The film is the outcome of a strange vision of Then von Harbou, wife of the famous German producer Fritz Lang. Two years have gone to its making. No fewer than 37,808 performers appear, including 1000 completely bald men, 100 negroes, 11,000 women, and 750 children.

The Film Weekly on 27 July announced that Fritz Lang's silent masterpiece would be released in Australia and New Zealand through Cinema Art Films Ltd., the local distributor for UFA films. For some reason, the release of Metropolis was then held over until April of the following year, whilst in New Zealand a legal battle ensued over who had the rights to the film's release in that country.

During March 1928 the pre-publicity for Metropolis' showing in Melbourne began, and included Frederick Ward's placement of a number of newspaper teaser advertisements, asking questions of mothers, workers, clergy, business men and others, but failing to specifically mention Fritz Lang's film. These items got people talking. One of Ward's teasers read as follows:

Workers of Melbourne

Have you ever stopped to ask yourselves a simple question?

The world is progressing. Today we regard as commonplace those things which our parents regard as miracles.

Wireless can gird the earth with a spoken voice in a second.

The aeroplane bridges the vast spaces of the world.

Electricity brightens the dull hours, supersedes steam, lightens labour.

The scientific marvels of the age are your servants. They move at your bidding. They toil for you and never complain.

Initiative is being killed .. Your tasks are stereotyped.

This is an age of progress!

Towards what goal is progress marching?

Another advertisement superimposed a view of Melbourne 'seventy years ago' (1858) with the Metropolis streetscape featuring the Tower of Babel building.

Melbourne newspaper advertisement for the impending screening of Metropolis at the Auditorium Theatre (Herald, Melbourne, 5 April 1928).

This latter advertisement also posed the question:

Seventy years ago Melbourne looked like this!

What will it be like in 100 years from now?

Will it be like this visioned city of the future?

Metropolis will answer this question.......

As a result of this pre-publicity, Metropolis was greeted with some anticipation by film audiences in Australia, and large crowds flocked to see it upon initial release. It should be remembered that 1927 was a bumper year for picture theatre attendances around the world, and especially in countires such as Austrlaia and the United States where it was common for families and individuals to attend a picture theatre once or twice a week. Due to the landmark status of Metropolis, its reputation earned during its overseas showings in 1927, and the publicity of the local distributor, Cinema Art Films, a number of reviews subsequently appeared in local newspapers and trade journals. Generally the notices were positive, unlike the often critical and scathing language used by various American and European critics. Perhaps the Australians were more open to the capital versus labour theme which lay at the heart of the movie, and to the idea of the 'heart as mediator' between the two parties. There was no public ridicule of these elements in Australia as there had been in the United States and England. Some of the local reviews are reproduced below.

Newspaper advertisement for the screening of Metropolis and The Circus at the Regent Theatre, Sydney (Daily Telegraph, 16 April 1928). Metropolis was the opening feature on the programme and this spectacular double-bill attracted record crowds.

Melbourne Premiere

The Melbourne and Australian premiere of Metropolis took place on Saturday, 7 April 1928, at the Auditorium Theatre. A private press viewing prior to this generated a number of news items and reviews, including the following reports:

Artistic German Production - Private Screening of Metropolis

Remarkable for wonderful photography, excellent acting and an exceedingly gripping story, Metropolis, one of the finest films yet produced in Germany, was screened privately in Melbourne yesterday. The production, which is to open in an extended season at the Auditorium... {The Age, Melbourne, April 1928}


Wonderful German Film - Saturday's Attractions

A unique and marvellous film production is Metropolis, which has been privately screened in Melbourne, and will begin an extended season at the Auditorium on Saturday. This is a U.F.A. picture, upon the direction of which a wealth of imagination has been brought to bear. There is nothing to jar the artistic sense, though the action is at times intensely swift and crowds of people fill the screen. The leading roles are well acted by German artists, and from a photographic point of view the picture stands alone. It depicts a fantasy story of a great city, built by a soulless individual 100 years from now, and of the revolt of the oppressed... {Newspaper clipping, reproduced in Everyone's, Sydney, 18 April 1928, 19}


