The last time pioneering German Expressionist filmmaker Fritz Lang's jaw-droppingly stunning sci-fi allegory "Metropolis" was screened publicly in our city was in January 2011.
At that point, the definitive restoration of "Metropolis" had only been made available to cinemas for a few months, and it was something of a "get" for the SCAD Cinema Circle, which presented the B&W silent epic in tandem with a brief discussion of the motion picture's tremendous importance in the history of the filmic arts. If memory serves, something like 700 people turned out for that event - a number which is rather stunning as well.
While many folks have likely seen at least parts of "Metropolis" in the 90 years (!) since it was initially released, most have never had an opportunity to see as much of this engrossing, futuristic tale of humanoid robots and class warfare as they did that evening.
That's because for several decades since the film's debut, the only prints that could be easily found were severely truncated. This was either as a result of crude editing by unscrupulous distributors who wanted to shorten the lengthy feature to allow for more showings in a single day, or of ham-fisted censorship by those who opposed its political message of workers' rights triumphing over the duplicitous ruling class (both of which efforts removed almost 45 minutes of the movie's original 2-hour and 33-minute running time), or of degraded film elements which simply disintegrated over time due to neglect, improper storage or normal wear and tear from repeated use.
By 2008, when a well-preserved, 80-year-old 16mm print was located in a cinema archive in Argentina, most film historians had lost hope of finding any high-quality "lost footage" of the movie. Once it became obvious that this 1928 print contained several lengthy segments which had long been assumed lost forever, efforts began immediately to pay for a full and complete restoration of the entire Argentinian print - and to combine it with segments of another vintage print discovered in New Zealand in 2005.
The result? "The Complete Metropolis," which features damn near every bit of footage seen in the original 1927 German premiere, along with newly created intertitle cards and a brand-new recording of the movie's original score, recorded by the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Packed with indelible imagery that's inspired as much by Art Deco as by the design approaches of Cubism, Futurism and the Bauhaus, the tale of a female robot that sows the seeds of riotous discontent among downtrodden, mistreated laborers was one of the first full-length silent films. Its stamp is all over such subsequent classics of the genre as "Star Wars," "Blade Runner," "Logan's Run," "Brazil," "Things to Come," "Minority Report" and David Lynch's "Dune."
If you missed that 2011 screening, now's your chance to catch this magnificently restored version on the giant screen of the Lucas Theatre - a beautiful, historic movie palace that opened its doors just six years before "Metropolis" debuted, and likely presented the film in its first U.S. theatrical run. Showtime is 7 p.m. Jan. 7, and the film is suitable for mature viewers ages 12 and older (be advised, this film is both lengthy and silent, so it may make some young kids restless). Admission is $8 ($5 for military and seniors; $5 for non-SCAD students and children under 15; and just $2 for anyone with a valid SCAD ID).
'Forrest Gump' dramedy
That same night, the Tybee Post Theater presents a one-show-only revival of the smash hit dramedy "Forrest Gump," starring Tom Hanks and Robin Wright. Winner of six Oscars, it's a beloved classic that engenders both full-throttle laughter and solemn weeping. Plus, it was partially filmed right here in the Savannah area (like you didn't know that). 7 p.m. showtime, and your choice of a beverage (including wine or beer) and a piece of chocolate are both included in the ticket price.
'The Room' at Regal
Looking ahead to Jan. 10, the Psychotronic Film Society's regular Wednesday night series of overlooked or underappreciated feature films from around the globe takes something of a break. By that I mean that instead of showing a cult flick at funky, counterculture coffeehouse The Sentient Bean, they have instead announced a "Psychotronic Field Trip" encouraging one and all to make the drive to the Southside for a one-show-only high-def screening of mysterious, misguided auteur Tommy Wiseau's oft-maligned (but intensely beloved) 2003 DIY feature "The Room" at the Regal Stadium 10 multiplex behind the Savannah Mall.
