Screened by BROOKS MUSEUM of ART
Introduction by Filmmaker Mike McCarthy
Asked by Brooks Museum of Art Programmer and author ANDRIA LISLE to introduce the new print of METROPOLIS, Memphis Filmmaker MIKE McCARTHY discusses the influence of METROPOLIS on American Pop Culture from James Whale's "FRANKENSTEIN" to McCarthy's own film "CIGARETTE GIRL". Reprinted below are images in sequence from the powerpoint and corresponding notes. All copyrights reserved.
In 1927, the same year of the movie’s release, Hugo Gernsback’s popular glossy American magazine Science and Invention included a story titled “‘Metropolis’—A Movie Based on Science,” which deconstructed the film’s special effects and described the techniques used to portray Maria’s transformation and the remarkable scenes of the industrial world. The movie itself would not play NYC until 1928. This according to Julie Wosk, Technology and Culture.
SCIENCE & INVENTION COVER
Author MARY SHELLEY creates the FRANKENSTEIN MONSTER.
Author THEA VON HARBOU creates the ROBOTRIX in METROPOLIS.
Hollywoods version of Frankenstein, is really synthesized through Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS and a "Germanic" ideal of how SCIENCE FICTION and HORROR combine: the Tesla coil visuals of the electric resurrection ("resurrectical"), the archetypal mad doktor, Death of the "monster" via fire, as opposed to the lightning of creation, and the philosophy of Nietzsche, Jung and Freud.
Tesla's coil and the notion of free energy combined with the European ideal of Beauty creates the Robotrix. Edison's confined electricity and American capitalism creates the Frankenstein Monster. Alice Cooper trumps David Bowie. Thomas Edison's company makes the first FRANKENSTEIN movie.
BORIS KARLOFF FOTO FRANKENSTEIN 1931 (FM 64)
Homages from Hollywod: "Fritz" is the name of the hunchback in FRANKENSTEIN. Maria, the heroine of METROPOLIS, the champion of the working class and the overseer of children becomes Maria the child who is drowned by the Monster in FRANKENSTEIN.
Oddly enough, child murder via human monster would inform the plot of "M", Fritz Lang's 1931 German masterpiece released the same year as FRANKENSTEIN.
The aesthetics of cold, apolloniac, glam rock beauty in the European Robotrix are more easily sold to American audiences as the Bride of Frankenstein, a dionysisian icon of dead flesh. The Robotrix is Glam. The Bride is Punk. Post-modern sci fi blends the two opposite forms of thought.
The influence which Fritz Lang's masterpiece had on almost all media was overwhelming. However, it's sheer imaginative power over two young men from Cleveland created a cause and effect that still resonates today in almost every phase of modern American life. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were huge fans of the film, Metropolis. This lead to their collaboration on one of the first fanzines, entitled SCIENCE FICTION.
SCIENCE FICTION COVER
In the third issue of the 'zine, they brought to life an unnamed bald evil genius who menaced the world. In particular he menaced a reporter named, after their good friend, Forrest Ackerman. When the story saw print, Jerry wondered if the title of the piece could not be used for a hero instead. So REIGN OF THE SUPERMAN became just SUPERMAN. And to show their gratitude for the film that inspired them, Superman made his home base in, where else, Metropolis.
SCIENCE FICTION FANZINE (Oct. 32. Lasted five issues)
Writer Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created the first prototype of the Superman, an uberminsch as much inspired by the writings of German philosopher Nietzsche and the Hollywood Frankenstein interpretation: At this point in the origin the alter ego and the hero are two different people. Siegel named the newspaper reporter FORREST ACKERMAN in honor of fellow friend and science fiction fan who would later create and edit the magazine FAMOUS MONSTER OF FILMLAND.
FJA's favorite film of all time was METROPOLIS.
Here are two rare photographs of Frits Lang with Forry Ackerman.
FRITZ AND FORRY FOTOS courtesy of MIKE CURTIS
ISSUE CONTAINING FIRST METROPOLIS IMAGE SEEN BY MIKE McCARTHY.
When it came time to name the city where SUPERMAN would live, Siegel and Shuster chose "Metropolis" as a tribute to the Lang film. Lang said that he was inspired to make his movie when he saw New York's skyline from aboard ship during his first visit to the USA in 1924. However Lang had announced the film and its title months before his trip.
It is fair to say that Cleveland and Toronto also figure into the skyline that Siegel drew Superman leaping through. Its not known how many opportunities Siegel and Shuster would have had to have seen METROPOLIS. So much of the evolution of pop culture in the early twentieth century depends on memory, which placed emphasis on visuals with longer hold times in the edit to burn those memories into the minds of the public.
Artist Frank Miller said that NYC as "Metropolis" during the day, and "Gotham" at night. But we see Metropolis at night, as was often the case in the beautiful Fleisher Brothers cartoons of the 1940's.
