ByTom Chapman, writer at Creators.co
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Tom Chapman

Since in 2017 we are used to Jon Watts giving us moving Spidey eyes, or Gareth Edwards CGI'ing Peter Cushing's face onto a Holby City actor, it is easy to see how we take the advances in modern cinema for granted. Heading back 90 years, and ushering in the the start of the #scifi genre as one of the most influential films ever, how does 1927's Metropolis look nine decades later? #FritzLang's German expressionist classic has seemingly stood the test of time, and as the grandfather of the genre, has gone on to influence everything from Blade Runner to Star Wars, and even Madonna. It is hard to imagine a world without #Metropolis which is a shame, as even after all these years, we have only ever managed to restore 95% of Lang's original.

Even now, we may struggle to get our heads around quite how they created Metropolis, and special effects maestro Eugen Schüfftan was highly praised for his pioneering techniques. From using tubes of electricity to create a floating effect, to the use of miniature cities, Schüfftan's technique of using models was used just two years later by Hitchcock in Blackmail. For those wondering how they created the rest of the state-of-the-art effects, an article from 1927 shows you exactly how Lang and co. did it. Appearing in the magazine Science and Invention, it offers a glimpse at how the production crew did it all those year ago.

The Men Behind The Curtain

With a lot of electricity involved, and the famous Maschinenmensch suit reportedly cutting into actress Brigitte Helm, it looks like life on the Metropolis set was dangerous to say the least. While we may be struck down by some Magician's Secret code, this is exactly how Schüfftan's team brought Metropolis to life:

'Metropolis' [Credit: UFA]
'Metropolis' [Credit: UFA]
[Credit: Science and Invention Magazine]
[Credit: Science and Invention Magazine]
'Metropolis' [Credit: UFA]
'Metropolis' [Credit: UFA]
[Credit: Science and Invention Magazine]
[Credit: Science and Invention Magazine]
'Metropolis' [Credit: UFA]
'Metropolis' [Credit: UFA]
[Credit: Science and Invention Magazine]
[Credit: Science and Invention Magazine]
'Metropolis' [Credit: UFA]
'Metropolis' [Credit: UFA]
[Credit: Science and Invention Magazine]
[Credit: Science and Invention Magazine]
'Metropolis' [Credit: UFA]
'Metropolis' [Credit: UFA]
[Credit: Science and Invention Magazine]
[Credit: Science and Invention Magazine]

The article goes into great detail on how Schüfftan created such effects:

The miniature set which was used in the filming of this remarkable motion picture. Toy trains and automobiles were pulled along the bridges by means of wires. The airplanes were suspended by a wire which was pulled by an operator outside of the set. At times full size lower stories were used, the image of the upper stories being reflected in a mirror to blend with them.

It is interesting to note that the original article also uses the term "television apparatus," and never once telephone, which may explain the videophone idea:

Of course the city of the future would have all the inventions of which we dream today. The recently perfected television apparatus, is in common use. By using it, those who converse may also at the same time see the other party.

It would be decades after Metropolis that TV was used as a broadcast medium, and its original purpose was thought to be point-to-point contact with each other. Metropolis introduced the videophone well before Beyoncé.

See also:

A Living Legacy

'Metropolis' [Credit: UFA]
'Metropolis' [Credit: UFA]

Over the years, Metropolis has been chopped and changed, censored, and even loosely remade as anime, however, there is no beating the original cut. Even by today's standards, it is pretty amazing considering the level of intricacy that went into creating the film. In a time before Andy Serkis was stuck in a green suit with bobbles on, or Michael Bay blew up everything in sight, just imagine what Metropolis would have been like with today's technology. Ninety years on, the legacy of Metropolis still lives, even influencing the likes of this year's Blade Runner 2049. As pioneers of their art, the Metropolis crew were true masters of science-fiction.

Check out the restored trailer for Metropolis and don't forget our poll below!

Poll

Is 'Metropolis' the most influential sci-fi film of all time?

(Source: Smithsonian.com)