Newspaper advertisement for the screening of Metropolis at the Town Hall Theatre, Wollongong, on Thursday, 7 June 1928 (South Coast Times, 1 June 1928)

See Metropolis Today - Vivid Picture of Life About a Century Hence - Clever Production

Metropolis, the Ufa film to be screened at the Auditorium today, is probably the finest picture yet shown in Melbourne. Production, direction, acting, and photography are all excellent, and the story is sufficiently novel to be interesting and thought-provoking. It shows a city about 2028, when machinery is the dominating factor in the life of the great majority of the people. It represents a phase of the fight between capital and labor, and point the moral that they are necessary to one another. A mechanical woman is invented and incites the workers to wreck their own homes and endanger their children, before she is turned upon and burnt by the infuriated crowd. It is in these crowd scenes that the vast superiority of the production is most evident. Metropolis is a picture to see and think over. It is instructive, intensely interesting, and, at times, sharply poignant. {The Sun News-Pictorial, Melbourne, 7 April 1928}


Great German Film
Metropolis at Auditorium

Ten thousand persons took part in Metropolis and nearly 500,000 is said to have been spent on its production. But these are not the facts which make the picture unique. Many spectacular films have come from Hollywood. Some have cost an immense sum of money, but not one of them can be compared with Metropolis, the most remarkable photoplay that has been shown in Melbourne. In general conception, its astounding settings, and its wonderfully managed mob scenes have never been equalled by any American-made picture. The photography is a revelation. The general idea of the story will be plain to all, but the picture is so unusual that some will need to see it a second time before they grasp all its significance.

Today Metropolis has its Australian premiere at the Auditorium, where it will be shown for an extended season. In this metropolis of 100 years hence aeroplanes glide among the cloud-piercing spires, the traffic is carried over a series of highways constructed one above the other, wonderful machinery is operated. The city is inhabited by the rich and dominated by John Masterman, a soulless individual, whose creed is Might is Right. In the heart of Metropolis stands a gigantic building, from which Masterman controls all the powers by which it is operated. The working classes only interest Masterman so long as they are physically fit to operate his machines. He makes them live underground. In the palaces above, the rich indulge in luxury and idleness.

Once a day the children of the laborers are permitted to travel under the care of Mary, a beautiful girl, to the topmost heights of the city, in order to obtain an hour's fresh air and sunshine. One day Mary opens an unfamiliar door, and finds herself in a strange, exotic garden. Masterman's son is fascinated, and, in the hope of seeing the girl again, he goes to the subterranean city. Here is revealed to him the hardships of his father's employees. But when he asks for better conditions for the workers, Masterman fails to understand the appeal.

Soon there are signs of unrest. Mary tries to induce the turbulent sections to refrain from violence. Masterman persuades Rotwang, the inventor, to capture the girl, and in his laboratory mould an artificial woman from her. The idea is that the automatom shold teach the workers humility. But it has no soul, and invites them to revolt. Led by the automaton, the infuriated mob destroy every machine that operates the great city. A series of remarkable scenes lead to this climax. In the end there is understanding and peace between capital and labor. {Herald, Melbourne, 7 April 1928}


It is worth noting in the above review that Australian audiences were left with no doubt as to John Masterman's original intended use of the robot, i.e. to 'teach the workers humility' and diffuse the threat of revolution. The fact that the soulless robot turned against the instructions of both Masterman and Rotwang and pursued its own evil scheme, is an important element of Lang's original film. Unfortunately, as a result of inappropriate editing, American and British audiences saw a version of Metropolis in which John Masterman appears to incite the robot to lead a revolution which results in the destruction of the machines which operated his beloved Metropolis, and almost cause the death of his son. Rightly, many critics at the time took exception to this presentation of Masterman's actions - it seemed highly illogical, and they were left to ask: "Why would he do such a thing." The fact is he didn't, and if they had of been given the opportunity to see Lang's original version of the film, this aspect of the narrative would have been clearly understood. Luckily, Australian audiences were not to be left so confused. The actual premiere of the film in Melbourne was reviewed by 'F.A.R.' in The Herald on 9 April 1928:

A Great Picture - Metropolis, at the Auditorium

The most notable picture ever seen in Australia may fairly describe Metropolis, shown at the Auditorium on Saturday night. The huge audience sat in deep silence while the film depicted breath-taking pictures of the city of a hundred years hence.