My speculation that Siegel and Shuster used the name to LANG to create LANA LANG OR LOIS LANE or for that matter, LEX LUTHOR, has not been fruitful however, FRITZ LANG would later direct TV Superman GEORGE REEVES in RANCHO NOTORIOUS.
FM 93 - BEHIND THE SCENES ROBOTRIX PIC
In 1971, when I was 8 years old, I would ask my mom to buy me FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND magazine. This was not a comic book, as I was accustomed to, like many of the Warren Publications, like Creepy, Eerie, and the Spirit collections therefore a sort of self-censoring took place. Sometimes the magazine would physically scare me, I would stand there (in repulsion) and look at the pictures. But there's something about photos from horror films that are much more intoxicating than the films themselves.
The first image that I would have seen from METROPOLIS would have been would have been in FM #93. Interestingly enough, a behind the scenes shot.
THX II38 FOTO
BTW, This is the same year that George Lucas would release his film THX 1138, whose numbers for names characters are a direct inspiration from the number/name characters in METROPOLIS.
FM #97 - FM 97 ROBOTRIX / ROTWANG FOTO
In FM # 97 (APRIL 73) I would have seen my second image from METROPOLIS. Note that the cast has increased to include the Mad Doctor with the black glove. The caption here mentions Peter Sellers and DR. STRANGELOVE, more suggestions are being planted via juxtapositions and words.
But how do you see this thing?
Hugo Gernsback, the father of modern science fiction who published the previously mentioned SCIENCE & INVENTION article, also (according to Forry Ackerman in issue #97 of FAMOUS MONSTERS) apparently attempted a fantasy film festival in NYC in 1932. FORRY states that WOMAN IN THE MOON (1929) also directed by Fritz Lang and written by his wife Thea Von Harbou, THE LOST WORLD, and METROPOLIS played for a week in NYC. This would be the second screening of METROPOLIS in NYC.
WOMAN IN THE MOON POSTER.
This is a veritable Fritz Lang Festival that Siegel and Shuster would have undoubtedly attended with Ackerman. I dare say, that rocket art is the same rocket that bore little Superman to Earth.
FM #145 - FORRY w/ ROBOTRIX
Toward the end of FAMOUS MONSTERS, I saw this foto of FORRY with his facsimile of the Robrotrix that he kept in the Ackermuseum. The contents of his collection sold for a quarter of a million dollars just recently upon FORRYS death. I don't know who made off with the Robotrix.
I can find no appearance of the Robotrix on the cover of FM, though several by C3PO.
The most obvious inspiration on George Lucas from METROPOLIS is the Robotrix, which becomes "C3PO" the droid, the seeming "robot love child" of Lucas and Lang. Fritz Lang dies the year before STAR WARS is released. METROPOLIS in 1927 is the beginning of science fiction cinema, STAR WARS in 1977 is the fruition, or end, of the evolution of those dystopian themes (with Nazi Germany's metaphorical villains). Despite the cutting edge special effects in both films, both appear very hand-crafted.
BRIGETTE HELM (1926) AND ANTHONY DANIELS (1976)
Speaking of dystopian themes, I moved to Memphis in 1984 (after waiting 13 years) finally attended my first screening of METROPOLIS on 16mm at, of all places, Central High School. I snagged a handmade silkscreen poster from that day - and that poster forms a motif in my last feature CIGARETTE GIRL, in which the lead character uses that framed poster, a relic from her unknown father, to cover up a hole on her wall. This is perhaps my attempt to use comic fandom and horror films to fill a hole regarding those very same issues.
13. METROPOLIS POSTER - 14. CIGARETTE GIRL
Even though Cigarette Girl knows nothing about the film METROPOLIS, she is given 24 hours to leave town or face the wrath of Doctor Harbeau. This idea taken from the apocryphal tale of Lang's last minute escape from Nazi Germany in 1933.
The most astonishing realization occurs as I have seen this film in four 13 year cycles of my life. What version of the movie awaits in 2023?
Thank you Andria Lisle and Brooks Museum of Art for this opportunity.
"The influence which Fritz Lang's masterpiece had on almost all media was overwhelming. However, it's sheer imaginative power over two young men from Cleveland created a cause and effect that still resonates today in almost every phase of modern American life. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were huge fans of the film, Metropolis. This lead to their collaboration on one of the first fanzines, entitled SCIENCE FICTION. In the third issue of the 'zine, they brought to life an unnamed bald evil genius who menaced the world. In particular he menaced a reporter named, after their good friend, Forrest Ackerman. When the story saw print, Jerry wondered if the title of the piece could not be used for a hero instead. So REIGN OF THE SUPERMAN became just SUPERMAN. And to show their gratitude for the film that inspired them, Superman made his home base in, where else, Metropolis." ~ Mike Curtis