Metropolis by Thea Von Harbou and Third Ear Radio Theater

This will not be a proper review of Metropolis as a whole.  I’m working on a blog for Project: Monster that will explore the full depths of this story.  That’s going to take a while longer than I first imagined.  This is truly the story that keeps on giving for me.  One of them, at any rate.

The nuts and bolts here (no pun intended) is that Thea Von Harbou wrote the screenplay for Metropolis specifically to be adapted for film by her husband, director Fritz Lang, and then wrote the novel while he filmed.  The result was supposed to have been a one-two marketing punch that fizzled when the film bombed and was summarily hacked to ribbons as it got passed around the world.  Much of what’s in the original novel —  for example, the bits dealing with the occult — are not in the final film.  Only in recent years has it been mostly restored to its original glory so that we could see for ourselves important plot and character developments rather than guessing at what might be there.  Of course, if you’ve read the book, you don’t have to guess.  And you also know just how much the occult really does play into the themes of this story.

This little audio is a full-cast dramatization of the original novel.  The cast clearly had fun with this, and it’s every bit as over-the-top as the silent movie’s visuals would lead you to believe it should be.  It still makes the point of the story as eloquently as ever.

The thing is, it cannot — and should not — be experienced in a vacuum.  The introductory narrator, which is over done in my humble opinion, says he’s seen the silent classic 84 times, and as a result of this audio will likely do so 84 more times.  I can relate to that.  I love this audio for what it is, but alas, it is not the film, nor could it ever be.  It’s not without value towards further appreciation of that film, however, for between the visuals of one and the sounds of the other, an idea of the whole is formed.  “The mediator between the head and hands must be the heart!”  Well, in this case, the mediator between sight and sound is the imagination.

The music is probably the weakest part for me.  I’m enamored with the original score for the film, which has since been re-recorded by modern orchestra.  This feels every bit the low budget MIDI that it is.  It reminds me of an early 80s independent synth score… not wholly inappropriate, but without the full power of what might have been.

Thankfully, the story and my love of it transcends any weaknesses on that front and overrides some of the cheese factor of performance.  Once you get used to their style, you end up just giving yourself over to it because the story is still great.

4 stars

Metropolis audio

2 thoughts on “Metropolis by Thea Von Harbou and Third Ear Radio Theater

  1. Pingback: Devouring Metropolis | Knight of Angels

  2. Pingback: Fritz Lang’s Metropolis: Cinematic Visions of Technology and Fear edited by Michael Minden and Holger Bachmann | Knight of Angels

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