Metropolis differs from the usual motion picture, in that the story deals with mass emotions. The protagonist is not the petty hero of a love tale - finely as the love story is unfolded - but it is the great Common People, brought by soulless Greed to a mechanical daily grind that has eroded all of humanity but the outward form.

Metropolis has been directed by a great artist. Nothing like the magnificent management of crowds has ever been seen since Reinhardt's The Miracle first showed the depth of German genius in expressing emotion by the visual effect of concerted crowd action.

Like all great things, Metropolis is simple in its terms. The son of the great Money Master of the city sees one day a girl of the people, Mary, who has brought some of the children of the cramped workers for an hour's inspection of a garden of the rich. With dawning love for the only being with a soul he has seen in his pampered life, the boy follows her to the huge underground city, where the people live close to the giant workshops, whose immense machines make man seem puny. His love gives him understanding and he is appalled at the life of the workers. An appeal to his father, Masterman, is futile.

The revolt of the people follows the failure of Masterman to tranquilise them by means of a mechanised human being invented by the crazy Rotwang, who gives to it Mary's likeness. How peace comes to the city through Masterman's acknowledgement that the old time fable of the Belly and the members is true, master and man being complimentary to each other, is finely told in a series of astonishing scenes that baffle the imagination even while they stimulate it.

The technical excellence of Metropolis is amazing. That poor, hard-worked adjective, applied to every 'super-film' ever screened, and never yet justified, comes at last into its own. This picture is truly amazing. Action follows swift action, yet always subordinate to the artistic grouping that leaves on the mind of the spectator an impression of something vast and true. Metropolis shows the cinema to be capable of the finest artistic expression.


Cartoon newspaper advertisement by Benison from the Sydney Sun, 11 April 1928, showing a somewhat crazed Rotwang leaning over the sedated Maria in his transformation machine.

Metropolis - Modern Progress Considered

Scientific progress is weighed in the balance and pronounced to be found wanting, in Metropolis, which was shown for the first time in Melbourne at the Auditorium on Saturday. Metropolis presents a mighty city a hundred years hence, with millions in inhabitants who are but cogs, working mechanically in the complex machinery of simplified living that is controlled by Masterman, the master-mind, founder of Metropolis. There is no mediator between the ruthless Masterman and his men, who live in great buildings connected with networks of aerial roadways, and the sullen workmen, who slave 10-hour shifts in underground machine rooms and then stagger from lifts at higher levels to homes that are still underground. Masterman is the only man in Metropolis with his heart in his work.

When Rotwang, the scientist, proudly informs Masterman of his greatest invention, he says: - "At last I can manufacture a living copy of man or woman, a copy that will not make mistakes; but it will have no soul."

"That will be all the better," Masterman replies. "Soon we shall be able to do without human beings. We shall name it Efficiency." But the soulless "copy" soon shakes off old Rotwang's control, and drives the workmen to frenzy with doctrines of rebellion. In the final scene understanding between "hands" and "brains" is established. {The Argus, Melbourne, Monday 9 April 1928}


Sydney Premiere

Metropolis' New South Wales premiere took place at the Regent Theatre, Sydney, on Saturday, 14 April 1928. Though double-billed with Charlie Chaplin's The Circus, Fritz Lang's epic apparently did not suffer much as it was the first film on the program and, as the Sydney Morning Herald reviewer noted: The Circus is unfortunately situated in the programme at the Regent Theatre. No light comedy or farce could hold the spactator's attention immediately after he has been subjected to the imaginative shocks and surprises of Metropolis.'

