06 / MARIA’S TRANS­FOR­MA­TION

ME­TROP­O­LIS (1927)

Empire (UK) - - CINEMAS -

It may be the sec­ond-old­est en­try on the list, but the cen­tre­piece of Fritz Lang’s sci-fi masterpiece is still a tour de force of vis­ual ef­fects nearly 90 years on. Amid his lab­o­ra­tory’s crank­ing levers and bub­bling flasks, mad sci­en­tist Rot­wang (Ru­dolf Klein-rogge) brings Ro­bot Maria (Brigitte Helm) to life in a storm of elec­tric­ity. In the process he un­leashes 1927’s equiv­a­lent of a T-1000 on the un­sus­pect­ing peo­ple of Me­trop­o­lis and cre­ates a movie mo­ment so iconic, it’s been homaged in ev­ery­thing from the video for Queen’s Ra­dio Ga Ga to the orig­i­nal de­sign of C-3PO. Lang made full use of his cin­e­matic toy box, em­ploy­ing mul­ti­ple ex­po­sures, matte cutouts, neon lights and a very long-suf­fer­ing ac­tress to make it work. Ger­man film star Helm, con­fined to the ro­bot suit for days at a time, po­litely en­quired of her direc­tor why she needed to be in the suit when no-one could even see her. “I have to feel that you are in­side the ro­bot,” was his brusque re­ply. Arnie can count him­self lucky. He only had to get naked in Ter­mi­na­tor.

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