06 / MARIA’S TRANSFORMATION
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.