Sydney newspaper advertisement for Metropolis, showing a vampish Maria in transformation machine headgear (The Sun, 20 April 1928). The image of a seemingly drugged, bare-shouldered and pouting-lipped Maria, as portrayed in this ad by artist Benison, was a long way from the reality of the film.

A unique description of the excitement surrounding the opening night screening in Sydney, and of what went on behind the scenes in a major movie theatre as it brought the wonders of a silent masterpiece such as Metropolis to the screen, was contained in the following notice published in Everyone's on 18 April 1928. It describes in some detail the effort which went into producing the live soundtrack, with the assistance of a 40-piece orchestra and various sound effects devices, all under the control of producer Byron Bidwell:

Babel - Behind the Scenes

About 1,999 other people couldn't get into the Regent Theatre for the opening of The Circus and Metropolis last Saturday night, but none of the 1,999 was included among the editorial [staff]: we - or us? - who wandered back-stage to see the show from behind.

Slap-bang! Right into a Niagara of noise! Thirty-two different acoustic effects worked in four minutes; more high explosives than Billy Hughes at his best; steam whistles, clanking chains, tympani and strident gongs! Producer Byron Bidwell interpreted Metropolis in sound; and hidden in the wings he has arranged a perfect system of uproars, that all heightened the picture's cataclysms.

Drop behind with us and watch how they work. Over each 'effect' a red warning light, controlled from the pit, flashes a few seconds before it is required. You dash into position, waiting for the amber light, and when that comes you work like blazes until the light dies. Take the scene showing the revolt of the Robots as a practical example. Half a dozen warning lights gleamed at once; half a dozen more; then everything let fly. From away up in the flies a chap dropped bricks thundering down a narrow chute; another trundled an iron roller around the stage; a compressed air cylinder spurted 'steam' in intermittent spasms; three men lifted and dropped chains on an iron sheet; a shot gun was fired six times; a ratchet whirred; steel and wooden hammers set a great gong booming; Byron Bidwell himself hammered a suspended drum while organist Roy Devaney quit his Wurlitzer to hit the tympani ceaselessly. Five minutes of incessant sound for that sequence alone!

Try and beat a drum for five minutes will you. We watched Devaney wilt. At three minutes he could drum no more; he moaned and we grabbed his sticks. Thirty seconds of it and our forearms started to fall off; we beat manfully through to the end; then behind us a bomb exploded and now - well, we don't know whether to bill Hoyts for our burned trousers or say nothing and hope they'll never discover who dived clean through their drum when that darned bomb went off!

The combination of The Circus and Metropolis broke all attendance records at the Regent last Saturday by somewhere around 600.....


Newspaper advertisement by the appropriately named artist 'SS', taken from the Sydney Evening News, 4 May 1928, showing the evil Maria and Robot, the latter standing with its right arm in salute, similar to that of the Nazi / Facist regimes of Germany and Italy during the 1930s.


Metropolis is certainly a surprising film. An immense amount of thought and imagination has gone into the making of every foot of it. It stands completely apart from American production - apart even from the German pictures which have already been here, although it is itself a German picture, produced under the auspices of the U.F.A. Company by Fritz Lang.

At the same time it is an impersonal and intellectual triumph, rather than a drama that rouses human sympathies. Often enough it is exciting in a broad, elemental way, just as an earthquake or a loud clap of thunder would be exciting; but when individual characters come to the screen they rouse little interest for their own sakes. This would be all very well if the producer consistently kept them on the allegorical plane, as figures representing Hand, Head, and Heart, and so forth. Somehow or other, though, allegory constantly mixes itself up with violent melodrama, until at the end one sees the villian pursuing the heroine along the cathedral pamparts; the hero pursuing in his turn; and doing battle with the villian; the villian tumbling down to death; and the distraught father of the hero rushing forward in joy, his whole being purified of base and self-seeking thoughts by the strain he has endured - all this, just as it has appeared in countless petty melodramas that have passed across the screen. In fact, when the whole story and all the fine-sounding allegory are looked at calmly andd broadly in retrospect, they do not amount to very much.

