Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Story of Mankind and Metropolis

The robot in Fritz Lang's "Metropolis"
If you follow my Facebook posts, you may recall that I used to write a mini review of every book I read and every movie I viewed. I stopped a while back because the Social Living application which allowed you to rate your books, movies, TV shows, restaruants, etc. suddenly stopped working. Everyone's virtual bookshelf and movie lists were in limbo. There was some message from Social Living saying "It's not you, it's us. We can't afford this anymore" or words to that effect. That was annoying, because rating and commenting on books and movies was so easy with that app. Doing it by blog is slightly more of a pain because if you want a nice illustration, you have to go looking for it on the web and then go to the trouble of pasting into the blog post. As Judy Tenuta would say, "I have better things to do, like stay in bed and complain." But lately, I felt the need to express my views on the meaningless crap I read and look at (I mean besides reality TV) Two people even said to me after running into them in the street and we discovered we had seen the same movie, "I look forward to reading your review on Facebook."

ANYWAY... this is a roundabout introduction to a new section on the David Desk 2. When I feel like it, I will give mini-reviews of books and movies. Maybe I'll put in an illustration, maybe I won't. That's how I roll.

So on Tues. of the week I was home sick with a cold. TCM was showing The Story of Mankind at 10AM. One of the worst movies ever made, but so bad I couldn't look away when I could have easily switched the channel to The View. The ridiculous plot imagines a celestial trial with Sir Cedric Hardwicke adjudicating the future of the human race while Vincent Price as the devil and Ronald Coleman as the spirit of Man argue both sides of the case. They go over the entire history of western civilization with grade-B stars as historical figures. Highlights include Dennis Hopper as Napoleon, Groucho Marx as Peter Minuet buying Manhattan Island, and Peter Lorre as Nero.

Later I watched the restored version of Fritz Lang's silent classic Metropolis streaming from Netflix on my TV from the computer. This featured recently found footage to the German sci-fi story featuring more views of Lang's vision of a dystopian future where the rich few play and cavort while worker toil underground to keep them in luxury. Sound familiar, 99 per centers? There were several melodramatic conventions of silent film--the hero rescuing the girl from a mad villain atop the cathedral--but it offered a weirdly fascinating vision of the 21st century as seen through a 1920s lens. So many sci-fi influences started here--the robot posing as human, the mad scientist, the massive future city (even Superman stole the name of his city from this film). There is a possible anti-Semitic flavor here with the house of Rotwang, the evil scientist decorated with what appear to be stars of David. and the nightclub full of corruption is called Yoshiwara as if to warn Germanic audiences about the evil influences of the East. But it's still an amazing picture and the missing footage takes us further into Lang's vision of a dazzling yet ambiguous future.

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