Wiseau, an awkward, amateurish actor and screenwriter with millions of dollars of cash to burn and a poor grasp on the English language (though he is famously evasive about his background, it is clear from his accent that he originally hails from some Eastern European country), self-financed this must-be-seen-to-be-believed train wreck of a vanity project in Los Angeles not long after attending an acting class at community college. An infamous dud, this heavy-handed, dysfunctional romantic-drama stars Wiseau and a handful of other unknown, amateur actors (who often find themselves delivering their stilted, Wiseau-penned dialogue in front of poorly lit green-screen backgrounds), and has slowly gained fame as a "so-bad-it's-good" midnight movie.
In fact, back in 2012, the PFS held the local debut of the film at Muse Arts Warehouse. Lately, however, the "Room" cult has grown exponentially and internationally overnight with the heralded release of acclaimed actor-director James Franco's latest effort, "The Disaster Artist," which is a barely dramatized recreation of the making of Wiseau's directorial debut. That just-released festival favorite is based closely on a tell-all memoir by Tommy's former best friend (and co-star in "The Room") and stars Franco as Wiseau himself (naturally).
Piggybacking on the immense buzz surrounding "The Disaster Artist," "The Room" now receives the royal treatment and will be simultaneously shown on 650 screens across the U.S., one of which is at our very own Regal Cinemas. So, if you dig movies that are so ineptly made that it's almost hard to keep up with the story because you're winded from either laughing out loud or shaking your head in disbelief, come join me and any of the (ir)regulars who frequent the PFS' Bean events as we bask in the glory of Wiseau's moment in the sun.
As a bonus, this screening will also include a first look at the trailer for Wiseau's upcoming theatrical release, "Best F(r)iends," in which he plays a fictional character based on himself. Early word is that this new movie is surprisingly good, but that may be owing to the fact that Wiseau neither wrote nor directed it. Showtime is 8 p.m., with advance tickets available at FathomEvents.com.
And finally, while you're looking at that website, you may want to consider purchasing an advance ticket to the following night's 7 p.m. show at Regal as well. It looks to be a steaming pile of horse hockey (as "M.A.S.H.'s" Col. Sherman Potter used to say) masquerading as a legitimate documentary.
Little is known about "Alien Intrusion: Unmasking a Deception," which makes a certain amount of sense. I mean, if you had put together a low-budget "doc" about UFOs that was rooted in how such aerial phenomena either do or do not relate to Christianity (likely the Evangelical or Fundamentalist strains, which have found a lucrative cottage industry in releasing junk movies to the faithful via this low-cost digital distribution model), you would probably keep critics and viewers as far away from the finished product as possible before tickets go on sale, right?
The modern-day equivalent of such 1970s quasi-legit "get rich quick" flicks as "In Search of Historic Jesus," "The Outer Space Connection," "Chariots of the Gods" and "In Search of Noah's Ark," it purports, in the words of its promotional materials, to take "a deeper look at the events, the beliefs, the experts and the people who have shaped our views in the 'otherworldly.'" It also claims to "solve one of the most haunting and persistent mysteries of our time." So, if you have ever wondered about the connections between "things seen on radar, what happened at Roswell, alien abductions, government cover-ups, and even a 'new' religion," you will be pleased to learn that "Alien Intrusion" has all the answers you're looking for.
The best part? It's narrated by country music singer and TV actor John Schneider - otherwise known as "Bo" Duke on the late-'70s action-comedy series "The Dukes of Hazzard." No. Seriously. Says Schneider: "The truth will surprise you." I bet it will, Bo! Showtime is 7 p.m., and I, for one, will be there with bells (and a suitably appropriate buzz) on.
Until our next issue, see you at the movies, be kind to those around you and don't forget to turn off that cell phone.
Jim Reed directs the Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU GO
When: 7 p.m. Jan. 4
Where: Lucas Theatre, 32 Abercorn St.
What: "Forrest Gump"
When: 7 p.m. Jan. 4
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave.
What: "The Room"
When: 8 p.m. Jan. 10
Where: Regal Stadium 10, 1132 Shawnee St.
What: "Alien Intrusion - Unmasking a Deception"
When: 7 p.m. Jan. 11
Where: Regal Stadium 10 and Cinemark Bluffton