It is ungrateful, however, to emphasise this tenuity of plot, and dwell on it, as a fault, when there is such a wealth of fascination in the detail of the film. Technical surprises, new methods of treating scenes in double exposure so as to produce brilliant and extraordinary effects; settings of wonderful intricacy and force - these follow one another in usch profusion that they seem to form a vast storehouse, whence a lesser producer could borrow enough ideas to furnish forth twenty films, and still leave much untouched.

Everywhere in Metropolis the human figures are dwarfed by huge buildings and huge machines. This city of the future has become a slave to its machinery. Industrial progress has hurried it on to efficiency, more efficiency, and still more efficiency, until the people have suppressed most of their normal instincts, and become automatons. It is useless to inquire what function all of these masses of machinery perform. They are the fruits of inventions as yet unthought-of; and in representing them the producer has let his imagination have free play. Indeed, some of the scenes are so crowded with fantastic detail that they must have taken endless pains to contrive. Such is the scene in the laboratory, where a scientist causes electric discharges to shoot too and fro like minature lightnings, mighty bubblings to occur in phials of liquid, and rings of radiance to move slowly up and down round a metal figure which he is endowing with a human mind - for, like Kapek in R.U.R., the author tells of the creation of a mechanical human being,and of the disasters that follow when this man-like machine revolts against its masters.

The emotional element in the film is supplied, or at least very much enhanced, by the excellent musical score which is being played at the Regent Theatre under the baton of Signor Kost. Described as 'futurist' in a note on the screen, it follows every phase of the story with remarkable fidelity. Sometimes it is 'atmospheric' in an imitative way, as when it reproduces the hiss of steam from a boiler, or the mighty crash of an explosion (helped out by detonators behind the scenes); but more often it sets a mood through the sheer form of its themes, like a symphonic poem. Such incidents as the frenzied flight of the woman preacher - the one occasion where the acting really becomes personal and spontaneous, instead of generalised and formal - are very greatly intensified by this means. {Sydney Morning Herald the following Monday, 16 April 1928}


Sydney newspaper advertisement for Metropolis (Daily Telegraph, Friday, 4 May 1928). The image of the Metropolis robot is identical to that contained on the dustjacket cover of the 1927 English edition of Thea von Harbou's novelisation of the film. In that instance, the image was by Aubrey Hammond.

The Sydney-based Everyone's cinema trade magazine of 18 April 1928 went on to review the film in the following terms, with an interesting reference to the length of the film:


Exchange: Cinema Art (Ufa)

Cast: Alfred Abel, Gustav Frolich, Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Theodore Loos, Heinrich George, Brigitte Helm.

Director: Fritz Lang

Type of Story: Spectacular drama in futuristic vein.

Releasing Theatre: Regent (long-run)

Length: 12,000 feet

Box Office: Big

Metropolis is a mechanical marvel. As a production - big in conception, stupendous in settings, photographic and directorial qualities and the creative genius of the men who made it. As entertainment, it amazes by its size and bewildering novelty rather than its dramatic force, although gigantic scenes run with a thrill.

The story is cast 100 years ahead in a city rulled by the master mind of Masterman. He as reduced everything to machines.; his scientist, Rotwang, has even produced a machine in human form. Masterman controls the destinies of a population inhabiting buildings that seem to reach the sky, while his workmen are slaves to great machines, dwelling far underground. His son, Eric, lives in ignorance of their slavery, until he meets and loves Mary, a child of the workers. Deciding then to rectify affairs in this city of Metropolis - to bring back a forgotten God - he joins the workers, only to be discovered by his father. Masterman immediately orders Rotwang to kidnap the girl and give to the human-machine he has just invented the form of Mary, but without her soul. Where Mary has preached Godliness, he sends this machine out to preach humility to his will. The 'woman' creates a trail of death, but, getting beyond control, 'she' encourages the workers to revolt. They bring the city to ruin, forgetful that by smashing the machines they are precipitating a flood which will drown their children underground.

With the deluge raging, the real Mary escapes and with Eric's aid succeeds in saving the children, without the knowledge of the workers. Meanwhile, half brought to their senses by the destruction they have caused, men and women think again of their children, and believing them all drowned, turn on the false 'woman' as the cause of their trouble. They burn her at the stake, only to see her return to the form of a machine. Eric saves the real Mary from the power of Rotwang, and in the climax effects a reconciliation between his father and the workers: a junction of hand and brain, with Mary, the preacher of God, standing between the two as representative of the Great Mediator.

There are scenes which this critic never expects to see duplicated in motion pictures - scenes involving vast mobs, vast settings, vast ideas. One flash-back into antiquity shows the building of the Tower of Babel, an astonishing scene; the transformation of the machine into a woman rates as possibly the finest technical shot; while from first to last Metropolis embodies Continental camera-craft at its best.


Cartoon newspaper advertisement by Benison from the Sydney Sun, 12 April 1928, showing the evil Maria partying with a crowd at Yoshiwara's.



The film - "Metropolis," now being featured at the Regent Theatre, Sydney, might have been inspired by H.G. Wells, the author of "The Time Machine." As a matter of fact, it was adapted from a sensational novel of the same name written by a German writer, Thea Von Harbou, who was responsible for the senario utilised by the Ufa Studios. How far will the world have progressed in five hundred years? "Metropolis" attempts to answer the problem with a reality and clearness that marks it as a film of more than ordinary cleverness. It depicts an age when machines will dominate men, who will become their slaves.

At the head of affairs "Metropolis" is John Masterman, and it is his son Eric, a wealthy boy who had previously lost himself in a life of pleasure, who brings his father to the level of his slaves. Rotwang, a crazy inventor, evolves a robot in the form of a beautiful girl, Mary, who is adored and followed by the workers in the hope that she will lead them against Masterman, his eneemy. Eric shows the people their mistake, the robot is wrecked and John Masterman learns that the heart is the only true mediator between the brain and muscle. {Canberra Times, 24 April 1928}


Victorian Screenings 1928

Following its five week run at Melbourne's Auditorium Theatre between 7 April and 5 May 1928, Metropolis moved on to various urban and regional parts of Victoria throughout May and June. The following table provides details of some of these screenings. The information contained therein has been extracted from the Melbourne magazine Table Talk, between 10 May to 28 June 1928. Regular listings of film screenings in both city and country Victoria were included in the journal. This information reveals that there were at least four copies of Metropolis circulating in the State at the time. It also reveals that 3-day runs were common at local theatres, usually broken up in blocks of Monday through to Wednesday, and Thursday to Saturday (no Sunday screenings, unless the film was of a religious nature). Within the following table the abbreviation 'M-W' indicates screenings on Monday - Tuesday - Wednesday, whilst 'T-S' indicates Thursday - Friday - Saturday.




7 April - 5 May 1928



17-19 May (Th-S)



21-3 May (M-W)









24-6 May (Th-S)



28-30 May (M-W)

South Yarra




31 May, 1-2 June (Th-S)

Port Melbourne



4-6 June (M-W)

Clifton Hill

North Fitzroy





7-9 June (Th-S)


Crystal Palace

North Carlton





New Malvern

11 June (M)


11-13 June (M-W)

East Brunswick


16 June (Saturday)


18-20 June (M-W)

Ascot Vale




21-3 June (Th-S)






The Acton Guest House Social Club, in conjunction with Mr. Keith Dick, presented on Monday an evening's entertainment of films. The main attraction was the silent German classic "Metropolis," directed by Fritz. Lang, the man who made "Fury". Metropolis deals with a city wheie humans are but slaves of a machine. The film, which was screened without interruption for the full 75 mini on a new apparatus and accompanied by synchronised sound, was much appieciated. {The Canberra Times, Wednesday 21 June 1939 page 3}


Everyone's, Sydney, 1927-8.

The Film Weekly, Sydney, 1927-8.

Site last updated: 20 August 2009

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